That's a Japanese Word?

Honcho is a surprise to me too, because it is はんちょう.

Another one in that list would be rickshaw.


speaking of kombucha there’s also kabocha squash. (南瓜)

My mom’s friends talked about a Japanese pumpkin like thing that you could stew the entire thing. (throw the whole melon in the pot after cutting it up including the skin) I was in at a market (produce junction) and finally made the connection and my mom’s already made it twice so far.

Anyone else not know what the english word “skosh” meant before WK? I had a heck of a time trying to remember the vocab word すこし because the mnemonic assumes you know skosh >.<


I don’t think I’ve ever heard the word skosh outside of WaniKani.


I don’t think I’ve heard of skosh ever yet either.

I’ve heard of some people use a smidgen or a pinch recently, but half the time people usually butcher the word so bad in English that I don’t even recognize it in Japanese. (cringes everytime I hear saki)


Me too. I didn’t know what a real koto sounded or looked like, but all synths I’ve ever owed had a koto in its library (most of them, if not all, were made by casio).

So we actually had a couple of CDs of koto music when I was a kid that we’d listen to once in awhile. My dad worked in Japan in the early 90s and we had several Japanese students do homestays with us in the 90s too, so I think along the way someone must have recommended it to us. Actually my parents got really into Japanese food and culture when I was a kid, and that’s how I got interested in going to Japan one day and learning Japanese. I heard some koto while I was in Japan recently (for the first time! Finally!) and it brought back good childhood memories :smiley:

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Yeah, that was my point, most of these words aren’t known by the public at large (then again a lot of very proper English words aren’t known by them either).

I guess my cut-off was that if the word was anglicised (e.g. like tycoon) or generally used by the public (e.g. bento box) then it would count as being a word from the Japanese language that had been adopted.

There’s no kombu in there though. Just some weird fungi and yeasts.

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Pretty sure I read somewhere that Hunky Dory comes from a corruption of an old street name in a red light district in Yokohama frequented by American sailors.

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Brief googling suggests that there isn’t any solid evidence for that, just some plausible explanations put together.

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Fun fact: in the movie Terminator he says the famous line “Hasta la vista, baby.” But in the Spanish version, it wouldn’t really have the same comedic effect. So people growing up seeing the Spanish version first heard and know the famous line as “Sayonara, baby.”


This could be a fun “party trick”: make up some story about why sayonara is spanish in origin and any resemblance to japanese is purely coincidental. Then go around and try to convince people of that.


I knew the word はんちょう、班長 for over a decade before I was eventually surprised to find out it was the source for the phrase “head honcho”. I also just assumed that it was Spanish.


That’s the nature of language.

Actually there are a huge amount of words in Japanese that are borrowed from Chinese, because when the Japanese imported writing from China they didn’t originally change it. Therefore in order to be able to write one had to understand Chinese. That’s where the Onyomi readings come from. They are sound readings based on the original Chinese word. Albeit most don’t really sound alike anymore.

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Most practical usages I’ve heard were related to measurement, for example if you wanted sugar in your coffee, it would be “just a skosh”. Not sure where I first heard it. Perhaps it was more popular after the war, less so nowadays?

The scope of a word’s usage is interesting stuff. My stepmother, now passed on, used to say something which sounded to me like “voy nit” when she was upset with something. I presumed she was cussing just not in vulgar English. I haven’t been able to locate the word/phrase though.

While I’m rambling, I also used to work with an Icelandic gentleman who would cuss in German at thorny software development problems. I don’t think anyone but myself knew what he was doing.

Both of these seem to be cases of personal adoption of a foreign word to express oneself verbally in public and yet maintain a cloak of privacy.

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I thought it was Italian actually! If you say it with an Italian accent it sounds pretty convincing :sweat_smile:


Grew up around a lot of cultures - so there were a lot of words used from a lot of different languages - Japanese included. Here a few I can name off the top of my head:

My parents always said “monku monku monku” whenever we complained about something

A lot of people said “skosh” but I, for some reason, knew it was from Japanese.

We used to sing “going on a buta hunt” (although I always thought it was “buddha hunt”)

Soy sauce is commonly called Shoyu. I didn’t know what soy sauce was til I was much older. Bento is also used all the time.

We used the word Tako/Taco for octopus - I knew it wasn’t English but I never knew if it was Japanese or Hawaiian (or another language)

shishi for urine
bocha for bath
habut (habuteru) for being grumpy

Also (I just looked this up) Hanabata for boogers - its actually a combination of hana for nose, and “bata” for the english “butter.” The actual Japanese equivalent is hanakuso or hanamizu…


Kombucha isn’t originally Japanese, so that’s why it’s not there. Kombucha in Japan refers to a tea made from powdered Kombu, but the name caught on in the US for some reason. Most of the Kombucha I remembered seeing and drinking back in the states was from Mongolia. In Japan, it’s called 紅茶キノコ. I remember reading somewhere that the assumed reason for its US name being that people thought it resembled seaweed, though don’t quote me on that!