What are these pseudo English words like salaryman?

Many words written in katakana may seem to be English to Japanese people, but English speakers don't know what they mean. For example, "salaryman", meaning "office worker". These words are called wasei eigo, 'English made in Japan'.

However, not all katakana words unfamiliar to an English speaker are wasei-eigo. For example, "pan" for bread comes from Portuguese, and "bisu" for "screw" comes from French. See Words from other languages. The Japanese have also given new meanings to existing English words. See What "false friends" are there between Japanese and English?

Here are some well-known wasei eigo words.

all back

Ōru bakku (オールバック) means swept back hair.

American coffee

Amerikan kōhii (アメリカンコーヒー) means weak coffee.

"Koohii" is from Dutch (see Which Japanese words come from Dutch?).

American dog

Amerikan doggu (アメリカンドッグ) means corn dog.

A frankfurter on a stick dipped in batter and deep-fried.

baby car

Bebii kā (ベビーカー) means 'pram/stroller'.

ball pen

Bōru pen (ボールペン) means ballpoint pen.

bed town

Betto taun (ベットタウン) or beddo taun (ベッドタウン) means commuter town.

bottle keep

Botoru kiipu (ボトルキープ) means The practice of buying a bottle of spirits at a bar which is then kept there for the customer.

cell motor

Seru mōtā (セルモーター) means starter motor.

change lever

Chenjirebā (チェンジレバー) means gear stick, gearshift.

cheer girl

Chia gāru (チアガール) means 'cheerleader'.

Konsento (コンセント) means electric socket.

From "concentric plug". See What is the origin of for electric sockets?

cooler

Kūrā (クーラー) means air conditioner.

cuffs button

Kafusu botan (カフスボタン) means cuff link.

The Japanese word botan (ボタン) originates from Portuguese. See Which Japanese words come from Portuguese?

decoration cake

Dekorēshonkēki (デコレーションケーキ) means decorated cake.

deep kiss

Diipu kisu (ディープキス) means tongue kiss.

doctor stop

Dokutā sutoppu (ドクターストップ) means a doctor's instructions to slow down or give up something like tobacco, alcohol.

dump car

Dampukā (ダンプカー) means dump truck, dumper.

free size

Furiisaizu (フリーサイズ) means one size fits all.

freeter

Furiitā (フリーター) means a permanent casual worker; a person who only does casual jobs.

May be formed from English "free" and German "arbeiter".

front glass

Furonto garasu (フロントガラス) means windscreen (UK), windshield (US).

fruit beer

Furūtsubiiru (フルーツビール) means cider or perry.

"Cider" is used to refer to a fizzy drink. See What "false friends" are there between Japanese and English?

g-pan

Jii pan (ジーパン) means 'jeans'.

G-pan is an abbreviated combination of jii (ジー) from "jeans" (ジーン ズ) and pan (パン) from "pants" (パンツ). See also What are contracted words like for more words like this.

game centre

Gēmu sentā (ゲームセンター) means video game arcade.

gasoline stand

Gasorinsutando (ガソリンスタンド) means gas station, petrol station.

golden hour

Gōruden awā (ゴールデンアワー) means `prime time' television.

golden week

Gōruden wiiku (ゴールデンウィーク) means a week around the end of April and beginning of May.

This period of time contains several national holidays. Showa Day, Shōwa no Hi (昭和の日) is on April 29, Constitution Memorial Day, Kenpō Kinenbi (憲法記念日), is on May 3, Greenery Day Midori no Hi (みどりの日) is on May 4, and Children's Day Kodomo no Hi (こどもの日) is on May 5. Japanese people often use these days to take extended vacation.

gravure idol

Gurabia aidoru (グラビアアイドル) means glamour model, bikini model.

The word "gravure", gurabia (グラビア), originates from a form of printing used for photography. The "gravure" pages of magazines were the pages containing photographs, thus "gravure idol" became used to describe the women who appeared in glamour shots. Similarly, a woman who appears in adult videos (AV), who would be called a "porn star" in English, is described as an AV idol (AV アイドル).

guardman

Gādo man (ガードマン) means Security guard.

Formations with -man, like "guardman" or "salaryman", are common in wasei-eigo.

health meter

Herusu mētā (ヘルスメーター) means bathroom scales.

hello work

Harō wāku (ハローワーク) means job centre.

high miss

Hai misu (ハイミス) means 'spinster'.

This word is not used much any more.

jet coaster

Jetto kōsutā (ジェットコースター) means 'roller-coaster'.

list up

Risutoappu (リストアップ) means select, make a selection.

live house

Raibu hausu (ライブハウス) means A bar with live music.

love hotel

Rabu hoteru (ラブホテル) means An hourly-rate hotel.

