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    Wasei Eigo I Can't Believe It's Not English!

    Borrowing words from other languages is a phenomenon as old as language itself. That's why, even though you probably don't speak French, Latin, German, Spanish, AND Japanese, you can somehow comprehend the following (however unlikely) primary_sentence:

    "I decided to carpe diem and go to a fiesta instead of taking a siesta, but the party was just déjà vu all over again, so I spent most of the time eating sauerkraut and wishing a tsunami would come and sweep me out to sea."

    Linguists love to argue about why and how exactly this word borrowing happens. For pure practicality's sake? Because the speaker wants to show off with fancy schmancy foreign words? Just because it's a fun way to spice up conversation? Whatever the reason, the incorporation of foreign loanwords into native languages is pervasive, and Japanese is no exception.

    As you might know, modern Japanese is stuffed not only with Chinese-origin loanwords but also a hearty helping of gairaigo 外来語 (loanwords from languages other than Chinese, ranging from English to Dutch to French).

    But that's not all. The widespread diffusion of English throughout the world has been incorporated and integrated into a variety of languages in a variety of ways. In the words of linguist Ishino Hiroshi, "the roman alphabet now belongs to everyone." And there's no better example of this phenomenon than wasei eigo 和製英語, literally "made-in-Japan English."

    Wasei eigo is another topic linguists drool over. Unlike English gairaigo loanwords, most linguists classify wasei eigo vocabulary as "pseudo-loanwords" or "pseudo-English" or "pseudo-Anglicisms." So what makes these loanwords "pseudo"? Because wasei eigo refers to words quite literally manufactured in Japan. By splicing together never-before-seen combinations of English words (often dissected parts of English words, and sometimes with a Japanese word welded on for good measure) and then sliding it through a katakana processing unit, wasei eigo has been coming hot-off-the-presses since at least the Meiji Period (1868). Essentially these are brand-spanking-new morpheme and phoneme combinations that no native English speaker has ever heard or used.

    But that doesn't mean you don't need to learn them! Wasei eigo is a living part of the Japanese language—you can hear it on NHK news and in the street; you can see it on billboards and in magazines. Given that fact, I thought it might be useful to provide a mini dictionary of English for Japanese learners, complete with example sentences shamelessly ripped from real live and recent Japanese sources.

    A note of caution! Because of the endless experimentation possible, new wasei eigo are constantly being cooked up from English ingredients. However, they don't all catch on and become integrated into the vocabulary at large, and even if they do they're often fads that fade with time. Keeping that in mind, I tried to choose words with apparently high circulation and staying power so you don't end up trying to use a phrase that is sooo last year (like that phrase is).

    Prefixes and Suffixes

    In, out, up, down—such unassuming little syllables that it's easy to forget they exist. But then wasei eigo came along to give them a new reason for living, turning them into prefixes and suffixes, daring to put them in places you've never seen them before. And then there are the words like "my" and "pink" that have been reinvented as prefixes in their own right. Welcome to the wonderful world of wasei eigo.

    In Key (インキー)

    man and woman try and get into locked car
    Source: Herry Lawford

    Have you ever accidentally locked yourself out of your own car, tugging desperately at the door handle only to realize with horror that your keys are still safely stashed inside the vehicle? Then, congratulations, you already know what it means to in-key.

    • インキ ーしてしまったらどうすればいいのか
    • What should you do after you've in-keyed? (Source)

    Bed In (ベッドイン)

    This one requires a few ellipses to explain. It does mean to get in bed…but with someone else…in order to do engage in decidedly un-family-friendly activities together…

    • 実録! 男が「初めて ベッドイン する彼女」にギョッとした経験・15選
    • True Stories! 15 Men's Startling Experiences With The Girlfriend That They Bed-In For the First Time (Source)

    Goal In (ゴールイン)

    When someone scores the winning goal in a soccer game, wins the final point in a tennis match, or crosses a finish line in a race, they've goal in-ed. But this word can also lend the sort of triumphant feeling of victory to non-athletic endeavors as well. Any time you accomplish a goal or achieve something you've been struggling for, you've goal in-ed. Within the second usage, getting married seems to be a particular popular goal to in.

