Why mother con not mother com?

Mazaa kon is short for “mother complex” and is the Janglish expression for mama’s boy/ Oedipus complex. As in English, Japanese words spelt with n change to an m sound before p. Unlike English, there is no chance of actually replacing it with an m sound in the spelling as n is the only consonant Japanese syllables can end with and the final consonant in borrowed words that end in m is always followed by a vowel (e.g. chiimu for team). This therefore leaves a rather strange “orphan n” when mazaa kompurekkusu (which would be spelt mazaa konpurekkusu) is shortened to mazaa con with an n sound, as the only other option would be to change the n (pronounced m) in the original to mu.

Why is the kanji for gentleman “male child”?

being 男子 (danshi), with the female equivalent being 女子 (joshi) – as often seen on toilets.

I have no idea, but it does seem to be part of a broader pattern because the other thing you could literally translate as “male child” (男の子 – otoko no ko) also seems to be used much more widely than the actual word for child (子供 – kodomo).

Why would anyone think that Japanese learners have problems with bit/ beat, sit/ seat etc?

Apparently it gets a mention in Lado’s 1957 classic Linguistics Across Cultures and I once came across someone trying to prove something fundamental by teaching Japanese students these sounds.

It’s true that in Japanese they rely only on length to distinguish between the two most similar vowels to “ship” and “sheep” whereas in English the mouth position is also different. However, in eight years of daily conversations in all kinds of levels of English in Japan I can’t remember a single incident of those sounds causing miscommunication in either direction, whereas it was every day or even every lesson in Spain, where there is no short vowel/ long vowel distinction at all.

I know nowadays it is fashionable to argue that the length differences in English vowels are unimportant or even absent in some circumstances (just as it is fashionable to argue that voiced/ unvoiced is a useless or even false distinction), but my experiences of communicating and teaching suggest otherwise. It can help Spanish students to concentrate on the wider spread mouth of “cheap” and “sleep”, given the problems they have with vowel length, but even one second of class time spent on this in Japan is completely wasted. To the authors of that pointless study – try teaching Japanese consonant clusters instead, will you?

Why do the Japanese say “national language” (kokugo)?

In Language and Society in Japan Nanette Gottlieb argues fairly persuasively that it is mainly used by nationalists for nationalistic reasons, and that more neutral and leftwing people prefer the term “Nihongo”.  As the school syllabus still uses “kokugo” but NHK uses “Nihongo”, I think that one word gives quite an insight into where Japanese society is right now.

Why are there two ways of saying “there are” in Japanese?

I’m not asking this as a linguistic question as almost everything exists in one language or another (although if there is a linguistic or historical reason I’d love to know) but more as a philosophical one:

If the animistic Shinto tradition of rocks and trees etc being gods and having souls is so important in Japan, how can they divide things into animate and inanimate when deciding on whether to use iru or aru?

Different in Japlish and Konglish

Just posted a pretty big list on my TEFL blog here.

The same in Japlish and Konglish

Have made a list over on my TEFL blog. More than you might think, given the tricky history between the two countries!

English made in Japan/ Korea and used in both

Why are wa, e and o spelt ha, he and wo in Japanese?

They used to be pronounced that way, but over the years the pronunciation of Japanese changed while the conventional spellings did not (as in most languages, e.g. English after the Great Vowel Shift). In 1946 the policy on Modern Kana Usage aligned kana spelling and modern pronunciation. As would probably happen with words like “are” and “was” if English spelling was ever rationalised in a similar way , these very common grammatical words were the only ones left unchanged.

Why do the Japanese say “scrap” for newspaper clippings?

…  therefore completely losing the meaning of something you should throw away.

According to the book on Japlish I’m reading at the moment, it comes from “scrapbook”, which makes sense.

Why do the Japanese say “doctor stop”?

According to English in Japanese by Akira Miura it originally came from a doctor stopping a boxing match and was only later applied to doctors stopping you drinking etc.

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