Japanese in the Oxford Dictionary

21 Aug

I wrote a post last year about Japanese words that are used in the English language (often with a different pronunciation…and sometimes even a different meaning from the original Japanese).

(Click here to read it.)

Well, it seems that this year’s edition of the Oxford Dictionary from England has added three more Japanese words to their dictionary that are supposedly in common usage in the English language now.

The words are: 「引きこもり」 (“Hikikomori“), 「過労死」 (“Karoushi“), and 「オタク」 (“Otaku“).

I know these words of course…but I can’t imagine them being used in English!
How are they used in a sentence in English?

Their definitions as taken from Oxford Dictionary Online:

Hikikomori
Pronunciation:/hɪˌkɪkə(ʊ)ˈmɔːri/
noun (plural same)
[mass noun]
(in Japan) the abnormal avoidance of social contact, typically by adolescent males
[count noun] a person who avoids social contact

Origin:
Japanese, literally ‘staying indoors, (social) withdrawal’

Karoshi
Pronunciation:/kaˈrəʊʃi/
noun
[mass noun]
(in Japan) death caused by overwork or job-related exhaustion
Origin:
Japanese, from ka ‘excess’ + rō ‘labour’ + shi ‘death’

Otaku
Pronunciation:/əʊˈtɑːkuː/
noun (plural same)
[mass noun]
(in Japan) a young person who is obsessed with computers or particular aspects of popular culture to the detriment of their social skills
Origin:
Japanese, literally ‘your house’, alluding to the reluctance of such young people to leave the house

I think there are a few errors in a couple of the entries.
The actual definitions are mostly fine, but the “origins” aren’t quite right.

I think they should change them to:

Hikikomori
Origin:
Japanese, literally ‘staying indoors, (social) withdrawal’
I’d write:     Japanese; literally ‘pulling away’ or ‘(social) withdrawal’

Otaku
Origin:
literally ‘your house’, alluding to the reluctance of such young people to leave the house
I’d write:    Japanese; literally ‘you’ or ‘your house(hold)’. Anime fans in Japan began referring to each other by this overly polite term, from which it became the term that they were all referred to by.

Also those pronunciation keys in the entries are difficult to understand.
Does anyone actually use those characters to learn how to correctly pronounce a word?

This is where Japanese kana characters are especially helpful, if you can read it.

Hikikomori is pronounced 「ひきこもり」 (hɪˌkɪkə(ʊ)ˈmɔːri),
Karoshi is pronounced 「かろうし」 (kaˈrəʊʃi),
and Otaku is pronounced 「おたく」 (əʊˈtɑːkuː).

Have you ever used these words in English conversation?

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20 Responses to “Japanese in the Oxford Dictionary”

  1. letsjapan August 24, 2010 at 11:35 am #

    Just saw this. Funny, just last month I did a rather involved blog piece on my “campaign” to get “Natsukashii” incorporated/adopted into English. This is what I wrote (the comments are nice, too): http://letsjapan.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/natsukashii/

    Cheers.

    Like

    • tokyo5 August 24, 2010 at 11:52 am #

      I just read your post.
      You’re right, in English “nostalgic” or “that really takes me back” are about the closest there is to the meaning of 「なつかしい」 (“natsukashii”).

      I remember a while back a woman in there was a woman trying to make the Japanese word 「もたいない」 (“motainai”) an English word.

      Like

  2. Sven August 23, 2010 at 9:14 pm #

    I don’t know the character and aim of the Oxford Dictionary. These three words are not included in the Merriam-Webster dictionary (m-w dot com) which I often use. That may indicate that they are not very “common” English after all. What do you think?

    Like

    • tokyo5 August 24, 2010 at 12:06 am #

      Well, the Oxford Dictionary is English (from England) and the Webster Dictionary is American…so maybe that has something to do with it.

      Like

  3. Natalie L. Sin August 23, 2010 at 6:38 am #

    tokyo5 :
    >I can also swear in Cantonese
    Really? Where did you learn that?

    My husband is Chinese.

    Like

    • tokyo5 August 24, 2010 at 12:05 am #

      Oh, I see. So, I guess you’re even more interested in Chinese culture than Japanese.

