Japanenglish: The weirdness of Katakana English

Japanese people have a very common word, with a very common and very wrong meaning.

It’s already widely known that Japanese like to absorb everything from America, and one of those things is the language. Because it’s cool. But the fact it might sound “cool”, doesn’t mean it is correct, and in fact, when heard by someone who actually understands the wrongness of it, you can’t help it but laugh!

Giving some little examples as a motivation to the main topic, let me tell you some English words Japanese people use with maybe no clue it’s not Japanese:

– Saying “All right” abbreviated when helping someone in the car doing a maneuver. They say something pronounced like “Ohry” (オーライ, o-rai).

– Using English furigana in advertising. For example, the word 検索 (けんさく, kensaku, lit. search), instead of having the correspondent hiragana above it, would have the katakana サーチ (sa-chi), the Japanese reading of “search”. It’s just a way of turning things “cool”.

– Differentiating a normal hamburger from a Mac hamburger. One is said ハンバーグ (hanba-gu), the other one is said ハンバーガー (hanba-ga-).

– Differentiating a baseball strike from a job strike. One is said ストライキ (sutoraiki), the other one is said ストライク (sutoraiku).

– コンセント (consento) actually refers to a plug in the wall.

– マンション (manshon) would be guessed as being a huge palace-like house. But no. It’s an apartment. There is also the word アパート (apa-to) which I suppose it’s the big version of a “mansion”.

– レンジ (renji) is actually a microwave.

– パソコン (pasokon) is an abbreviation of パーソナルコンピューター (pa-sonaru konpyu-ta-, lit. personal computer). I guess we should start calling it “persocom” in English.

– A more particular example: in a 3D modeling software that I use, you have three tools – move, rotate and scale. And their translation in Japanese is, respectively… 移動 (いどう, idou), 回転 (かいてん, kaiten) and… スケール (suke-ru)!! Why?? x’D


Here I was just trying to get your attention to an interesting misuse of an English word, and I ended up making a whole post about the weirdness of “Katakana Eigo” (Katakana English). So instead of calling this post “Tension”, as I was planning, it gets a more suitable title.

Yes, the word I wanted to tell you about is “tension”. But make no mistake. We are not talking about “tension between two countries that might go to war”, or the “tension when you pull a string”, but yes another type of tension! How should I translate it…

For example. When you are in a party, and things start to get loud and everyone is in a good mood, you say that “the tension is high” (テンションが高い, tenshon ga takai). Of course the opposite is also applicable (テンションが低い, tenshon ga hikui).

I keep getting amazed.

Leave an answer

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s