27 May, 2014

Straightening out some kinks

This morning I went to my local dentist. We had a short warm-up conversation about language (he complimented me on my pronunciation). I politely said that Japanese is very hard. 

Then he mentioned a current affairs item (another time I'm glad I've browsed Facebook and knew about this), a prestigious private university in Japan has announced they're going to change their name. Why? Because they are called Kinki University (pronounced 'kinky') merely because that is where they are located, in the Kinki area.

Of course this name produced giggles. Can you imagine a graduate going overseas with that as her alma mater? Or trying to recruit international students? Hence, they're changing it to "Kindai". This is a combination of "Kinki" and "Daigaku" (university). Makes sense!

The news has made headlines internationally, but here is one article you might like to read.

Indeed, words that make sense in one culture may be worse than not making sense in another. There are English words and other names that don't translate very well into Japanese either, like Backer (turns into an insult in Japanese) and Ben (body waste).

Ah, the fun you can have trying to make yourself understood across cultures.

1 comment:

Aileen Selander said...

David Gerry, who translates the sermons at your church, and I were in the same class at CAJ many years ago. It resulted in repeated hilarity to others over the years as they realized that his last name meant diarrhea in Japanese and mine (Seely at the time) meant buttocks or derriere. I married out of my unfortunate name but David is stuck with his.