March 3, 2008 at 4:41 am (Language)

Yes, another boring Sunday entry by Bloosbabybro.

 My wife and I currently live a six hour drive apart.  She teaches at a university, and due to spring break, she was able to spend all of this past week with me.  Since we don’t typically see each other on a daily basis, it gave us the opportunity to have all kinds of small, fun, meaningless conversations.  Let me tell you about one of them.

 We were in my wife’s car driving to the grocery store and she was playing a CD of Japanese pop music.  I asked what band it was – it was Mr. Children, who from my understanding, were at some point (maybe still?) very popular in Japan.  Now, even though the name is “Mr. Children”, in Japanese it would be pronounced more like “Mista Chiruden” – a rough approximation of the English which fits into the sounds available in Japanese.  However, my wife referred to them as “Misu Chiru” – an abbreviation made by taking the first two syllables of both parts of the name.  I pointed out that doing so completely changes the name.  Any American who reads Japanese and saw “Misu Chiru” written in Japanese would assume the name is “Miss Chill”.  When I pointed this out to my wife she laughed hysterically for about a minute.  She said I make a good point, and in all of the years of her referring to the band as “Misu Chiru”, it had never crossed her mind.

 That’s when I realized that in Japanese words and names get abbreviated differently than in English.  An English speaker would likely abbreviate Mr. Children to “MC”, “Mr. C”, or something similar.  But in Japanese, the first couple syllables of each word get mashed together.  Another example: my wife loves the store Trader Joe’s, but she and her friends refer to it as “Tray Jo”.  Or in French, “Tre Joe”?

Languages are interesting things.


1 Comment

  1. indianananaknits said,

    Languages are living things. Always changing & being reinvented. It is amazing to me the changes I have seen in English language in my lifetime. Thanks for a fun read!
    “Nakni” 🙂

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