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Misleading Japanese Words of English Origin

Misleading Japanese Words of English Origin

Update: 14 September 2018

Japanese is a language teeming with loan words—many from English. However, a lot of the English sounding words in Japanese are actually made up by Japanese people. This can lead to a bit of confusion if it’s your first time hearing them! In this article, we’d like to introduce to you some of the most commonly seen words that can easily be misinterpreted.

Donmai (shortened from “don’t mind”) ドンマイ

Donmai (shortened from “don’t mind”) ドンマイ

“Donmai” is heard quite a bit in casual conversations among friends. This means “don’t worry” or “never mind it”. For example, if something bad happens and you’re feeling a bit annoyed or a little down, your friend may give you a quick “Donmai!”, meaning to simply not worry about it!

Sand サンド

Sand サンド

The word sandwich is often shortened in Japanese to “sand”, so if you see a sign saying that they’re selling sand, don’t get too freaked out! They’re just selling some tasty sandwiches.

High Tension ハイテンション

High Tension ハイテンション

In Japanese, having “high tension” means that one is very full of energy or extremely enthusiastic.

Guts Pose ガッツポーズ

Guts Pose ガッツポーズ

After doing something well or winning at an event, one may give a “guts pose” which is simply a victory pose.

One Piece ワンピース

One Piece ワンピース

The word “dress” in Japanese usually refers to a formal dress, and “one piece” used for casual dresses.

Trainer トレーナー

Trainer トレーナー

“Trainer” is used for the word “sweatshirt”.

American Dog アメリカンドッグ

American Dog アメリカンドッグ

Perhaps from its origin, corn dogs in Japan are called “American dogs”.

Earring, Pierce イヤリング、ピアス

Earring, Pierce イヤリング、ピアス

In Japan, many people will wear fake earrings instead of real ones. These fake earrings are referred to as “earrings”, and real earrings as “pierce”.

Kitchen Paper キッチンペーパー

Kitchen Paper キッチンペーパー

Kitchen paper is the word for “paper towel” in Japanese. If you say paper towel it’s likely that they will understand, but the correct word in Japanese is kitchen paper!

Soft Cream ソフトクリーム

Soft Cream ソフトクリーム

While similar to English, it may be a little confusing when hearing this at first! Soft cream is simply soft serve ice cream here.

Paper Driver ペーパードライバー

Paper Driver ペーパードライバー

Without a meaning like it in English, a “paper driver” refers to someone with a driver’s license that doesn’t own a car and does not drive. If someone that you’re getting into a car with says that they’re a paper driver, you may want to buckle up and hold on!

Fried potato フライドポテト

Fried potato フライドポテト

If you see “fried potato”, this simply means French fries! While they are fried potatoes, it may be a little confusing the first time hearing this!

Blue Sheet ブルーシート

Blue Sheet ブルーシート

“Blue sheet” is used for the word “tarp”. When you first encounter this word, the meaning may be a little unclear, but once you know what it is it’s very easy to remember!

Catch Ball キャッチボール

Catch Ball キャッチボール

Playing catch is called catch ball in Japanese.

Skinship スキンシップ

Skinship スキンシップ

Skinship means “physical contact” in Japanese. If someone is touchy, others will probably say that they “do a lot of skinship”.

Gasoline stand ガソリンスタンド

Gasoline stand ガソリンスタンド

Perhaps the most easily understood on this list, a gasoline stand is a gas station. It’s also sometimes shortened as “gassta”.

As you can see, the Japanese language is full of words that are easily misunderstood for English speakers. Hopefully knowing these words can help you level up on your Japanese and maybe even surprise some people with your knowledge of this Japanese English!


Written by Lindsey Schultz

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.

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