Saturday, March 01, 2008
Friday, February 29, 2008
The Japanese, of course, use a lot of English in their daily lives, even if serves mainly as a decoration, like a businessman showing his intelligence by peppering his speech with haughty-sounding katakana words like "compliance" "collaboration" or "initiative," the reverse version of American businessmen using trendy Japanese buzzwords. But because the Japanese have a limited phonetic range compared to English, and because words have been brought in over a space of many years, English words are sometimes imported "wrong," at least as far as my Californian-American English ear is concerned. The other day I asked my wife to get some yogurt from the refrigerator for me, specifying that I wanted the "Bio Yogurt" that was there. Since I was speaking Japanese, I said the word "bio" with its Japanese pronunciation of "be-oh," and this gave me a little shiver of weirdness since it's not said that way in my native tongue. Some other English words that are often changed compared to American English include "micro," which is pronounced "mii-cro" about half the time; energy, which sounds like "eh-neh-ru-GEE" with a hard "G"; and cocoa and aloe, both of which get their final silent syllables pronounced. There's nothing for it but to get used to these alternate pronunciations, and it's really not that hard -- before I know it I'm talking funny in English.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Monday, February 25, 2008
Although Japan is famous for its extensive rail network, allowing people living in large cities like Tokyo to get by without owning a car at all, most families in less urbanized areas do own automobiles. Some of the cars sold here have names that sound extremely strange to gaijin, like the Daihatsu Move Latte I saw driving on the road the other day. Would you be caught dead in a car called Naked? What about an Every, or Sunny Bluebird, or maybe a Thanks Chariot? Or the Honda That's -- I'm not kidding, "That's" is the name of the thing. Or maybe a Life Dunk, which I guess is supposed to make you think of the most excellent game of basketball you ever played. Although drivers perceive English to be very kakko ii (cool), it's increasingly common for car companies to mine languages like Spanish or Italian for car names, which gives us such interesting cars as Demio (Spanish for "of mine"), the Familia S-Wagon ("family sporty wagon") or the Spacio ("space"). One of the few names derived from a Japanese word is the Toyota Camry, which comes from kanmuri meaning "crown," part of the company's strange fixation with this word. Other cars in this series include the Corona (Spanish for "crown"), the Corolla (Latin for "small crown") and their current flagship luxury model in Japan, the Crown Royal Saloon.
(This is the Honda Vamos. I just love that name.)