Japanese English words that just make no sense

It’s pretty safe to say that Japan has a particularly strong fascination with American culture and entertainment. As we discussed here, they even have KFC for Christmas! This fascination extends to the language as well. It’s not rare to find a few random English words in the middle of a Japanese sentence, whether it’s in a song, everyday life, or even government programs.

Coming from a country where English is not the official language either, I was surprised at the amount of English words used in Japan. It’s extremely rare to hear English words in a Spanish song, and the government wouldn’t launch a program called “Go to travel”… which happens to be grammatically wrong as well!

Indeed, there seems to be little regard for accuracy when it comes to these English words, it’s more about the words themselves sounding “cool” to Japanese ears. You will know this for sure if you have seen some of the Japanese T-Shirts with random English words written on them.

Here’s a list of some of the English words that are widely used and that don’t mean what Japanese people think they mean. Some of them come from the American occupation of the country, some are newer. None of them make any sense.

Baby car:
Sounds like a cool small car your baby would drive around. Unfortunately, it’s just a stroller. On the topic of cars:

Front glass:
means windshield. You may have noticed that taking simple English words and putting them together to make up a different concept is fairly common. Problem is, it’s wrong. Another one:

Back mirror:
Means rear-view mirror.

You may have heard your Japanese friend say they live in a mansion. It’s not a giant, luxurious house, like it means in English. It’s just a somewhat-nice apartment.

Shoe cream:
Sounds disgusting, but it actually means profiterole or cream puff. They took the choux (meaning cabbage, due to its shape) from French and the cream from English. As a result, we get shoe cream.

This one is actually missing the cream. It means ice cream. Ice has its own Japanese name. Ice candy: On the other hand, this one doesn’t need the ice. It means popsicle.

There are so many of these that we’re gonna need more articles to cover a decent amount of them, so stayed tuned for part two!

Hi, I’m Sergio.
I’m from Spain, lived in the UK for seven years and came to Japan in 2012.
I majored in journalism in London and have been teaching English in Tokyo.
I like traveling, cycling, photography, movies, and spending time with friends.
I wrote articles about life in Japan as a foreigner and anything that I might find interesting.
My email is ” sergio.dom.jpn@gmail.com “, by all means contact me about anything!


Related links:
Efficiently studying Japanese
The amount of plastic in everyday life
The crazy world of Japanese mascots
Killing boredom at home when self-quarantined
Bizarre Japanese pizzas



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