第388課: 和製英語

和製英語 is Japanese-made English. This means that these are going to be expressions that are fully or partly derived from English but may not have the same exact meaning or form as the original English phrase. 


和製英語 are constantly appearing. Many things that get Katakanized often end up being very long, and so they tend to get shortened. Once the abbreviation sticks, a new word is born. There are even ways of making many of these verbs and adjectives.

ググる = To google マクる = To go to McDonalds  サボる = To slack off

One weird instance that causes learners some confusion is on how to say apartment. There are two words for apartment, アパート and マンション. An アパート is more like a 1~2 story building with a relatively cheaper rent whereas a マンション would be at least 3 stories.

  Some Japanese speakers, perhaps more so true of older speakers, view these words as unsightly as they are thought of as being words that shouldn’t exist because they’re corruptions of actual loans. Others think the exact opposite and consider it the beauty of the evolution of language regardless of whether English speakers still understand the phrases or not.  

The chart below lists a lot of common 和製英語. ? indicates what an average native speaker of English would think what the word means having not known the origin of the phrase. 

 Phrase To English speaker… Meaning
 フリーサイズ Free size One size fits all
 パソコン Pass kon Personal computer
 モータープール Motor pool Parking lot
 ルポ Rupo Reportage
 ドタキャン Dotacan Last-minute cancellation
 ナイーブ Naive Innocent; sensitive
 エンゲージリング Engage ring Engagement ring
 インキー In key Having one’s keys locked in one’s car
 ホーム Home Railway platform
 ゲーセン Gay sin Game center
 ワイシャツ Why shots T shirt
 バックミラー Back mirror Rearview mirror
 フリーダイヤル Free dailer Toll free number
 ジェットコースター Jet coaster Roller coaster
 OL OL Female office worker
 フリートーク Free talk Free conversation
 フロントガラス Front glass Windshield
 ベッドタウン Bed town Commuter town
 プレイガイド Play guide Ticket agency
 ドライバー Driver Screwdriver; Driver (golf)
 チアガール Cheer girl Cheerleader
 ジーパン G pan Jeans and pants
 ナイター Nighter Night game
 ライブハウス Live house Live music club
 ランニングホームラン Running home run Inside-the-park home run
 フェミニスト Feminist Man who indulges women; feminist
 サンドバッグ Sandbag Punching bag
 ダンプカー Dump car Dumper
 スキンシップ Skinship Close physical contact
 サラリーマン Salaryman Salaryman/Salary worker
 モガ Moga? Modern girl
 モボ Mobo? Modern boy
 デッドボール Dead ball Hitting a pitcher with the ball
 ボールペン Bowl pen Ballpoint pen
 アニソン A Nissan Anime theme song
 ロードショー Road show Premiere
 ソフト Soft Software
 トレーナー Trainer Trainer; sweatshirt
 アメフト A meth toe American football
 ワープロ Wah pro Word processor
 マジックテープ Magic tape Velcro
 キャッチホン Catch hone Call waiting (from catch phone)
 ハンスト Han stow?  Hungry strike
 マスコミ Mass kami The media
 コンセント Consent Electric outlet
 プロレス Proless Professional wrestling
 セクハラ・セクシャルハラスメント Sexual harassment Sexual harassment
 シュークリーム Shoe cream Cream puff (Actually from French)
 ガソリンスタンド Gasoline stand Gasoline station
 コマーシャルソング Commercial song Jingle
 ノーブランド No brand Generic
 ドクターコース Doctor course Doctor’s course (PhD)
 着メロ Receive-mellow? Ringtone (メロ as in melody メロディー)
 フリーター Freeter?  Freeloader
 エアコン Air con Air conditioner 
 スマホ Smart ho Smartphone (Abbreviation of 
 セレブ Celeb Celebrity
 エンスト End stow Engine stop
 カーナビ Car navy Car navigator
 バナリパ Banaripah Banana Republic (not everyone would get this)
 ワンピ One pee One piece
 ロン毛 ?? Long hair
 パワハラ Power hara  Power harassment (abuse of authority)
 シネコン Shin akon Cinema complex

Those Needing More Explanation

There are many 和製英語 that deserve special attention.

モーニングサービス: Morning service can be found at Japanese coffee shops where you can find very cheep (500 yen or so) meals containing eggs, toast, and coffee or maybe other things. Similar phrase include バリューセット for value meals in Western chains such as Mc. Donalds.

ターミナルホテル: Hotel that is cheap and very convenient.

ワンルームマンション: A very small room in a high-rise building around 6~8帖.

シルバーシート: Seats that should be given to elderly people. It may also be called 優先席.

ツーショット: A picture shot of two people.

ペアルック: Look-alike.

セロ(ハン)テープ: Scotch tape. It is not saran wrap. 

ガムテープ: Duct tape. Although it sounds like it’s tape made out of gum, it isn’t. 

スズランテープ: Used to often tie up magazines. It may also be used tie up cardboard boxes.

ナイター: This is not a nighter. It is a nightgame. Party time!

パスケース: What you put your boarder pass to something in. Looks like a small wallet.

ミスド: Mr. Donuts.

シュークリーム: This is not shoe cream. It is actually a cream puff.  

ファッキン: This is not fucking. It is going to Fast Kitchen.  

メロドラマ: This is not melodramatic. It’s a soap opera.

スキンシップ: This is physical contact, especially between mother and child.

ドーナツ化現象: This is suburbanization.

コンデンスミルク: This is sweetened condensed milk (加糖練乳). In speaking of milk, Japanese call evaporated milk エバミルク (無糖練乳). 

写メール: 写メ for short, is the practice of taking a picture with your cellphone and e-mailing it to someone. 

 Examples (More to Come)

I commute with my own car.

The number of people leaving salary jobs and running their own business is sharply rising.