sci.lang.japan FAQ / 8. Slang and colloquialisms

8.3. What are contracted words like rimokon?

Contracted names

Shortened words are common in Japanese. Long words are contracted into shorter forms. For example, the University of Tokyo, in Japanese Tōkyō Daigaku (東京大学) becomes Tōdai (東大) and "remote control", rimōto kontorōrā, becomes rimokon. Names are also contracted in this way. For example Takuya Kimura, in Japanese Kimura Takuya, an entertainer, is often referred to as Kimutaku, from the first two kana of his first and last name.

The names of some very familiar companies are also also contractions. For example, Toshiba, Tōshiba (東芝) is a contraction of Tōkyō Shibaura (東京芝浦).

There are several different ways that words are contracted depending on the kind of word.

In kanji words, words derived from Chinese, the most common way is by taking the first kanji of each of the words and putting them together. For example, Toukyou Daigaku (東京大学), "Tokyo University", becomes Toudai (東大). Kanji kentei (漢字検定), the test of kanji skill (see 10.2. Kanji Kentei) becomes Kanken (漢検).

In loanwords and names, the most common pattern is to take the first two kana, and form a new word from the four kana put together. For example "family restaurant", famirii resutoran, a low-priced restaurant, becomes famiresu.

Japanese long vowels and sokuon may disappear; Harry Potter, originally Harī Pottā (ハリー・ポッター), is contracted to Haripota (ハリポタ). Names may be altered in other ways: actress Kyoko Fukada, Fukada Kyōko (深田恭子), becomes Fukakyon (フカキョン). Brad Pitt, Buraddo Pitto (ブラッド・ピット), becomes Burapi (ブラピ).

Another common pattern is to remove the end of a long word to make a new word. anime (アニメ) is a truncated version of animēshon (アニメーション), "animation", and depāto (デパート) is a truncation of depātomento sutoa (デパートメント・ストア), "department store". These are also a kind of made-in-Japan English (see 5.4. What are these pseudo English words like salaryman?). Many four character abbreviations have been created for particular products or TV shows. For example, Pokemon (ポケモン), the well-known card game and animated series, is a contraction of Poketto Monsutā (ポケット・モンスター), "Pocket Monsters".

sci.lang.japan FAQ / 8. Slang and colloquialisms

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