    • ボブは1着で ゴールイン した。
    • Bob goal in-ed first.
    • 一度別れても ゴールイン するカップルの特徴
    • Characteristics of Couples That Goal-In Even Though They Broke Up Once Before (Source)

    My Pace (マイペース)

    close up of snail and its shell
    Source: きこう

    This word can be a character trait, an adverb, or a verb in the right circumstances. While its origins probably lie in the English phrase "to do something at one's own pace," from there it morphed into doing something your own way, i.e. without being influenced by other people. There's even a song about it:

    • 彼女は マイペース だ。
    • She's my pace.

    My Boom (マイブーム)

    What's your boom? It helps to know that "boom" is a fairly common suffix in wasei eigo used to describe a current trend or fad, like a "K-Pop boom." When it's YOUR boom as opposed to society's boom, it's "my boom"—in other words, it's used to refer to your current obsession(s).

    • 皆さんの マイブーム 教えてください
    • Everybody please share your my boom.
    • なぜだか急に卵が マイブーム
    • For some reason suddenly my boom is eggs. (Source)

    My Bag (マイバッグ)

    Not just any old bag will do—you can't start referring to all bags as my bag willy-nilly. This word is strictly reserved for reusable shopping bags of your preferred style, size, and material. A number of cities and towns across Japan have been campaigning for a "My Bag Movement," encouraging their citizens to forgo planet-strangling plastic bags at the store and instead use a "my bag."

    • マイバッグ を使用して、レジ袋削減に取り組みましょう。
    • Let's work on reducing disposable shopping bags by using my bag.
    • 急に思い付いてスーパーに立ち寄った時「あ!今日は マイバッグ 忘れた~」とならないようにできれば常時携帯しておきたいものです。
    • I want to somehow set up my cell phone so that I can avoid suddenly realizing "Oh! I forgot a my bag today!" whenever I drop by the supermarket. (Source)

    Pink Salo(n), Pink Bira/Chirashi, Pink Eiga, etc. (ピンサロ, ピンクビラ, ピンク映画, etc.)

    field of pink flowers
    Source: きこう

    Remember the days when pink used to be an innocent color, reserved for flowers and toys and kitten collars? In Japan, at least, those days are over. As a prefix attached to an array of other nouns, pink tells you that whatever the next noun is, it's probably a sexy version of that noun. This works similarly to how in English "blue" is (or maybe was at this point?) used to signal XXX-rated material, as in "a blue movie." You can probably guess what a pink eiga (pink movie) is, then. A "pink salon" is a euphemism for a sexual establishment that usually fronts as a bar or nightclub. And a "pink bira" (pink bill) or "pink chirashi" (pink leaflet) is a flyer handed out on streets to advertise any number of other "pink" places or activities.

    • ピンサロ で働いている女の子を本気で好きになってしまいました。
    • I've seriously fallen for a girl who works at a pink salon. (Source)
    • ピンクビラ 等について、次の行為が禁止されました。
    • The followings acts are prohibited in regards to pink bira and the like:
    • • 公衆電話ボックス内、公衆便所内又は電柱等の公衆の見やすい屋外の場所等への掲示、配置
    • • Posting in public telephone booths, public bathrooms, or on telephone poles outdoors that can be easily seen by the general public, etc.
    • • 公共の場所における頒布
    • • Distributing in public areas
    • • 人の住居等への配付、差入れ
    • • Inserting into mailboxes of residential homes
    • 初めて ピンク映画 館に行ってきたので、これから行ってみたい人への入り方や個人的な感想・注意点等をつらつらと書いています。
    • Because I went to a pink eigakan for the first time, I'm writing at length about how to enter one and my own impressions/important points for people who want go at some point. (Source)

    Cost Down (コストダウン)

    Once you get the hang of how "down" works as a wasei eigo suffix, you'll be able to figure out most words with it relatively easily. Basically, "down" is wasei eigo for "to lower" or "to decrease." So cost down means to lower costs.

