English words in Japanese

Just been browsing a great PDF – the very un-snappily named “Japan’s Built-in Lexicon of English-based Loanwords” – which is about the history of how Japan came to have so many English words. Did you know, for example, that until the 70’s there was a verb “ajiru” meaning, approximately, “to agitate”?

Amid the social unrest of the early 20th century, an English/Japanese hybrid was created to express ‘to urge to action’. The stem of the English noun agitation was spliced to a Japanese verbal affix to produce the conjugatable verb aji-ru. At first, aji-ru was used only in reference to the labour movement. However on 1 September 1931, aji-ru was featured in an Osaka Asahi Shimbun newspaper column on popular neologisms; at this point, it was also said to mean ‘to encourage’ and ‘to encourage with Today’s Generation of Gairaigo 25 praise’. Ironically, the student protest era of the 1970s saw the demise of aji-ru and it is linguistically extinct today.

You should be able to download a copy here, but if that link expires then drop me an email and I will send you a copy (it’s only 2mb).

Also, turns out if you have the hateful piece of crap that is Windows Vista then you also automatically have the ability to type in ひらがな, カタカナ and 漢字. You should be able to find out how via Google, but drop me a line if you want to know more. Quite pleased about this as it means I could buy a laptop here, thus getting an English OS, and still be able to type in Japanese when I am back there.

Anyhow, I have to pack as I’m off to London at super-short-notice tomorrow morning, having failed to remember that it’s one of best mates 30th birthday party. Doh! At least I can hit Chinatown and get some nihon no tabemono – I have been dreaming of o-nigiri. Expect a few days of peace and quiet until, well, not really sure when I’ll be back – don’t wait up ;)

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