Like the idea or hate it, quite a few people pick up Japanese words by watching anime. Some people even intentionally watch subtitled versions over dubs specifically for that reason alone. And although it’s gotten a lot of bad rep in Japanese language learning communities (mainly due to the fact that anime lines are scripted and thus not exact to real life communication situations), hearing a word spoken by a native speaker is a whole lot better than trying to make due with a silent textbook. But if you’ve been listening closely to Japanese audio tracks long enough, you’ve probably noticed a few things. Namely: loanwords, also known as gairaigo (外来語) which literally means foreign (outside) language.
There are the common ones from English, such as takkushi (taxi) and pinku (pink). But there are also some odd ones. Close listeners will likely catch a few as they sound not quite… right. But unless one does some research or is actively learning the language, it isn’t likely they will figure out why. One great example? Pan (パン). No, it isn’t the thing you use in baking. It actually means bread in Japanese and the “a” is soft, not the sharp English version. Yeah, that’s not from English. That’s Spanish. Oh and the top of your car? Yeah, the roof? Banneto (バンねと). Bonnet. Yep, it’s from the UK. And part-time job? Arubaito (アルバイト). It’s German. I have no clue why they chose that one.
Like most gairaigo, the reasoning behind the word choice is razor thin. Often it’s simply the first word used on the item when it was introduced to Japan. But sometimes it’s just plain weird. Like underwear being pantsu (パンツ). Shouldn’t that mean pants instead? Take it from the girl who survived two years of Japanese language classes at college level. Smile, nod, sometimes laugh and just accept it. Asking “why” when it comes to gairaigo isn’t the most efficient way to spend one’s evening. Though it can be rather comical.
For more information on gairaigo, check out this handy wiki entry on the topic! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gairaigo