    • 私たちは コストダウン を目指している。
    • We're seeking to cost down.

    Manner Up (マナーアップ)

    Here's another popular wasei eigo suffix. Similarly to "down," "up" usually means "to raise," "to increase," or "to improve." So "taste up" means to improve the taste to something. That's basically the case with manner up, as well—"to increase manners"—but a smoother English translation in this case would be "to improve manners." Either way, things are moving in an upward direction. Schools, organizations, and city governments LOVE this word, and they particularly love to use it in posters and public service announcements and the like as a rallying cry to improve people's manners.

    • 図書館では、定期的に マナーアップ キャンペーンを行っています。
    • A manner up campaign is periodically held at the library.

    Image Down/Image Up (イメージアップ/イメージダウン)

    posters plastered on side of building
    Source: gullevek

    Companies, organizations, public figures, and the like all have a certain image to keep up, right? These words come in handy when describing real or attempted shifts in those images. When their public image improves, it's image up; when their public image is tarnished, ruined, or otherwise destroyed, it's image down.

    • 当選したいなら、イメージアップ するつもりでないとね。
    • If you want to be elected, you'd better plan to image up.
    • このスキャンダルにより我が社はひどく イメージダウン してしまった。
    • Due to this scandal our company has severely imaged down.

    English/Japanese Hybrids

    Here you'll find the chimeras of wasei eigo, half-Japanese and half-English hybrids that run wild through the fearsome linguistic plains. While these might seem highly exotic, they're really not much different from pie a la mode or chicken gratin—examples where useful bits of French were welded onto English words in order to create a new word (and sometimes a new recipe!).

    Butter Kusai (バタ臭い)

    stick of butter in wax paper
    Source: Casey Bisson

    Literally, "butter stink." This adjective can be used to describe anything that reeks of the foreign and of Western or Westernized styles in particular (land of butter, apparently).

    • そのブランド戦略専門家は、新商品に バタ臭い 名前を付けるように言った。
    • The brand strategist professional told us to give the new product a butter stink name.
    • こんな バタ臭い セーラームーンは嫌だ。
    • I'm not a fan of this butter stink Sailor Moon. (Source)

    Datsu Salaryman (脱サラ)

    Literally, "to de-salaryman." Here's a juicy cluster of wasei eigo goodness. First of all, salaryman, itself a wasei eigo word, became so popular that it was exported internationally. But this isn't just your run-of-the-mill salaryman, this is a datsu sarariman. One becomes a datsu salaryman by quitting your office job, and striking out on your own, often with the connotation of freeing yourself from the hamster wheel and/or starting your own business.

    • 清水の舞台から飛び降りたつもりで 脱サラ した。
    • Convinced to take a leap of faith and plunge into the dark, I datsu salaryman-ed.

    Oyaji Gag (オヤジギャグ)

    Literally, "an old man gag" or "a dad gag." Gag is probably an appropriation based off of "gag gifts" and the like, but here the meaning is much closer to joke. Whenever someone tells a real groaner—a cheap joke or a stupid pun that you'd expect your middle-aged uncle or embarrassing father to cook up, –they've told an oyaji gag. I'm a dork enough to really enjoy these, so I couldn't help but include a few examples below.

