Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


MAKIKO ITOH HAS the online food blog, subtitled “Japanese recipes & more.” And, indeed, Maki, as she has been known since 2003, writes about so much more than food.

Daughter Suz, sharing my Nihonophile status, introduced me to this fine website. Here are tidbits gleaned from Maki’s collection of Japanese words on-loan from other languages, together with associated thoughts of my own.

Arbeit, German: work. Maki writes, “Arubaito アルバイト, often abbreviated to バイト baito. – temporary work or someone who is employed temporarily. Arubaito can actually be full time work; it’s the temporary nature of the job that makes it arubaito.

Today, for example, immigrants play an important role in Germany industries, just as they did in the United States at the beginning of the last century. A tidbit from back then: Henry Ford (hardly a progressive liberal) had multilingual signage at his Highland Park Model T plant and even set up an English Language Classroom there in 1914.

Avec, French: with. Maki says “Abekku アベック is a dating couple. This word is not in use much anymore though.”

Cooler. Writes Maki: “A Kuuraaクーラー is an air conditioner.” I’ve also read the word エアコン eakon in automotive press kits.

Maki’s Pepper-lemon Chicken Karaage is gluten- and soy-free.

Hello Work. Maki shares a charming tale about Haro-wa-ku, ハローワーク: It’s “the public (government run) unemployment office. This is actually the official nickname for it, designated by the government, to make looking for a job when you’re unemployed seem more sunny and positive. The nickname was chosen from many submitted by the public back in 1990 – which was right around the time the bubble economy was bursting.”

Somehow, it makes the dole seem less doleful, doesn’t it? It also reminds me of a recent labor action employed by Tokyo bus drivers. Rather than deprive the public of much needed transportation, the drivers continued their routes; they just didn’t collect fares.

Hotchkiss. Imported gizmos have a special status in Japan. Maki notes, a stapler is a “Hocchikisu, ホッチキス. The first stapler imported to Japan was made by an American company called E. H. Hotchkiss.”

Magic. And, she writes, “Majikku, マジック is a permanent felt-tip marker, short for ‘Magic Marker.’ ”

Neat. One of my favorites is Maki’s description of niito, ニート. This is an “unemployed person who lives with the parents. Comes from the British acronym Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET). Officially, people designated as “neat” are those aged 15-34, live at home, are unemployed, not students, and are not full time housewives or what has been called “kaji tetsudai” — daughters who live with their parents and do housework, nominally to learn how to manage a household.”

The word niito is not to be confused with “neat-o,” one of my preferred exclamations of delight.

Virgin road. A baljin ro-do バージンロード is “the aisle in a church or wedding chapel that the bride walks down to the altar with her father. Apparently some wedding venue somewhere in Japan came up with the term.”

It reminds me of the Kabuki hanamichi 花道. This elevated “flower path” leads through the audience to stage right in a Kabuki theater.

A July 1858 production of Shibaraku at Edo Ichimura-za. The hanamichi is at left.

I guess brides on the baljin ro-do started in an abekku.

Thanks, Maki, for these language insights. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2019

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