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RANT 'N' RAVE
War of the Words

rant.jpg (22929 bytes)

Illustration by Dot
Email: dotdogdot@hotmail.com  

I find it quite ironic that so many foreigners here take a critical view of the Japanese for borrowing many words from English. I wonder if these traditionalists have had the opportunity to investigate the etymology of many words that they use every day in their own language - English.

With the Norman invasion of England in 1066, there was an enormous infusion of French words into the English language - 10,000 of them, in fact, by the time of the great poet Geoffrey Chaucer. Although the English were governed by a French-speaking aristocracy for centuries and may have adopted these words as a result of subjugation, borrowing from French has often occurred since those times for reasons of pure fashion. Since the late 17th century, words like police, cigarette, picnic, liaison, menu, morale, massage, souvenir, rapport, na´ve, and prairie have all been a part of the English sponging from the French.

I've watched native English speakers cringe at the Japanese katakana-like pronunciation of borrowed English words. Likewise, I'm curious if the French cringe at the English pronunciation of glacier (GLAYsherr). Even prior to this amendment of original (and I use the term loosely) English, the Germanic Anglo-Saxon speaking tribes were borrowing everyday words from the Romans. Without this Latin influence we would not have words for butter, wine, or anchors that have remained in our lexicon since those early times - or would we?

I've also witnessed exasperation regarding the reason why the Japanese, at times, choose a foreign word when there is a "perfectly good Japanese equivalent." How would these purists feel if I asked them if they like to eat wastems; or that I wished I lived in a sibbly world; or that my favorite time of year is when the bleads bloom in the spring. These words, of course, are the modern versions of the original Old English words for fruit, peaceful and flowers respectively. And why does everyone back at home say karaoke, pronounced kearioki, instead of sing-a-long or some other equivalent? Why has it become more fashionable to say tsunami in many places in America instead of tidal wave? If not for loanwords from French, Latin, Greek, Celtic, Scandinavian, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Dravidian, Chinese, and a plethora of other languages including Japanese, English would appear quite different indeed!

So, I suggest that before anyone condemns the Japanese for borrowing words from other languages, they should take a course in Old English from Dr Kenneth Schaefer at Temple University and learn the original English words for the tainted vocabulary that they now possess - or better yet, pick up a dictionary and discover the origins of a large part of their vocabulary on their own. Likewise, when referring to soy sauce over lunch, I also suggest that they discover a pure English word for it, since soy is an English loanword borrowed from Japanese.

Many thanks to reader Stephen Perras for this Rant.

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Metropolis Online
RANTS AND RAVES:
349: Life in the cycle lane
Playing chicken with a ladybike
348: Daisuki na Tokyo
Tokyo's my favorite!
347: Nihongo dake!
Why am I not fluent in Japanese yet?
346: People make the city
The beauty of Tokyo's people
345: Cross Training
Commuting by train in Tokyo
344: Yellow Line Fever
A guide for the blind... and a pain in the neck
343: Welcome to Tokyo
What did you bring me?
342: Positive thinking
Three reasons why we love Japan
341: I'm a rounder...
Veterans of Japan vs. Japan rookies
340: Discard your bank cards
The labour of replacing lost bank cards
339: Shoganai...
It can't be helped
338: Respect your environment
Poluution problem in Tokyo
337: Strike Three - You're Enlightened
How omiyage ruins a vacation
336: Missing manners
No manners outside of Japan
335: Goodbye jitensha
Is stealing bikes a popular pastime in Japan?
334: War of the Words
English borrows from other languages too!
333: ENGLISH ONLY, please
Don't bother writing your name in Japanese
332: A menu carved in stone
No special requests for lunch!
331: The Zen of Looking Busy
The art behind faking work
330: Lyrical Phlegm
Japan's spitting dilemma
329: Rock harder, Japan
Big, bad and ugly concerts
328: Noise Deficiency
The unrelenting quiet that is not Japan
327: Chopstick Diplomat
Constant questioning = constant answering
326: Game over
Cutting off the game for regular scheduled program
325: Grown pains
The hooligan behavior of middle-aged salarymen
324: The Price of Fame
Young teen actors light up on-screen
323: A Customary Affair
The universal language of consumerism
322: Robber barons
JR steals from the rich.. and the poor
321: Tegami Or Not Tegami
Deny the letter to save money
320: The Garbage Men
Variations of the "salaryman"
319: Holidaze
Japan - Home of the lamest holidays in the world
318: Box your ears
Be the karaoke star you've always dreamed of
317: The winter of my discontent
No oden if it's spring please!
316: The Bells
Going insane from bells and voices
315: The Big Tokyo Trash Mystery
No garbage cans + too much garbage= a clean city?
314: The Kamikaze Spirit
The war may be over but the spirit lives on
313: Movie Mania
Laughing alone in the corner
312: Geek parade
What's going on with gaijin men?
311: Gleaming gomi
Rinse it out before you throw it out
310: Lower Mathematics
Teaching practical mathematical equations
309: Escalator clots
Blocking the flow of escalator traffic
308: Sky's the limit
Favorite channel on the hit list
307: Bring on the studmuffins
Thanks to the "Men looking for women"
306: Burning Rubber
Narrowly averting bicycle collisions
305: Fishy Business
The sushi wasn't dead
304: The Invisible Gaijin
When gaijins collide
303: Talk work only
The Japanese perception of idleness
302: From kotatsu, with love
A blanket covered electric coffee table
300: Why 2K?
The millennium bug ain't no big deal

ISSUES 350-381
ISSUES 250-299

ISSUES 233-249