    • 使えそうな オヤジギャグ を100個集めてみました。使い方を間違うと痛い目を見るオヤジギャグですが、絶妙なタイミングで使うと人気者になれるかもしれません。
    • I've collected one hundred usable oyaji gags. If you don't use them correctly it can be a painful experience to witness, but if you use them with perfect timing and delivery you just might become more popular.
    • アルミ缶の上にあるみかん
    • Arumi kan no ue ni aru mikan.
    • A tangerine with an aluminum can on top.
    • 新しいのがあったらしい
    • Atarashii no ga atta rashii
    • There seems to be a new one. (Source)

    Gai Talent (外タレ)

    tommy lee jones advertisement picture
    Source: John Koetsier

    Literally, "outside talent." Here "talent" means celebrities of all stripes, regardless of their level of talent. The "outside" bit is shorthand for foreign or foreigner, so when you put the two together you get a foreign celebrity.

    • 好きな 外タレ いっぱい来日する
    • A bunch of my favorite gai talent are coming to Japan. (Source)

    Nomyunication (ノミュニケーション)

    This one's an oldie but goodie. I couldn't resist including it even though it's dramatically fallen in popularity over the years and is now regarded as only part of the older generation's active vocabulary. This is probably due to the circumstances of its creation, circumstances that have now drastically changed. Nomyunication is a mash-up of nomu for "to drink" and the English loanword "communication." While this can simply mean the (seemingly at least) enhanced ease of communicating while drunk, it was practically a business philosophy in Japan during the 1980s when regularly drinking with clients and within the company was all but required. When the economy took a sharp nose dive, this strategy lost much of its luster and the word went with it. Which is a pity, because it's so darn clever.

    • そもそも、ノミュニケーション というのが出来たのは、高度経済成長時代に、会社運営を円滑に行うために思考錯誤された結果であると考えられる。
    • In the first place, nomyunication came into being during the high-growth economic period, as the result of mistaken thinking that sought to conduct harmonious business operations. (Source)

    Homodachi (ホモ達)

    Literally, "homosexual friend." Homodachi is what happens when homo and tomodachi merge, so if you hear someone say it, you're not imagining things. It means exactly what its component parts mean, that is, it's a noun that can be used to refer to your gay friends. However, in other contexts it can also be used to refer to one's same-sex boyfriend/girlfriend/lover.

    • @nirvanagi なぎさん ホモダチ いっぱいいるでしょう
    • Don't you have a lot of homodachi, Nagi? (Source)
    • プーチン君とメドベージェフ君は ホモ達 ですか。
    • Are Putin and Medvedev homodachi? (Source)

    Bubble Keizai (バブル経済)

    bubble resting on blades of grass
    Source: Jay Morgan

    Literally, "bubble economy." This isn't a casual word that can be used in a variety of general situations, but it's so common that it's worth committing to memory. In the simplest terms, post-World War II the Japanese economy rapidly ballooned and then, like a bubble, it popped. While it might seem like economic jargon, this is actually a general use word at least as widespread and frequently referenced as the "Great Depression" is used as shorthand for a period of American cultural and economic history.

    • 日本側は、日本経済が バブル経済 崩壊後、最も長い期間の経済回復を続けていることを強調した。
    • The Japanese side emphasized that Japan's economy is continuing the longest period of economic recovery since after the bubble keizai collapsed.

    Elite Shain (エリート社員)

    Literally, "elite worker." Think Wall Street. To qualify as elite in this context means to be a white collar employee at a large company.

    • 田口氏は、かつては将来を嘱望された エリート社員 だった。
    • Taguchi was previously a promising elite shain.

    U-Turn Gensho (Uターン現象)

    Literally, "U-Turn Phenomenon." No, Japan's not facing a sudden rash of eccentric driving behavior involving lots of u-turns. The phenomenon in question here actually refers to the growing numbers of people who, after working or studying in cities (primarily Tokyo, but others as well), ditch the neon lights and return to their hometowns to settle down and make a living. U-Turn gensho is used for the socio-cultural trend at large, and U-Turn sha (U-turn people) is used to identify individual people who make up the larger phenomenon.

