How did fantastic become fantajikku in Japanese?

It doesn’t follow regular pronunciation changes, which would make it “fantasutikku” or “fantasuchikku”.

According to English in Japanese by Akira Miura it might have been derived from the title of the Disney film Fantasia rather than just being a pronunciation change from fantastic.

I’ve written a whole article on Japanese English pronunciation changes here.


  1. Jeffrey said,

    September 22, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    I wrote a whole book.

    It’s very simple. That Japanese really don’t speak foreign languages at all. Thus they don’t understand foreign words. However, the root problem is the fact that Japanese is limited to just 54 sounds. Hell, in English we have three different ways just to pronounce “a.”

    With Japanese being limited phonically, and with no one at the Ministry of Education tasked with the proper “katakanization” of “loan” words, about 50% of them get fucked up even when they can be rendered quite closely in Japanese to the proper pronunciation. For example, why is Hawai’i rendered ha wai in katakana when it can and should be hawai i, pronounced not unlike kawaii. Another is Paris. Paari, in French, some how because Pari in katakana.

  2. alexcase said,

    September 24, 2011 at 10:02 am

    “Fucked up” isn’t really the right word. Words borrowed into any language become part of that language, and most adaptation is logical and explainable, like this case, and attempts to take words back to their original meaning or pronunciation are pointless or even downright silly, such as arguments that English words can’t mean what everyone thinks them to mean because the Latin means…

    There is also a semi-system to the last point you mention. Long vowel sounds in gairaigo often correspond to stressed syllables rather than long sounds in the original language. Neither of those syllables are stressed.

  3. alexcase said,

    September 24, 2011 at 10:03 am


    If you really did write a book, I’d love to read it! As my next post will make clear, Japlish is the closest thing I have to a hobby.

  4. Richard said,

    September 25, 2011 at 8:48 am

    There’s a noticeable trend towards getting closer to pronunciation in other languages using katakana, (particularly when writing names, though with ordinary words too). Like using ヴァ instead of バ for ‘va’ or ティ instead of チ for ‘ti’.

    And this last ティ is used in film titles like ファンタスティック・フォー ‘Fantastic Four’ and ファンタスティックMr.FOX, as well as a Korean show that has been given the Japanese title ファンタスティック・カップル ‘Fantastic Couple’. If I look up ファンタジック ‘fantajikku’ in the dictionary it directs me to ファンタスティック ‘fantasutikku’. I think fantajikku is probably on the way out, though it might linger in the sense of ‘imaginative, fanciful’ rather than ‘amazing, wonderful, brilliant’.

    The dictionary also says it comes from ‘fantasy+ic’. If the word was known as a noun in Japanese and someone decided to turn it into an adjective, it seems perfectly likely that it would be done ‘incorrectly’. I don’t personally have a problem with this (one of the fascinations of language) but I feel that many Japanese people confronted with something nearer the correct English pronunciation in film titles etc., would start to not want to use the old pronunciation any more, which is why I say it might be on the way out.

  5. alexcase said,

    September 26, 2011 at 10:18 am

    I think they might retain their different meanings, although such changes do happen. For example, some manufacturers are now calling conditioner by that name rather than “rinse”. I’ve also read about changes the other way, e.g. violin going back to “baiorin”.

  6. Jeffrey said,

    October 3, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    Seeing your following post, it’s more like your dictionary. I never approached a publisher. It was compiled while being thoroughly under-employed for a Japanese firm more than a decade ago. Ah, the memories.

    I do take issue with the age-old argument that a loan word ceases to be tied to it’s source once it becomes common in the new language. The Japanese “borrow” more words and “ideas” than any other culture I’ve been exposed to (mostly English) and it’s not even a matter of nuance or degree. It’s usually a problem of taking something so far out of context as it becomes unrecognizable to speakers of the language where it originated. On the whole, it’s just annoying and because I first came to Japan to teach English decades ago, it was apparent after a week in the classroom that I could be the best, most influential teacher in the lives of my students and it wouldn’t matter as I had the weight and ubiquity of the Japanese advertising industry foiling me at every turn.

