芋 means sweet potatoes not just po-tay-toes

After a bit of discussion in The quick and short language questions-thread, I’ve decided to also post it here. It’s about po-tay-toes!
tenor

I wish I’d taken screen shots of the lessons, but alas. But I felt it was confusing in how we were taught these vocab.

WaniKani first teaches you the kanji of 芋, いも, meaning “potato”. WK then goes on to teach you the vocab of: 芋 “potato”; じゃが芋 “white potato”; and 焼き芋 “roast potato”.

There are a couple of things that are confusing here. Firstly it’s what’s meant by potato in a Japanese context, because culturally it suggest sweet potato, not the potatoes used in Western cuisine.

So, to clarify things might I suggest some minor changes in how the words are taught?

The kanji 芋 can still be defined as potato, but perhaps better as tuber (as that’s even broader in scope) and includes both ordinary potatoes and sweet potatoes.

The vocab of 芋 really implies sweet potato in a Japanese context and should probably be taught as the main meaning, with potato as a synonym.

じゃが芋 should have the main meaning as potato (because non-Americans don’t use the concept of “white potato”. That’s speaking American not English for me as a non-native English speaker :sweat_smile: I had no idea what “white potato” meant, but “white potato” can remain a synonym)

EDIT: Also, now that I’ve had my first review, WK do not accept “potato” as the answer for じゃが芋 which is just wrong, according to Jisho which lists “potato” as the meaning. So, forcing people to answer “Irish potato” and “white potato” neither being concepts I’ve ever encountered before, when there is a much more common one, “potato”, adds to the confusion, I feel.

焼き芋 should also be translated as roasted sweet potato (because that’s what’s implied in a Japanese cultural context) with roasted potato as a synonym, because it could be both.

It might also be a good idea to comment on this double meaning of 芋 during the lessons, either on the kanji or vocab or both. I dunno.

But, I think this would make the differences in meanings more transparent to the learner. Especially if we encounter these words in the wild, we need to understand that a recipe using 芋 calls for the use of sweet potatoes, not normal ones.

@JenK This might be a case for the allow list unless it already includes these meaning differences. :slight_smile:

Original post and start of discussion

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So where does a yam fall on the spectrum of tubers?

Also, doesn’t じゃが芋 have a synonym of Irish potato, as well? I, too, had never heard of these terms, and usually just refer to these potatoes as potato when speaking English.

I call the white variety Aardappel in Dutch, versus zoete aardappel or zoete patat or bataat for a sweet potato.

This post might or might not actually contribute to the discussion.

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Yeah, the lesson mention “Irish potato”, now that you mention it. It still doesn’t mean anything to me. And Jisho lists “potato” as the meaning, which is much more reasonable. It’s not like all non-sweet potatoes are white either.

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If (いも) means “tuber”, does (きみ)(いも) mean “YouTuber”? :thinking:

This post definitely does not contribute to the discussion.

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DurtTuber thanks to @saibaneko さん! :joy:

image

aka “pimples durtle”

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I think “tuber” isn’t a common enough word to justify using. Personally I wouldn’t have to look it up, but it would probably take a moment to work out what it meant.

Besides, “potato” forms a much stronger association in my mind than “tuber”, which imo is more important for a gloss anyway.

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I don’t think you would eliminate potato as a synonym.

The problem seems to arise from some people not seeing “potato” as including “sweet potatoes.”

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Yeah, I just think potato should be the primary meaning for the kanji item because “easy to remember and close enough” is more helpful in a gloss than “technically correct”

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For what it’s worth, the potatoes in LOTR can’t have been what western countries call potatoes either. What we now call potatoes were brought from the American continent to Europe around the 16th century. Since the setting of LOTR is the north-west areas of Middle-earth, which corresponds to Europe before the 16th century, they could not have been eating potatoes.

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Blasphemy! >:c

Even if they didn’t have potatoes, they’re eating hobbity po-tay-toes in LOTR! :triumph:

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This is a wild thought I know, but I think you might possibly be confusing a fictional world with the real world.

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I’m just trying to derail this thread into LOTR discussion :joy:

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well then…would the 芋 in LOTR be potatoes or sweet potatoes? Or would they be some other tuber like plant that Tolkien calls a potato for the sake of convenience?

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Confusing abbreviation :joy:

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Where did the discussion of peanuts come from?

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It’s comparing the fact that we often call peanuts nuts even though they’re not nuts, to the fact that we often call sweet potatoes potatoes, even though they’re not potatoes.

The phrasing confused me too, I thought @saibaneko meant to say that popatoes are a kind of peanut :joy:

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pun was not intended, but I’m going to pretend it was now

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I thought she was saying that peanuts were tubers and I thinking “no, they’re legumes”

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That’s what it says in their message… That potatoes and peanuts are tubers and that sweet potatoes are roots.

I mean, if that’s not what they meant, they maybe will correct it.

Potatoes are stem tubers, sweet potatoes are root tubers, and peanuts are legumes, as you said.

But as it relates to the topic at hand, using “tuber” as a word to encompass potatoes and sweet potatoes in the 芋 kanji item is accurate. They seemed to be arguing against that.

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My bad then, I should have checked before writing. I thought potatoes and sweet potatoes were not both tubers. If they are, then it makes things easier!

I thought they had nothing in common, like peanuts and say hazelnuts have nothing in common yet are both called nuts…

I still need to catch up on sleeps lol.

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