    • 彼女と知り合ってから、私の人生は大きく Uターン現象 を起こし始めている。
    • After getting to know her, the U-turn gensho started happening to my life in a big way. (Source)
    • Uターン者 の生活体験
    • My Personal Experiences as a U-Turn Sha
    • 私が Uターンした 理由は、母が80歳を超え入退院を繰り返すようになったが、今のような介護制度がなかったからでした。その母も、平成19年の3月に3回忌を終えました。
    • The reason I U-turned is that my mother (who is over eighty) came to be repeatedly hospitalized, and there wasn't a nursing home system like there is now. (Source)

    Cushion Kotoba (クッション言葉)

    cushions on white couch spell out HEEHA
    Source: Yvonne Eijkenduijin

    Literally, "cushion words." Delicate situations that require some verbal padding most often take place with the use of these so-called cushion words. Japanese in particular has a built-in lexicon of set phrases and expressions that function as cushion words to soften the blow, create a softer landing, and generally just keep everything as soft and squishy as a sofa cushion. These words are particularly important in business situations.

    • 好感度をグッとUPさせる クッション言葉 の使い方
    • How to Use Cushion Words to Instantly Increase Good Will
    • 使い方次第で会話をスムーズに進めるメリットがあります。そこで、クッション言葉 を使うコツをまとめてみました
    • There are myriad advantages to smoothly progressing conversations that depend upon the use of these words. So I've collected here tricks to using these cushion words.

    Apo Nashi (アポなし)

    Literally, "without appointment." I've included this one so that you'll be aware of the existence of the suffix -nashi, which appears as the caboose on a number of (often unrecognizably abbreviated) English words. In this case, it's appointment, first shortened to apo and then rounded out with the nashi. You can ask a business office or doctor's office, beauty parlor or tattoo parlor, if they'll see you apo nashi. Alternatively, they might come right out and state (or have written on signs) whether or not they'll see you apo nashi.

    • アポなし でご来社頂いても応対しかねますのでご留意下さい。(メールで書く場合)
    • Please bear in mind that we will be unable to receive you even if you give us the pleasure of arriving at our company, if you do so apo nashi.

    Kyoiku Mama (教育ママ)

    Literally, "Education Mama." This word has a decidedly negative connotation, so it's not something you want to start accusing people of, at least to their face. As a stereotypical image, a kyoiku mama is unhealthily obsessed with the education of her children, constantly pushing them to achieve greatness with every shoelace they tie and shape they sort, pushing meals through the doggie door to their children's rooms (dungeons) where they are forced to spend every waking and maybe even non-waking hour studying. Critics of pushing children to overachieve as well as annoyed children will use this word to describe demanding (although ultimately well-meaning) parents.

    • あの私立校には特に 教育ママ が多いという評判だ.
    • That private school has a reputation of there being a particularly large number of kyoiku mama.
    • 教育ママ ではなくても優秀な子を育てた方は?
    • How to Raise Good Children Without Becoming a Kyoiku Mama?
    • 自分は 教育ママ には絶対なりたくないですが、やはり親として子供にはいい大学に行って、安定した職業についてもらいたいと願っています。
    • I definitely don't want to become a kyoiku mama but of course as a parent I want my child to go to a good college and have a stable job. (Source)


    In the previous two sections, I tried to tame the wild variety of wasei eigo at least somewhat by placing as many of them as possible in some sort of cohesive category. Alas, not all of them fit, so this is where the rest of them ended up.

    Hair Manicure (ヘアマニキュア)

    woman getting her hair dyed
    Source: Samantha Steele

    Basically, instead of coloring your fingernails with polish, you're coloring your hair. But don't worry, there's no nail polish or cuticle clippers involved in this procedure. If you're scheduled for a hair manicure or decide to do-it-yourself at home, all it means is that you're dying your hair.

