Why is "what" or "watt" spelled ワット in katakana?

I just came across this and I don’t understand it. I’m very new to katakana, but I can usually understand how the sounds relate to the English words. In this case, I feel like it makes very little sense how they spelled the word. Watsuto makes less sense to me than just using wato or watsu. Is there specific logic to how english words are spelled with katakana?


That is a small つ, it’s watto


Note that the tsu is small. So it is actually not voiced and marks a small stop in your speech.


Like others said it’s a small ツ

That means in Romaji it’s spelled as Watto

ワツト = Watsuto

ワット = Watto

ワト = Wato


It completely escaped me that ツ could be small like つ. I was just focused on telling it apart from シ.


There is a logic to it, yes, though it’s complicated enough it’s probably easier to not worry about the rules and just learn the words as words. The Dictionary of Intermediate Japanese Grammar has a 10 page appendix “Katakana Word Transcription Rules” which lists 18 rules. The basic idea is that English word sounds are perceived by native Japanese speakers as sounding like particular Japanese word sounds[*], and you can write down how that generally ends up; then there are some cases where the spelling of the English word affects the katakanaisation and it ends up different than a purely sound-based transcription would be.

[*] in ways that aren’t necessarily obvious to English speakers, since our brains are wired to classify sounds into English’s phonological buckets, not Japanese’s buckets


Honestly, once you start learning them you kinda get a sense for the pattern.

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