Why do the Japanese call sake ‘nihonshu’?

My memory is probably exaggerating, but the way I remember it I arrived in Japan only knowing the words “sake” and “sayonara”, only to find that the Japanese rarely use either in the way I had expected. Still, that’s not as bad as believing my French teacher when he told use that “baiser” means kiss…

“Sake” in fact has two meanings, being the normal way to refer to all alcoholic drinks as well as the famous Japanese rice wine in particular, and is more often used with the former meaning. There is also the only very slightly differently pronounced “sake” that means “salmon”…

To avoid possible misunderstandings, the clearer expression “nihonshu” (“Japanese alcohol” or perhaps “Japanese spirits”) is therefore more often used when talking about Japanese rice wine, though there is also the word “atsukan” for “nihonshu” served hot.

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Vocabulary differences between Japanese and English

I’ve written a whole proper (?) article on the matter, mainly showing the similarities between how the Japanese adapt English words and how English speakers adapt Japanese words. More similar than you might think!

Words that are different in Japanese and English

Why is the usual English translation for (sumo) beya “stable”?

相撲部屋 in Japanese, so no horses in the kanji. Bad English translation of Japanese or bad Japanese English translation of Japanese? Can anyone help?