As we’ve talked about in the past, Japanese-English false friends are largely the result of how the Japanese language assimilates foreign words. A word with no native Japanese equivalent is adapted into a form that Japanese speakers can write and pronounce via the Katakana alphabet. These “loanwords,” in turn, can take on different meanings and connotations than the words from which they were borrowed.
Because Japanese has many English loanwords, native English speakers need to be especially careful that they don’t fall for Japanese-English false friends. In this lesson, we’re going to look at another selection of false friends that native English speakers learning Japanese need to watch out for.
Although derived from the English word “cider,” サイダー actually refers to a sweet fizzy drink such as lemonade. The term for alcoholic cider brewed from apples is フルーツビール
(furūtsubīru), or “fruit beer.”
Although グー resembles the English word “goo,” it is actually derived from “good.” グー is based on the noun form of the English word. It cannot be used as other parts of speech or to convey the more nuanced meanings of “good” that native Japanese words can.
ゴムis derived from “gum,” but not the type that you chew. Instead, ゴム refers to the type of gum that natural rubber products are made from. As such, the word actually means “rubber” or “eraser,” depending on the context.
While スマート is derived from the English word “smart,” it is not a synonym for “intelligent.” Instead, スマート is an adjective meaning “slim.” Depending on the context, it can be used to say that something is fashionable or in vogue.
ウエア comes from the English word “wear.” However, this Japanese noun is used in the way that “clothes” is used in English. ウエア seems to have originated from a lack of understanding that “wear” cannot describe clothing unless it is combined with another word. For example, menswear and sportswear describe specific types of clothing. You can’t go to a store and buy just “wear” in English, but you can in Japanese.