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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sorry, I Don’t Speak Manglenese: Pronouncing Foreign Terms through Japanese Phonetics (part 8)

Slang, or as it's known in Japanese, 俗語ぞくご, is the self-pruning Bonsai present in all languages, cutting off old limbs and growing new ones to refine its form and function. One of the major tools in its development is truncation, the practice of cutting words down to fun size treats for both speaker and listener; you know, like how the names Brad and Angelina are spliced together to create Brangelina, or how air conditioner is cut down to AC, or how Lamborghini is shrunk to just Lambo (a version of this used in shrinking down English terms used in Japan, such as DV [Domestic Violence]), NG [No Good-used when something sucks] and OL [Office Lady, the cultural equivalent of the secretary in other countries].  

      It's usage in Japanese is just as commonplace and just as frequently employed when creating pet names for someone, be they for people, places or things. With words, it can be as simple as taking the 1st couple Mora of a word to make it, the same way Location was cut from the original way to say in Japanese (ロケーション) down to just ロケ-which in arcade gaming circles, can also refer to a location test, where games are brought for folks to play with and root out any trouble spots the developers might need to squash before release.

     With people, the process of making a pet name can be as simple as taking the 1st mora of their name and adding a + ちゃん(less forceful)/くん (asserts the speaker is a bit higher on the social ladder than the listener), like talking to someone called Takashi and using this to call them たっくん (more on what these suffixes imply later. For now, just know they're more familiar forms of address).   What fuels their creation is how the creator perceives the person getting the moniker and implies not only that they feel more at ease around them, but also whatever feelings are built up around them as they see them being, which also applies to the next process you're about to learn.

     The next process can do the verbal equivalent of taking a lump of coal and squeezing it down to a tiny, sparkly diamond. Take, for example, the name of the Weezer-like band, Asian Kung Fu Generation. Through Japanese phonetics it's sounded out as アジアン・カンフ・ジェネレーション, which can be a bit much to remember on the fly, so to make it easier to whip out, the 1st couple mora from the 1st couple words-in this case アジ and カン-are taken and fused together. Now, the next time the band comes up, the linguistic slider of a pet name they made with this process can be used to refer to Asian Kung Fu Generation, now known as アジカン, with maximum efficiency. It may seem dumb now, but the shorter the name of something is, the more our mental muscles can hold on to it and shift through the clutter to find when we do want to talk about it.

     Other ways to use this include creating new criminal slang, known as 隠語いんご in Japanese, and euphemisms, or for those needing a refresher, softening a word's impact by using less potent ones-i.e. saying someone passed on instead of just saying they died. With it, you can shrink the word Sexual Harassment down from セクシャルハラスメントto セクハラ and Delivery Health (the 隠語 term for what folks in America know as Call Girls) down from デリベリヘルス to デリヘル, perfect for when you're in a rush and need to get to sensitivity training/pay the nice person.

     Variations of the formula are used to achieve the same end, like the one that compounded ぼく友達ともだちすくない[I Don't Have That Many Friends] into はがない(Haganai), but don't worry about know them too much, you'll discover them the more you immerse yourself into the society that uses the language and start digging into the neat stuff around it.
     Speaking of those variations, though, one inverts the process and makes a new term from a word's last few Mora, thus changing Platform from プラットホーム to simply ホーム. Not as widely used as the ones you learned before, but still very nifty to know, like the next method you're about to learn-which was actually used to make the word Karaoke.

     This method, primarily used to capture a whole statement in one word, combines the 1st few mora of a word in the statement with either a 1 漢字かんじ word or the 1st 漢字 of a word. If it sounds complex, that's 'cause it is, as a method made to capture highly detailed concepts probably would be. How detailed?

     How about singing in front of an empty orchestra?

     One of the most likely origin stories for the word Karaoke is that the creator wanted a name to convey the consumer would have a full instrumentation backing them up while they hung out and sang their hearts, even if it's just them, a mic and the machine. Eventually, he came upon the words “からオーケストラ”, to which he applied the aforementioned process and created 空オケ/ カラオケ, which has now become synonymous with off key good times all over the world, but isn't the end of how flexible is in capturing a concept.

