Some English Words are Really Japanese Words
A surprising number of words we use in English actually come from Japanese, like the hibachi my mother and I used to use to grill at our apartment when I was a boy. Here are some others:
- Emoji. These “emotional characters” supposedly come from the tendency of manga writers to add characters like ♪ and 💢 (the “anger mark”) in character dialogue.
- Panko. Why is this word on every menu I read in the U.S. these days? It means breadcrumbs.
- Tycoon. A former term of respect for the Tokugawa Shogun, used in letters by Abraham Lincoln and Napoleon III
- Sudoku. It’s an abbreviation for 数字は独身に限る which means “all numbers must be single and unmarried.”
- Kudzu, a plant, called kuzu in Japanese.
- Umami. Refers to the “savory taste” that’s separate from sweet, sour, salty, etc.
- Hairy carry. Do people still say this? It comes from 腹切り hara-kiri, or Japanese ritual disembowelment (also known as 切腹 seppuku).
- Karaoke. It means “air/empty orchestra.” The kara (空) is the same as karate, which means “empty hand.”
- Skosh. Meaning “a little bit,” though it’s probably only found in certain regions as I’ve rarely heard it used in California.
Another word that comes from Japanese is honcho, the head of a group or organization, which comes from 班長 hancho, which referred to the leader of a neighborhood block. In the New Game anime, Osaka-ben rapper Iijima Yun is in the “character-han” (character team, creating 3D characters for games), while Umiko is part of the “programmer-han” working on game programming.
Yet another series I’ve been following this season is Made in Abyss, a dark and well-made show about a civilization that’s lived next to an endless chasm, the Abyss, for thousands of years. Explorers known as Cave Raiders delve into the Abyss to look for ancient artifacts, technology left by a long-forgotten advanced race. One such girl, an orphan named Riko, wants to be a Cave Raider liker her famous mother. When she finds a humanoid boy robot named Reg she makes a plan to visit the deepest, most dangerous part of the mysterious Abyss to try to find her mother. With a dark story and interesting characters on a classic journey, it feels a lot like Castle in the Sky Laputa meets the classic 3000 Leagues In Search of Mother, and I recommend it a lot.
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