Jamming English Into Japanese Wherever You Can

Jamming English Into Japanese Wherever You CanBy now you may already know that English has a massive and sometimes uncontrollable presence in the Japanese language. The amount of English loan words grow エベリーディー (every day) and エベリーセコンド (every second), right? Disregarding the fact that I just made up these 2 words, if a cool English word can be used in place of a dusty, old and traditional Japanese word, why pass up the チャンス(chance)?

I get it. Maybe not agree with it, but it is unavoidable.

I don’t hold back and will throw out a mighty サンキュー just as good as the next person. Except that using サンキュー is already old and out of style. So once that new English is used to death, time to return to the now retro Japanese word.

But there is new ground. A higher plane of English found in Japanese. This is adding English, that is not considered a standard loan word, in which many Japanese people may not even understand, for no reason at all. No reason except to be hip.

You often see this in manga. No, these characters below are not foreigners. Magical beings? Yes.

Jammed English 2

English is overused in manga for attack names, monster names, powers, places, etc. So this group calling themselves “Team Fearless” still falls in the normal zone.

Jammed English 1

But then for some inexplicable reason, a member of Team Fearless says “You Understand?” in English.

It creates a merge of awkward and awesome in 2 words that shouldn’t belong anywhere near here.

Why? Who cares.

And I love it.

What do you think of the ultra jammed English in strange places? Have any better examples?

And really, ユーアンダスタン?

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Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.


Jamming English Into Japanese Wherever You Can — 18 Comments

  1. I’ve been doing this a little bit without even thinking about it. Nothing as crazy as アンダスタン though.

  2. I’m always just wondering if THEY アンダスタン. I’ve always been curious, wouldn’t a lot of English imports just be gobbledygook to the average Japanese reader? Does anybody understand the actual meaning of stuff like フィアレス or ユーアンダスタン? Wouldn’t that just be like sticking random Japanese words into English? Pretty much meaningless to the average reader?

    • It depends.

      Sometimes the English is explained.

      Sometimes it contains English that is nostalgic from Junior/Senior High School English class. So while it’s not common use in Japanese, it may be commonly understood.

      Sometimes the fact that it’s a mystery and sounds cool is enough.

  3. The coolness factor is probably the biggest part, plus the fact it’s just funny in some circumstances. I don’t see a lot of the katakana-English being used in super serious scenes, instead being used by characters trying to look cool. Episode 6 of the anime Panty and Stocking (which is action-comedy), has the villain characters doing this a lot in their lines:

    「パーフェクトなカロリーコントロール」(perfect calorie control)
    「ビューティフルなボディライン」(beautiful body line)
    「ワット・ザ・ヘル」(what the hell)

    Other than usage in Anime/Manga/etc, there also seems to be a trend in movie and book titles to be translated with Katakana rather than into an equivalent meaning in Japanese. Consider “The Catcher in the Rye”, which was translated into Japanese in the 1960s as 「ライ麦畑でつかまえて」but then in 2003 by Haruki Murakami as 「キャッチャー・イン・ザ・ライ」.

    Based on this trend, I think more and more Japanese people tend to see Japanese as “uncool” and English as “cool”, so naturally movie and book titles are being translated into Katakana (that might not even be totally comprehendible to a Japanese person), instead of into an equivalent meaning in Japanese simply because English “sounds better.”

    • Haha yeah, Panty and Stocking is awesome. It has a really great soundtrack too. I personally don’t really like the English loan words as I think most sound bad. I cringe whenever I hear サンキュー ughhhh

      edit: oh by the way AKB48 has a song called フライングゲット (Flying Get) and the first time I heard it I was like what the heck is this flying ghetto they’re singing about??

    • It definitely does represent humor and coolness. I wonder if eventually though it is going to turn the opposite direction. English can’t be cool forever? Or can it?

      • I think the economic power of English will keep it cool for the foreseeable future. There’s certainly a lot of people who spend a lot of money to try and remind both parents and kids how cool English is. Also it’s been cool for at least 70 years now so I can only assume it will remain cool at least for the rest of our lives!

        • I agree, it won’t be changing anytime soon, but you do see a reversal with many words.

          For example, ハニームーン is rarely ever used (though it used to be the norm). The Japanese version 新婚旅行 has returned as the standard.

  4. I don’t mind these uses at all and think some of them are great. But I hate it when I keep trying to understand some word written in katakana–because “I’m American, this is from my language, I can do this”–and then finally give in, look the word up in a dictionary, and discover that it is originally a French word!

    • Yea, I mean I personally like it. It adds another colorful edge to the language.

      And I agree, I hate when that moment of “I should know this word. Why doesn’t it make sense?”

  5. Sometimes there are slight nuances added to the English words. For example I’ve heard that ファースト・インプレッション sounds more romantic than 第一印象 which sounds a bit more formal. Sometimes English is just used for emphasis such as れい vs ゼロ, 本当 vs リアリー, どうも vs サンキュー, etc.

    There’s also some choices that seem to be based only on upbringing or personal preference. Some people have a ママ and some have an お母さん but rarely will one person use both words interchangeably to refer to their own mother. Personal preference, environment, job, and friends seem to have the most impact. For example gamers know some really random terms especially if they play foreign or box and docs games.

    Finally there’s a very select few that are generational slang. Japanese girls in their 20s and 30s probably think クリスマスケーキ is a holiday desert, but for those in their 40s and 50s it also meant something quite different. (http://bit.ly/1b0MTrj)

    • As you show here, there is actually incredible depth behind the English words and where and when to use them.

      With your example 零 and ゼロ, I remember seeing some variety segment on confusing words, and there are actually very specific (and confusing even to Japanese people) differences on the use between the two.

  6. haha ブラッドラッド is really full of those made up 和製

    つか I’m the only one who like to create loanwords but with GermanやRussian instead of the old uncle sam’s language? Like アラーヤッチ> 「god’s hand」 and ダロッギ> 「道」

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