    • 先日、美容院で初めて ヘアマニキュア をしました。
    • The other day I got a hair manicure at a beauty salon for the first time. (Source)

    Romance Gray (ロマンスグレー)

    Just because your hair has gone gray doesn't mean you can't bring on the romance. The George Clooney's and Sakamoto Ryuichi's of the world earned their titles as romance grays just by being attractive older men with attractive gray hair.

    • どん:いくつ上の人までなら付き合えます?
    • Don: Up to what age would you be willing to date someone?
    • 千:自分+15歳くらいですかね。
    • Sen: Probably about 15 years older than myself.
    • なお:私、70歳位の人までいけます!
    • Nao: I could do up to about 70!
    • どん:すばらしい!
    • Don: Wow!
    • なお:素敵な ロマンスグレー ならOKとか(笑)
    • Nao: As long as he's a fantastic romance gray. (Source)

    One Pattern (ワンパターン)

    If all your clothes featured the same pattern, that'd get pretty boring and monotonous, right? One Pattern works like an adjective to describe people, places, things, and activities that are as mind-numbing and repetitive as a single pattern.

    • 君の発想は ワンパターン だ.
    • Your ideas are one pattern.
    • 居酒屋で飲んで、カラオケか。俺達も ワンパターン だな。
    • Probably drinking at a bar and karaoke. We're one pattern.
    • 彼とデートしたっていつも ワンパターン なんだからあきちゃうのよ.
    • Going on dates with him (or her) was always one pattern so I lost interest.

    Ice Candy (アイスキャンディー)

    Japanese frozen dessert
    Source: Matthew Bednarik

    This is nothing more and nothing less than a frozen popsicle.

    • この組み合わせでカップ入りの氷菓や アイスキャンディー も作られている。
    • This combination is also made as shaved ice and ice candy.

    Catch Ball (キャッチボール)

    In its humblest form, this word merely stands in for "playing catch." But from that original adoption it evolved to signify the back-and-forth of an engaged and engaging conversation between people. You can visualize it as tossing a conversational ball back and forth—-active, fun, and invigorating yet comfortable. I think the closest English equivalent would be "developing a repartee," but alas that's not even English, it's French.

    • キャッチボール をしよう。
    • Let's catch ball.
    • 人に好かれる会話術!恋の キャッチボール をするコツ片方ばかりが話していては気持ちを通い合わせることができなくなってしまいます。会話は キャッチボール できてこそ二人の仲が深まっていくものです。
    • Techniques for Conversing with the One You Love! Secrets to Romantic Catch-Ball-ing! It becomes impossible to communicate if only one side is doing all of the talking. It's precisely when conversations catch ball that the relationship between two people can deepen. (Sources)

    Last Heavy (ラストヘビー)

    Essentially this means the final push, the last burst of effort before a task is completed or a goal is achieved.

    • 全国の剣連が ラストヘビー をかけて行くことを期待します。
    • I expect that the All-Nation Kendo Association will go on to make the last heavy. (Source)

    Pocket Bell (ポケベル)

    an assortment of different pagers
    Source: Hades2k

    Remember those ancient devices we called "pagers" in English? The Japanese called them "pocket bell." The word may become as obsolete as the technology, but I at least would vastly prefer to have a pocket bell over a cell phone.

    • 緊急なら、ポケベル で呼び出せますけど・・・。
    • If it's an emergency I can call her with the pocket bell but…

    Soft Skills (ソフトスキル)

    If someone has soft skills, it means they're good with people. This is as opposed to "hard skills" like computer engineering.

    • しかし、キャリアが進んでいくにつれ、ソフトスキル がより重要になる。
    • However, as your career advances, soft skills become more important.

    Body Con(scious) (ボディコン)

    At first glance, you might assume that this refers to someone who is overly conscious about their appearance. What this adjective actually refers to is clothing that causes OTHER people to become overly conscious of your, ahem, appearance. In other words, it's used to describe sexually attractive and/or tight-fitting clothing.