     The process can also be inverted-putting the 1st few mora in front of a 1 漢字 word or the 1st 漢字 of a word-to do the same thing, according to a statement and personal flair, like in the word スポこん. This particular term is meant to encapsulate an athlete's grit in the heat of competition, known in Japan as スポツマンの根性こんじょうら , and uses the modified process I mentioned to create it. The better you get with the language, the more you can use these processes to create your own terms, including one coming up that relies on Romaji to craft it's terms.

     This needs a fairly tight grip on the language to use well, but if you know how to abbreviate words, you already have a good idea on how this works. This method uses the Romaji version of a statement + any numbers involved, taking the 1st letter from 1st 2 words of a statement, pairing it with the 1st numbers in the statement, if any, and creates a brand new word.

     The term most strongly associated with this method is KYケイ・ワイ, which was made by applying it to the phrase Kuuki o Yomanai[Can't Read the Air-or more specifically the social context]. So strongly associated, is this term, that all terms created using this method are known as KY, with enough being created and used in everyday chats to justify an entire book explaining them being published.

     One of the justifications for this has to be the length of phrase it can capture, which is seemingly limitless, if the term MK5 is of any indication. In the realm of KY, this refers not to automatic, but to someone having a super short fuse, as the phrase the term was created from is “Maji de kireru, 5[go]-byou-mae[In about 5 seconds I'll totes flip OUT]”

     If you practice up and get all these methods down, you'll be able to both ID slang and add to the bonsai with your own creations, which you can then use among your buddies to foster stronger bonds and, should the unseen hand guiding its development favor you, bring to the masses for them to enjoy and incorporate into their vocabulary (If you're looking to work on your KY, give this a peep). Before I turn you completely loose, though, I've got a few last things to tell you about 'x,' 'y' and 'w' sounds, as well as a taste of how all this can be applied to your Japanese development(it really is quite bountiful, as you'll soon see).

Key Takeaways
ñ  New words can be made  with the 1st couple mora of a word
(EX: Sandwich →「サンド」イチ  サンド/Basketball → 「バスケ」ットボール  バスケ)
ñ  New pet names can be made with the 1st mora of someone's name + + ちゃん /くん (EX: なつみ っちゃん/正行まさゆきまっくん)
ñ  New words can be made by combining the 1st couple mora from the 1st couple words (EX: Print Club → 「プリ」ント「クラ」ブ  プリクラ/Personal Computer →「パーソ」ナル「コン」ピューター  パソコン )
ñ  New words can be made with the last couple mora of a word
(EX: McDonald’s -> マク「ドナルド」→ ドナルド/ Corvette コル「ベット」→ ベット)
ñ  New words can be made by  combining the 1st few mora of a word in the statement with either a 1 漢字 word or the 1st 漢字 of a word
(EX: 朝」にかみを「シャン」プーする 朝シャンする[To shampoo your hair in the morning]/ サラ」リーマン・ライフを「脱」退だったいする だつサラする(to ditch the daily grind)/ 「ニコ」ニコ動画(どうが) 「中」毒ちゅうどく「ニコちゅう [a Niconico addict/troll]

ñ  New words can be made with the 1st letter from the Romaji version of a phrase (EX: Chotto Ima Anne CIA「シイー・アイ・エイー/ Ichimon Nashi IN「アイ・エン」/ Itsumo Osoi, 10(jup)pon Gurai IO10「アイオーじゅう」

Extra Credit!

Make a pet name out of your’s(or someone else’s!) name

Using the 1st couple Mora of the upcoming words, make shortened versions of them: Spaghetti, Delicious and Bourgeois

Using the 1st Couple Mora from the 1st couple words, make a compact version of these names: Cross Training, Brad and Takako & Abington Boy’s School

Using the last couple Mora of the upcoming words, make shortened versions of them: Flannel, Internet and Ocarina

Using the 1st few mora of a word in the statement with either a 1 漢字 word or the 1st 漢字 of a word, make a compact version of this phrase: よる にドリフトに行()
Using the 1st letters of the words in these phrases, make a compact version of them: Light Novel, Ushinatta Generation & Kagai Mousou

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