Used by couples for short stays.

magic tape

Majikkutēpu (マジックテープ) means 'Velcro'.

mail magazine

Mēru magajin (メールマガジン) means e-mail newsletter.

minus driver

Mainasu doraibā (マイナスドライバー) means a flat-bladed, flat-tip or slot-head screwdriver.

A phillips screwdriver is called a "plus driver".

miss contest

Misu kontesuto (ミスコンテスト) means beauty contest.

morning service

Mōningu sābisu (モーニングサービス) means cheaper than usual breakfast combination.

mug cup

Magu kappu (マグカップ) means 'mug'.

my car

Mai kā (マイカー) means owning one's own car.

my home

Mai hōmu (マイホーム) means owning one's own home.

my pace

Mai pēsu (マイペース) means doing things at one's own pace.

new half

Nyū hāfu (ニューハーフ) means drag artist, shemale, ladyboy, or transsexual.

nighter

Naitā (ナイター) means nighttime baseball game.

note, notebook

Nōto (ノート) or nōtobukku (ノートブック) means 'laptop'.

one piece

Wan piisu (ワンピース) means a woman's dress.

one-pattern

Wan patān (ワンパターン) means 'repetitive'.

only one

Ōnrii wan (オーンリーワン) or onrii wan (オンリーワン) means 'unique'.

"Unique" has already been co-opted by the Japanese for the meaning of "unusual" or "original". See What "false friends" are there between Japanese and English? Hence perhaps the invention of "only one".

pair look

Pea rukku (ペアルック) means a couple wearing similar clothes.

paper driver

Pēpā doraiba (ペーパードライバ) means a person with a driving licence who rarely drives.

penchi

Penchi (ペンチ) means 'pliers'.

This is said to originate from "pinch" or "pinchers".

pipe cut

Paipu katto (パイプカット) means 'vasectomy'.

play guide

Purē gaido (プレーガイド) means ticket sales office.

plus driver

Purasu doraibā (プラスドライバー) means a phillips screwdriver..

This is named for the shape of the screw head. A slot screwdriver is called a "minus driver".

pocket bell

Poketto beru or pokeberu (ポケットベルorポケベル) means 'pager'.

push phone

Pusshu hon (プッシュホン) or pusshu fon (プッシュフォン) means touch-tone phone.

salaryman

Sarariman (サラリマン) means male office worker.

sharp pencil

Shāpu penshiru (シャープペンシル) means mechanical pencil, propelling pencil.

The name "sharp pencil" originates from a tradename for mechanical pencils.

side brake

Saido burēki (サイドブレーキ) means 'handbrake'.

sign pen

Sain pen (サインペン) means felt-tipped pen.

silver seat

Shirubā shiito (シルバーシート) means A seat on buses and trains reserved for elderly passengers..

The "silver" refers to the hair colour of seniors.

skinship

Sukinshippu (スキンシップ) means close relationship.

soap land

Sōpu rando (ソープランド) means 'brothel'.

A previous euphemism was Toruko from "Turkish baths".

soft cream

Sofuto kuriimu (ソフトクリーム) means soft ice cream.

"Soft cream" in Japan means the kind of ice cream served from a nozzle, rather than scooped.

speed down

Supiido daun (スピードダウン) means slow down.

A false formation by analogy from "speed up".

stop the

Sutoppu za (ストップザ) means 'stop'.

"Stop the" is often used in slogans. For example there is a radio show sutoppu za kōtsūjiko (ストップ・ザ・交通事故), "stop the road accidents".

symbol mark

Shimboru māku (シンボルマーク) means 'logo'.

T-back

T bakku (Tバック) means 'thong'.

The name is from the shape of the straps around the buttocks.

table centre

Tēburu sentā (テーブルセンター) means centrepiece of a table.

table speech

Tēburu supiichi (テーブルスピーチ) means speeches at parties.

three-size

Surii saizu (スリーサイズ) means female body measurements (bust, waist, hip).

title back

Taitoru bakku (タイトルバック) means film credits.

This seems to be an abbreviation of "title background".

two piece

Tsūpiisu (ツーピース) means a woman's suit, a garment with matching top and skirt..

up

Appu (アップ) means 'improvement'.

The word "up" is used in combinations such as "healthy up" or "slim up" to mean any kind of improvement.

video deck

Bideo dekki (ビデオデッキ) means video recorder.

viking

Baikingu (バイキング) means 'buffet'.

The word "viking" was apparently originally used as a substitute for "smörgåsbord" by Tetsuzo Inumaru of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo in 1957, and nowadays it is often used to mean an "all you can eat" buffet.

virgin road

Bājin rōdo (バージンロード) means the aisle of a church at a wedding.

white shirt

Waishatsu (ワイシャツ) means a dress shirt, a white shirt..

wide show

Waido shō (ワイドショー) means a television variety show.


External links


Acknowledgements

Thanks to Keiichiro Sugimoto for permission to use the information from his list in the above.

References

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