Extra: Pan, but not the kind you bake with

gairaigoLike 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

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About inrosegalaxy

Raised on everything from Moby Dick to the Star Wars X-Wing books from a young age, it came as no surprise to anyone who knew me that I’d become a literature graduate and avid writer. But my love of a good story wasn’t restricted to the written word in my early years. Star Trek, Mystery Science Theater 3000, and badly dubbed Godzilla flicks helped shape my love of science fiction on screen as well. I wrote my first story while in the second grade. It was a horrifying tale about murdering a fairy-eating dog via a slice of pizza (in my defense, my only exposure to pizza was in the cafeteria and I swear you could legitimately kill someone with those things). I was a special snowflake. Today I write science fiction, fairy tales, Gothic epistolaries, fantasy and anything else that pops into my bizarre and twisted mind. I write new articles for my blog every Tuesday and Thursday. And if you happen to fancy Japanese animation, I also run an anime review blog, RRAR, which updates every Monday.

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