  7. CJ said,

    October 4, 2011 at 9:34 am

    As if English doesn’t “borrow” any words…the whole bloody language is full of adopted words and phrases. Why do you think there are so many grammatical exceptions in English???

  8. alexcase said,

    October 4, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Surely it should be the Chinese who should be more annoyed with the Japanese than English speakers, then, because they borrowed their alphabet and most of their vocabulary from them and then thoroughly changed all of it…

    Only 6 to 10% of Japanese vocabulary comes from Western languages, and I would say (having gone through 25% of a dictionary of borrowed words in Japanese) that 90% of of that only varies in minor ways from the original language (excluding regular pronunciation changes). That puts Japanese beginners at a huge advantage compared to Chinese beginners who have very few borrowed words to help them. Again, I think the French would have much more reason to be annoyed at us for things like “cul de sac” than we should be annoyed at the Japanese use of English. If you have a general objection to words losing their original meaning when they go into another language, maybe you should insist that English speakers use “sake” for all alcohol and “Nihonshu” for Japanese rice wine. Can you provide me with any examples in English that annoy you in a similar way?

    Also, Korean has much more borrowed vocabulary than Japanese. Approximately 70% of its vocabulary comes directly from Chinese.

  9. October 16, 2011 at 2:25 am

    Exactly my point alexcase, English as a relatively young language (i.e. less than 1000 years -ever read The Magna Carta circa 1211, lately?) as is Japanese. Without going into too much detail I’m about to do a Phd on the origins of Japanese language as a dialect of Korean (around 60%) with a huge influence from China (remaining 40%) due to extensive Buddhist pilgrimages there 800-900 years ago.

    Living in China I see a lot of connect between Korean & Chinese prononuciation and experssion of various vocabulary. Maybe a lot of what I saw as purely Japanese stealing from China, may have come via Korea…

  10. alexcase said,

    October 19, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    I was agreeing with you and disagreeing with Jeffrey. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

    Your last comment about Japanese being a dialect of Korean is rather bizarre though. There is a theory that Japanese comes from a language on the Korean peninsular that later disappeared, but I think it is much more likely that they come from a much earlier shared ancestor language. Either way it doesn’t make sense to call Japanese a dialect of Korean as there was no such thing as Korean when the languages split. That would be like calling modern English a dialect of German.

  11. October 21, 2011 at 2:21 am

    Well Alex, I appreciate your concerns & comments, what I am alluding to is the fact that modern day Korean & modern Japanese have the same umbilical connections from a more ancient origin, most likely Mongolian. Presumedly Korean (the word we use in English for the “hungurl” language of the “Cho-sun” Peninsular) and Japanese (the standarized English term for the language that eminates from the “Nippon” islands east of that afforementioned peninsular) are not the correct trans-literation of languages that have evolved (or are still evolving) in the Northeast region of Asia.

    Without going into extensive details on this web page, for simplification, I correctly (or incorrectly as it appears) responded to some ideas from my extensive, yet restricted, experiences in the field of similarities between the languages of China, Korea & Japan. This has prompted further interest from myself and gratefully others. I encourage feedback for future academic studies that I am intending to embark on and the comments on this forum do assist me greatly, therefore I can assess the necessity of more in depth research.

    Bring it on…

  12. October 21, 2011 at 2:32 am

    And another thing…
    “That puts Japanese beginners at a huge advantage compared to Chinese beginners who have very few borrowed words to help them.”

    Ironically, from my experience, the Japanese useage of English vocabulary & experessions in everyday speech is phenomenal (admittedly, largely job specific) and the Japanese are amongst the most worldly travelled of the Asian nations. The Chinese, on the otherhand, translate every single word of foreign origin and are much less ‘open’ to international travel. However, the Japanese, generally, are a lot less skilled in foreign languages, particularly English; whereas the Chinese (and Koreans) are!

  13. alexcase said,

    October 21, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    That’s half true – the Chinese and Korean elite are much stronger at English than the Japanese. However, try talking to a local shopkeeper in English in any of them and you’ll struggle to communicate anything.

    Good luck on your studies of the origins of Japanese – it’s a minefield!

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