Surprising Japanese Loanwords ("Aha!"-Moments)

Yeah, in other contexts, too. In German we often say (the German equivalent of) “PIN number” where the “N” alreay stands for… yep, you guessed correctly.

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Oh nooooo! In America (at least the Midwest) we do that too. I never thought about it until now :see_no_evil:
Does every language do this, I wonder??

I swear, on practically every direction sign and information sign I’ve seen in Japan, the English text written on the sign does exactly this. Like… “Arakawa River” or “Yanagibashi Bridge” or “Chuo-dori Street” or whatever. Lemme see if I can rustle up any images…


(A bit blurry, but still readable…)


I’ve only seen it written right once :sob: I should have saved a pic of that to my favorites lol

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At that point, they might as well commit :rofl:
“Tokyo-eki Station,” “Nara-ken Prefecture”
Just do it all!


It appears that this is no longer generally held to be true, and that the idea that the word originated from one of the chinese languages is now the etymology of choice. It occurs in much the same form not only in japanese but also in near eastern and south asian languages.

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Think it’s more that so many languages have a similar word, and English is such a vocabulary kleptomaniac, that noone’s entirely sure who English stole it from. Quite possibly everyone got it from Persian.


I don’t think it’s taught here, but 草履 caught me by surprise when I was in high school. I’d grown up calling shower-shoes/thongs/rubber-slippers “zori” (though I think we pluralized it: “zories”).

(Thinking about this further, I think this might be a US navy expression I picked up from my dad.)


The German word (kinda) Bonze.

In German it is used dismissively towards rich people that are influential (politically, socially and/or economically) and that show their riches - think dude in expensive everything, with a Rolex for each suit and a Porsche. Those kind of people.

And the origin (as you might figure it out) is the Japanese 坊主 (bouzu), a Buddhist monk.
In writings of Europeans it showed up in the 16th century (Francesco de Xavier) in the Buddhist monk meaning. In the late 18th century it showed up in German in the connotation of bigoted priests. In the 19th century it became more and more connected to politicians.

Apparently, it is still part of modern youth talk but I must confess - I basically only heard it in older writing/TV Shows so YMMV of how current that is.


I’m German and I heard “Bonze” said jokingly amongst friends if someone bought an expensive meal or something similar.

I find it not only really fascinating how this unconnected word from the opposite part of the world made its way into modern speech in a fundamentally different language but also that we were able to trace it back. Truly great stuff!


Heh, I actually came across that one recently in a crossword, and had to look it up because I’d never heard it before. It’s actually derived from 凡僧ぼんそう, though.


There’s an (old) Australian term “Bonzer / Bonza” meaning “Good”. With unknown origins - possibly from English, French or Cantonese. Perhaps 坊主 / 凡僧 can be added into the etymological mix?


That makes more sense. I thought that in one of the transcriptions things got lost/added on the way.

Okay, maybe not in use as much among my friends/acquaintances then.

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