Just like an American would sometimes use certain famous Japanese words like “anime” or “sushi” in an otherwise English conversation, Japanese people also use various English words in their everyday speech. That doesn’t mean, however, that all of the “English” words and phrases that they incorporate into their conversations are used correctly. When you visit Japan, there is a good chance that you will encounter some very strange “English” words and phrases that are used in everyday conversations by unsuspecting people. You may hear people referring to roller coasters as “jet coasters,” or saying they went to eat at a “viking” the other day (“viking”=buffet). The following is a list of some of the most commonly used examples of “Wasei Eigo,” or “Japanese-rendered English.”
Pronounced “salalee-man.” In Japan, “salary man” refers to “office worker,” or “white-collar worker.”
Pronounced “ohjee/ohbee.” Give a native English speaker a hundred guesses, and he/she would still probably never guess what an “OB” or an “OG” even stands for, much less refers to. When Japanese people talk of an “OB” or an “OG,” they are actually talking about the alumni or alumnae of a school. In other words, if a girl refers to herself as an “OG” of Tokyo High School, that means she is a graduate of that school.
Prounounced “canningu.” When Japanese people say “cunning,” they use it as a word to describe cheating in tests. So if someone in Japan says, “Hey! That’s cunning!”, it means “Hey! That’s cheating!” People also say “She was cunning shiteru.” Shiteru means “doing” in Japanese, so the sentence directly translates to “She was doing cunning,” or, in other words, “She was cheating.”
Pronounced “sutailu.” In Japan, saying “You have good style” does not actually mean having good style, in the usual sense. When Japanese people say “style,” they really mean “figure.” So having “good style” means “having a good figure” (as in, long legs, slim waist, etc.)
Pronounced “manshon.” When Japanese people say “I live in a mansion,” they do not mean they live in a huge, extravagant house. In Japan, “mansion” is used to describe a normal condominium, like an apartment.
These are just a few of the many examples of “Wasei Eigo” in Japan. Please bear in mind, however, that although these words and phrases are “mistakes,” they are also very well-embedded into the Japanese contemporary speech. So if you ever visit Japan, instead of striving to correct every person you meet, try to turn a blind eye to the ridiculousness. In fact, you might even learn to appreciate the strange little phrases. I know I have.