    • マライアキャリーが着ているような ボディコン みたいなワンピースが欲しいんですが…なかなか見つかりません。どこかそうゆうお店のサイト知っている方教えてください。
    • I want a body conscious dress like something Mariah Carey wears…but I can't find one. Please let me know if you know some store website where I can find that sort of thing. (Source)

    Paper Driver (ペーパードライバー)

    Japanese drivers license with picture of cat
    Source: tiny banquet committee

    A driver, but on paper only. In other words, this noun can be used to refer to someone (including yourself) who does in fact possess a driver's license but drives so rarely and/or so poorly that the license is little more than a scrap piece of paper.

    • 俺、ペーパードライバー だから運転には自信ないんだ。電車でどこかに行こうよ。
    • Since I'm a paper driver, I don't have confidence in my driving. So let's go somewhere by train.

    Bed Town (ベッドタウン)

    A town where a commuting student or worker basically does nothing but sleep for the night, so it's the town where their bed is but not much else. These areas tend to cluster around big cities like Tokyo and Osaka and such—and it's not just slang, the other day I heard NHK news even refer to a Tokyo suburb as a bed town.

    • 典型的な ベッドタウン で、昼間においても人通りが少ない。
    • It's a typical bed town; even in the middle of the day there's not much pedestrian traffic.

    Skinship (スキンシップ)

    Physical contact in an intimate relationship.

    • 子供との スキンシップ を大切にしないとね
    • You need to value skinship with children.

    Pair Look (ペアルック)

    elderly Japanese couple in travel gear
    Source: Eric Parker

    This happens when a pair of people look identical because they're wearing matching outfits (usually a couple).

    • 今の二人、見た?あの ペアルック はちょっとセンスないよね
    • Did you see those two just now? That pair look is in pretty bad taste, don't you think?

    Virgin Road (バージンロード)

    Nope, this doesn't mean a highway that's never been driven on before. It's a colloquialism for the aisle of a church that the bride and groom walk down towards the altar.

    • 教会結婚式は、バージンロード を花嫁が選択するといわれており、その後に教会に行って祈る人は1%もいない
    • As for church weddings, it's said that brides choose them for the virgin road, but not even 1% of couples go to pray at the church afterwards.

    Guts Pose (ガッツポーズ)

    This is the triumphant stance that a victorious person assumes after winning a match, vanquishing all of his foes in a battle, or FINALLY beating a video game.

    • あいつが ガッツポーズ するなんて、よっぽど嬉しかったんだろうな
    • That guy must have been extremely happy to strike a guts pose like that.

    Shutter Chance (シャッターチャンス)

    close up of man holding camera

    You already know exactly what this is. It's a way to describe an opportune moment to take a photograph, otherwise known in English as a photo opportunity.

    • お前が大声出すから、せっかくの シャッターチャンス を逃しちゃったよ
    • Thanks to your shouting I missed out on a rare shutter chance.

    Over Doctor (オーバードクター)

    While this can refer to over-educated people generally, it particularly connotes a currently unemployed person who also holds a Phd.

    • 日本の企業サイドからすると、文学系の オーバードクター は、どうしてもほしいという人材ではないです。
    • From the perspective of Japanese companies, an over-doctor of literature is not at all the sort of person they want. (Source)
    • 30年前この国で オーバードクター(以下OD)問題が社会問題になった。
    • The over-doctor issue became a social problem in this country thirty years ago. (Source)

    Doctor Stop (ドクターストップ)

    This is what happens when a doctor orders you to stop doing something for your general health or for recovery purposes.

    • 今やってるスポーツが ドクターストップ かけられました。
    • The sports that I had been playing were doctor stopped. (Source)

    Handle Keeper (ハンドルキーパー)

    plastic skeletons inside truck cab
    Source: Bridget Coila

    Being a handle keeper means being the person who keeps the handle of the car door out of reach of drunken peoples. Otherwise known as a designated driver.