      Like

  4. Sven August 22, 2010 at 6:35 pm #

    Pronunciation: For us who speak European languages it is difficult to imitate the way you Japanese use tone and pitch, or to be careful like you with long or short vowel at the end of a word.

    Like

    • tokyo5 August 22, 2010 at 8:58 pm #

      That’s why Japanese words that are used in the English language are often pronounced so differently that even Japanese people don’t recognize them (ie: Karate, Rickshaw, Karaoke, typhoon, sake, etc).

      (As I mentioned in an earlier post.)

      Like

  5. pongrocks August 21, 2010 at 5:50 pm #

    There is a song by a German comedian called karoshi… other than that I’ve just read them online mixed in with English…

    Like

    • tokyo5 August 21, 2010 at 10:19 pm #

      >There is a song by a German comedian called karoshi

      Really? And do people know what that word means?
      Do you know where it can be seen on YouTube? (And is the song in English or German?)

      Like

  6. Casey August 21, 2010 at 10:40 am #

    Well, they’re complicated, but considering English is going along with 12 vowels and only 5 letters to represent them, what else are they supposed to do? The kind of pronunciation-guide spellings most people use have a number of ambiguities which are avoided by this system (the International Phonetic Alphabet). Also, it’s worth noting that the pronunciations they have listed, as is to be expected, are anglicized ones (much like they would be if you looked up other loans such as, say, coup d’etat)

    But anyway, karoshi should turn up in plenty of newspaper articles if you want examples, and you will have no trouble finding anime fans calling themselves “otaku.” Hikikomori is more unusual, but the OED is all about comprehensiveness.

    Like

    • tokyo5 August 21, 2010 at 10:17 pm #

      >they’re complicated, but considering English is going along with 12 vowels and only 5 letters to represent them, what else are they supposed to do?

      I’ve seen English-language dictionaries use simpler systems to demonstrate pronunciation of the entries.

      >ambiguities which are avoided by this system

      Maybe to people that can read it. 😉

      >karoshi should turn up in plenty of newspaper articles if you want examples

      Do you, by chance, know a link to an online article using that word?

      >you will have no trouble finding anime fans calling themselves “otaku.”

      By definition of the term (at least in proper Japanese usage), it would seem that people would only refer to others by that term…not themselves.
      (Anyways, who wants to call themselves “Otaku” (dork)?)

      Like

  7. naoko August 21, 2010 at 10:03 am #

    Your definition about “otaku” made me recall the years when that word had come to float. They(geeks) used to start their conversation using that word like “Otaku, kore mita?” means “Hey, did you watch this?” and it sounds very weird. It’s overly polite as you say. Now, no one cares about its origin since peple got so much used to use it to refer geeks. You remember so well!

    Like

    • tokyo5 August 21, 2010 at 10:09 pm #

      >You remember so well!

      Yes, because I was surprised when they began calling each other by that word.

      In Japanese, there are many ways to say “you”…but “Otaku” is seldom used—except maybe when someone is calling a phone number for the first time and they want to ask “Is this the — residence?”

      Like

  8. Natalie L. Sin August 21, 2010 at 5:24 am #

    Not those words, but others. Then again, I listen to a lot of Kishidan and DJ Ozma, so I say all kinds of things. I have been known, for no apparent reason, to say the following to my husband:

    “Kazo no you na Dandy.”

    He humors me very well.

    Like

    • tokyo5 August 21, 2010 at 10:05 pm #

      Do you quote Japanese pop music songs often in daily speech?

      Like

      • Natalie L. Sin August 22, 2010 at 9:44 am #

        Yes. I can also swear in Cantonese ; )

        Like

      • tokyo5 August 22, 2010 at 8:50 pm #

        >I can also swear in Cantonese

        Really? Where did you learn that?

        Like

  9. Tornadoes28 August 21, 2010 at 4:41 am #

    Although not a Japanese word, the dictionary also added the word “vuvuzela.”

    Like

    • tokyo5 August 21, 2010 at 10:02 pm #

      That’s that South African buzzing horn that blared throughout the World Cup, isn’t it?

      How would that word be used in English? Except maybe preceded by “That irritating noise from the…” 😉

      Like

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