Borrowed Words

It’s funny how often English words get absorbed into Japanese. When we had our heavy snow on Monday, the catchword on the evening news was “sherbet”, and the next day, “slip” jiko (accidents) were big news, although “slip” was pronounced more like “sleep”. (I don’t want to know what kind of accidents people are having in their sleep. Ahem.)

Some of these borrowings are flat out wrong.


A car doesn’t have a “handle”, it has a steering wheel, for at least the past century.


And don’t even try to convince a Japanese person that this is not a “yacht”.

I have given up on that battle; it cannot be won.

Another thing that happens is weird pronunciation. English has sounds that don’t exist in Japanese. There’s no “si” sound as in “sing” or “city”; instead they become “shi”. And there’s no “th”, which becomes “su”. I once saw a sign in an elevator that said シ―スル (She sue Lou. Why would she want to do that?) I had to ponder for a while but finally got it—it was a glass “see through” elevator.

I’ve also seen many memorable performances at Tokyo Opera Shitty, and used to have an account at Shitty Bank.


9 thoughts on “Borrowed Words”

  1. I love that they call the steering wheel handle. 🙂 The “she sue lou” is also hilarious…
    In Holland it is also common to go to the Shitty, at least for the people with stronger accents, and travel with the Shitty Night Line. It is hard not to laugh shometimes.

    1. Yes, accents can be fun. I once had a substitute French teacher in high school. She told us all to get out a “shit” of paper and of course we laughed hysterically. She got embarrassed and told us to get out a “piss” of paper and we laughed even more. I guess she didn’t realize what she was saying.

  2. I had an account at that bank too, Eda, and I’d have to say the Japanese got it right that time! Thanks for sharing. I’m enjoying your observations.

      1. =) as I see it, if I don’t have a great time in Japan I’m a complete fail as the gypsy my husband thinks I am. lol Moving to new places is exciting for me and Japan is one of those places I thought I’d never get to see in person.

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