Let the pretending to be injured begin

When the last new magazines were released yesterday, it finally became literally impossible to open a magazine in Japan without seeing a picture of a female celebrity wearing a Japan football jersey, and I knew that the World Cup had come.

The only consolation is that there is an interesting way to say "world cup" in Japanese: W杯, pronounced /daburu hai/. W obviously stands for "world", so 杯 means "cup" -- the same as the /pai/ in kanpai (cheers; literally "dry cup", to be taken as a friendly suggestion).

The interesting part is the W. Many English initialisms are used in Japan, like CM for "commercial [movie]", but W is a special letter: it can represent meaning all by itself. This is because it is generally pronounced "double" instead of "double-u", so it's handy for referring to things that are doubled. (Do we do this in the Speakingenglishosphere too? I'd never noticed, if so.)

For example: Wチーズバーガー (double cheeseburger): an English word borrowed into Japanese and now refused all contact with its native orthography except the idiosyncratic Japanese W. But W can also be applied to Japanese words, e.g. 不倫 (/hurin/, affair) → W不倫 (/daburu hurin/, an affair where both partners are cheating on a spouse.) To be honest, I think that W-attaching is a more or less productive process, and you might have a case for categorizing this version of the character W with the kanji rather than the Roman alphabet.

"But wait! The W in W杯 isn't one of those Ws! It just stands for 'World'!" True. So why bring it up? To illustrate, as if further illustration were necessary, the relentlessly boring nature of football.

Popularity factor: 8


Nice post. I've been wondering how to pronounce that combo that I read everywhere these days.

Any other similar uses of Y as in Yシャーツ? The potential for Yカラー has already been headed off at the pass, has it not, with ハイカラー.

How do you render X and Y chromosomes in Japanese?


THANK GOD I'm not the only person in the world who thinks soccer is a boring sport.

I should make a drinking game out of the WC.

Every time I see one of those overblown pussies rolling on the ground in agony over a kick to the (heavily padded) shin, I take a drink.

I'll be shitfaced in a half hour.


I guess I should admit that "daburu hai" is really a jokey backformation, and still considered a mistake by some people (I think one of the Morning Musume girls caught some flak for using it a few weeks ago.) But, at least among some folks I know, it's transcended mistakitude and become just an alternative, [+playful] way to pronounce W杯. (The point at which "intentionally wrong" becomes "was wrong once but now just [+playful]" is not clearly defined, though, and since I like language innovation I tend to take positions that irk purists... so if you're on TV, ワールド・カップ is probably safest.)

Yシャツ! That's another good one. I don't know of any others that start with Y, and the Koujien doesn't show any... along the same lines, though, I am personally fond of 嬉C (/uresii/), though, which has more than 40,000 google hits! (if you include "うれC"). And it's really no different from 宜敷 for /yorosiki/ except that the ateji is a roman character instead of a chinese one. (Of course, 宜敷 isn't acceptable standard orthography any more either. Damn you, normal- and modernization!)

Chromosomes are 染色体 ("dyed/stained bodies"), and AFAIK X/Y(形)染色体 is the way to specify X- or Y-ness. I wonder if there were any alternatives in, say, Meiji times. 十字形 and 卜字形?

One last thing: I like that 株式会社 (kabushiki-gaisha, stock corporation) is abbreviated "KK" rather than "KG" (n.b. "gaisha" is just the voiced, compound-word form of original word "kaisha"), although I don't know if it represents hypercorrection or a genuine intuition that that is how the word should be abbreviated in Roman characters.


Justin: Yeah, that really bugs me. I know that you can't win the game unless you cheat like that, these days, but it seems to me the best solution would be to alter the rules (or enforcement) rather than allow cheating to become the norm.

Gaijin Biker:

Hmmm... my first free-association was that W杯 was essentially "W cup", as in coming way, way after G-cup, H-cup, I-cup, and J-cup.

My mind is in the gutter.


Does W has any connection to George W Bush in Japan the way it does here in the states?


Roy probably has a better handle on that than me, but I don't think so. Most people just call him "Busshu."


Yeah, you say you hate footie, but we all know why you haven't been posting: you've been glued to the telly watching Serbia & Montenegro.

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