The Best of Japanese Animation’s Wasei-Eigo

Introduction:

The term wasei-eigo (和製英語) is used to refer to English words that have been coined into the Japanese language. Its literal translation is something along the lines of “Japanese-made English”. Wasei-eigo is often confused with Engrish, which is a slang term for the complete misuse of the English language by East Asian non-native speakers  (which itself can be quite the adorable spectacle to behold), and gairaigo (外来語), which refers to modern and more general-usage loan words from languages other than Chinese embedded into the Japanese language; but the distinction and rather trendy nuance of wasei-eigo is that it is the actual experimentation of these loan words that results in an entirely divergent meaning. Some introductory examples include アメリカンドッグ (American dog), which actually refers to a corn dog (you know, the edible kind?) and not any kind of domesticated animal; スナック (snack), which refers to a hostess bar where men can go to after work to have their alcoholic drinks poured for them by women and sing karaoke; and ハイテンション (high tension), which as opposed to meaning stressed out or anything to do with high-voltage, refers to someone who is brimming with energy. Through many perspectives wasei-eigo can be viewed as a negative influence on formal linguistics. For one, its very construction is one of the most undeniable examples of cultural appropriation, i.e. taking something from a foreign culture, paying no mind to its original meaning, and altering it into something entirely for your own usage. But it also has a negative impact on the language exchange of English and Japanese, on both ends of the relationship. Any informed linguist will acknowledge the infallibility of language changing, developing, and evolving; but as wasei-eigo specifically exists concurrently with the already established forms of these various English loan words, Japanese speakers learning English may forthrightly mistake them for true English words and heedlessly use them with the wasei-eigo denotation and connotation in any given context. On the receiving end, when English speakers hear these terms, they will naturally presume them as English words that have been accepted into Japanese lexicon with no changes in form. It’s easy to imagine the confusion that may arise when these two instances of miscommunication converge (“No, I would not like to eat an American dog!”). Though, that’s not to say that Western speakers may not come to prefer the wasei-eigo version of certain terms and adopt them as well. In the end, it may just all be a matter of preference. While at times much more informal than standard speech practice, wasei-eigo can have its merit as a poignant and fetching descriptor. Perhaps this explains why the main proponent to newly coined wasei-eigo terms is none other than the media. In order to create an  appeal in their advertising and products, the media often utilizes the convergence of English and Japanese to associate Western and Eastern culture and to portray a more modern and cosmopolitan image for the represented entity. However, what seems to be the next stage of adapted usage for wasei-eigo is that the process is no longer so much the media interacting with its audience, but the audience itself interacting with each other. Similar to the common usage of onomatopoeia in Japan (also usually lettered in kana characters) to convey the feelings alongside a certain situation, English loan words are considered to be more casual, friendly and trendy among the youth. And if there is any medium that takes its audience to heart the most, then it may just be of the animanga industry, where content creators contribute to a mixed-media pool of mutually acclaimed themes, motifs, archetypes, tropes, and more. So, with that being said and without further ado, here are the best of Japanese animation’s wasei-eigo:

ダンディー – Dandy (Space☆Dandy)

 

ファイト!! - Fight!!

 

ポジティブおっぱい – Positive Oppai (Terra Formars)

Contextual Definition:

A female with an ample chest and a cheerful attitude.

Context:

Having just admitted to Eva Frost that she is hopelessly in love with the much older, forty-two year old Captain, Komachi Shoukichi, an embarrassed Sheila Levitt insists that they head to the showers for a change of atmosphere. When they arrive, the door to the shower-room opens to reveal a half-naked Elena Perepelkina getting dressed. Sheila apologizes for rudely intruding on her privacy, and then she and Eva ogle in astonishment at Elena’s shapely figure. As the two stand and stare dumbfounded, Elena walks towards them to exit the room. Before she departs, she tells Sheila, somehow aware of their conversational topic earlier presumably because of how conspicuous Sheila’s puppy love for the Captain is, to tell the Captain how she feels about him, explaining that women are meant to love at any given time in any given scenario. As she walks off, she contravenes her instruction by laughing at how impossible Sheila and the “old man” are as a couple. Sheila and Eva continue to stand dumbfounded while watching her exit the scene, and the only words that Eva can muster are, “I wonder if she’s what is considered positive boobs.” (ポジティブおっぱいなのか。) Sheila interjects with an, “Eh?”

 

好き好きオーラ - Suki Suki Aura (Isshuukan Friends)

 Contextual Definition:

A lovely aura that is tender and heart-warming.

Context:

The re-appearance and school-transfer-in of one of Kaori’s male childhood friends intervenes with her developing relationship with Yuuki. As her weekly memory loss seems to make a unwarranted come-back as well, she is unable to remember Yuuki as a friend as strongly as before, yet more easily recognizes the aforementioned Kujoo Hajime. Yamagishi notices the change in Kaori and Yuuki’s familiarity throughout the school-day and mentions so to Shougo, stating that Kaori has lost the gentle and endearing aura that she had always been emitting before (だって、長谷くんに対する態度が今まで明らかに違うの。あんなに好き好きオーラ出したなのに。。。). Much more unconcerned, Shougo’s immediate reaction to this is simply being surprised that even someone as air-headed as Yamagishi could perceive this crack in their relationship, even if Yamagishi does make sense of  it in a particularly dreamy and abstruse manner.

 

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: