Lost in Translation

I try to read some Japanese everyday.  Today I was reading Daisuke’s post about his todo list for the Japan Perl Association.  While reading about volunteers and administration I came across a word that I couldn’t understand. It was in katakana so I could sound out the word – buresuto  (ブレスト).  And since it was in katakana it’s probably a word borrowed from a language like English.  The only word I could come up with was “breast” and why on earth would he be talking about that?  So, I asked my friend, what is ブレスト?  And she said, “oh that would be breast”.

I told her that really it couldn’t be because it made no sense.  She came and read the whole sentence and still looked completely confused.  She asked me if it could be a technical term related to Perl, but nothing that sounds like that came to mind.  I looked it up in my dictionary and it told me that the word was “breast”.

I went and got a better dictionary.  The word means “brain storming”.  There are times when the Japanese create words from English words by taking the start of each word and joining them together.  So, for example, “pasucon” is a shortened form of “personal computer”.   And it seems that “buresuto” joins the start of brain and storm.

6 Responses to “Lost in Translation”

  1. Tatsuhiko Miyagawa Says:

    I think a paper dictionary doesn’t work for these types of newly created words — Web resources such as wikipedia works best 🙂

  2. karen Says:

    I have never thought to use wikipedia to find this sort of Japanese word. The only time I have used it is to find words for cooking ingredients. For these I knew the English word, found them in Wikipedia and clicked onto the Japanese page. I’ll have to make more use of it.

  3. Norwin Says:

    I will have to suggest this the next time someone points out that brainstorming is not politically correct, and should not be used. Though a “breast conversation” may not be politically correct either.

  4. karen Says:

    It would certainly raise a few eyebrows 🙂

  5. Norwin Says:

    So, I’ve been accidentally thinking about this a bit further. From your logic above, the Japanese word for breast was borrowed from English. So does that mean that the Japanese had no word for a breast until they met the English?
    That does seem odd…

  6. karen Says:

    That would be odd indeed. The loan word probably came in from the term “breast stroke”. There are many sporting terms in the Japanese language that have been borrowed from English. I still get amused during the F1 to hear about cars driving “sido by sido”.

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