Jul 10, 2011

"English Words" Made in Japan

There are "和製英語" (wasei eigo), which means "English words" made in Japan, in the Japanese language. It sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? Is "wasei eigo" English or Japanese?

There are English borrowed words from Japanese, such as tsunami, sushi, otaku and so on. But "wasei eigo" doesn't mean English borrowed words from Japanese but they are Japanese words. Most Japanese native speakers believe that they are borrowed words from English, but in fact they were made in Japan.

The subtitle of my weblog is "Journals by an ordinary Japanese "Salaryman" living in uptown Tokyo". "Salaryman" (サラリーマン sarariiman) is the typical "wasei eigo" word.

The word "Salaryman" can't be precisely translated into English. If I dare to translate it into English, it would be white-collar employee. But the word "Salaryman" has different connotations from white-collar employee.

The culture of Japanese companies deeply reflects the word "Salaryman". It has self-deprecating connotations. A "Salaryman" wears uncool dark business suits, takes a crowed train to his office for a long time sweating a lot, and go to a cheap pub complaining about a boss after work.

The word "Salaryman" also represents the gender segregation of Japanese companies. A "Salaryman" is a "man". A woman employee isn't called a "Saralyman" but an "OL", which is the abbreviation of "Office Lady". An "OL" assists "Saralyman" and can't promote herself to an executive.

Recently the culture of Japanese companies is changing and "Saralyman" and "OL" are getting exterminated. . I'm an endangered species, "Saralyman".

"Old soldiers never die. They just fate away." by Douglas MacArthur

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