    • 飲み会後、自分が ハンドルキーパー だったの忘れてた。
    • After the drinking party I had forgotten that it was me who was the handle keeper. (Source)

    Live House (ライブハウス)

    These are locations or venues where live performances, acts, or concerts happen.

    • 全国の都道府県別の名所と呼ばれそうな ライブハウス をまとめました!
    • I've collected all of the live houses that appear to be famous in all of the prefectures of the country! (Source)

    Baby Hotel (ベビーホテル)

    This is not an outlet of the Hilton catering to newborns—it refers to an unlicensed child care facility, which is not nearly as life-threatening as it sounds. The very particular regulations on child care in Japan mean that many sane parents choose to send their children to a baby hotel for a variety of reasonable reasons.

    • ベビーホテル が急激に増加した。
    • The number of baby hotels suddenly and radically increased. (Source)

    Silver Seat (シルバーシート)

    seats and hand holds inside train
    Source: hitoshi koda

    These refer to seats on public transportation that are reserved for the silver-haired (i.e. elderly) population.

    • ただ、シルバーシート で携帯いじっている健康的な若者の前ではわざと見えるようにしますけどね。
    • I do it on purpose so that it's visible right in front of the healthy young people playing around on their cell phones in the silver seats. (Source)

    Charm Point (チャームポイント)

    Your charm point is your most charming or attractive feature.

    • 「自分の チャームポイント は目」と思っている女性が一番多いという結果になりました
    • The result is that the greatest number of women believe that their charm point is their eyes. (Source)

    X-Day (Xデー)

    An X-Day is a euphemism for a day in the near future when you're anticipating or expecting a major event to occur.

    • こうした状況を受け、不動産バブル崩壊の Xデー がすぐそこまで来ているとの見方が浮上。
    • Having taken in that information, a view is surfacing that the X Day when the real estate bubble will burst will soon arrive.

    Match Pump (マッチポンプ)

    villain from animated film Incredibles

    I can't even begin to explain how this one came into being. All I can tell you is that it's a noun used to describe someone who likes to stir up trouble just so that they can be the one to fix it and thereby look like a hero.

    • あいつは マッチポンプ だ.
    • He's a match pump.

    Parasite Single (パラサイトシングル)

    If an adult after graduating from college could make a living on his own but would rather not, and so returns to his parents house in order to live rent and board-free, then he or she is a parasite single. As far as I can tell the US is witnessing a similar phenomenon that it's calling the "boomerang generation."

    • 低所得の私は パラサイトシングル が羨ましいと思っている
    • My low-income self is jealous of parasite singles.

    Pipe Cut (パイプカット)

    A vasectomy. 'Nuff said.

    • 私の パイプカット 手術体験記
    • A Record of My Experience With Pipe Cut Surgery
    • カチャカチャと パイプカット 手術に使う道具を準備している音(ステンレスの皿にメスやピンセットを置くような音)がしています。
    • There's a scraping sound as they prepare the tools used for the pipe cut operation (a sound like they're placing a scalpel and pincers on a stainless steel plate).

    Why Wasei Eigo?

    inflatable mascot in store
    Source: Timothy Takemoto

    Hopefully the unorthodox glossary I've cobbled together here has given you a taste of the many flavors of wasei eigo. A number of linguistic "purists" (both native English-speaking and Japanese) have lodged complaints against wasei eigo as an unsavory corruption of both languages involved. Others reject linguistic "purity" as a myth and further argue that wasei eigo is actually a vitally creative force rather than a destructive one, one that enhances expressive abilities rather than degrades them. From this point of view, wasei eigo gives Japanese speakers a sort of verbal playground where they can experiment with words in order to more fully reveal something or to euphemistically obscure something, to refer to a specific socio-cultural phenomenon or just to make someone laugh. But regardless of whether you think wasei eigo is a blight on or a boon to the Japanese language, by all accounts it is here to stay so we might as well enjoy it.