Sunday Soundcheck 8

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The next sound in the K column is ‘ku’, written in hiragana as く and in katakana as ク.

This time around, for katakana, let’s pick a word which: came from English; is commonly used in Japan; and replaces a perfectly valid Japanese word.

Kuupon (クーポン) comes from the English word ‘coupon’ and has the same meaning in Japanese (which is not always true with loanwords.) The English pronunciation has been discussed on other blogs recently. There was heated debate about whether it was proper to say the first syllable like ‘coo’ or like ‘Q’; of course, both are acceptable. The ‘u’ sound is elongated which I think sounds a little funny, but more importantly, remember the ‘o’ sound is as in ‘host’ or ‘hope’, not as in ‘coupon’ or ‘hot’.

The main type of coupon, which gives a discount on a price, can be waribikiken (割引券) in Japanese, but kuupon has become more and more popular as I’ve been living here. I once studied with a man who would get angry at the practice of introducing loanwords. He appeared to desire to defend the purity of the Japanese language; however, as it turned out, he would attack the usage of words which didn’t really have an equivalent in Japanese. A lot of standard household items are not really standard, they depend on culture and history, so when they are introduced into a society it makes sense to borrow names with the items. In the case of kuupon, it wasn’t necessary to use a loanword, but it is fashionable, and convenient.

Kuwashii (くわしい) is an adjective meaning ‘particular’ or ‘detailed’. It can also be written with kanji ‘詳しい’. This gets used often when talking about the details of a plan or a discount offer from a hotel. We also use it when saying someone seems to know much specific information about some activity or field of study. In keeping with my goals for this series, it is a word which is commonly used, but doesn’t always appear in elementary study programs for foreigners.

Next week: ‘ke’, written け or ケ; sometimes even ヶ, but that’s another discussion.

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3 Responses to “Sunday Soundcheck 8”

  1. chencenter Says:

    I love purity in language…however there is no stopping loanwords, and often when there is no equivalent (in the other language), it is essential. I don’t love purity as much as I love the power behind language… that there may be one word or sound that embodies the exact feeling, or experience of a particular moment. This is why I am so fond of poetry… writers who choose their words with the greatest of care in order to say the most in the shortest time. My favorite english word is “serenity.” It just calms me to say it.

  2. びっくり Says:

    Heisei is one of the ways to say serenity in Japanese. Just by chance, or maybe by plan, the current Emperor’s reign is labeled Heisei, but it is a homophone.

  3. Sunday Soundcheck 11 « Neo-新びっくりブログ Says:

    […] the phonetic sound chart. That row contained the sounds ‘ka‘, ‘ki‘, ‘ku‘, ‘ke‘, ‘ko‘. (Remember that the vowel sounds are the same as the […]

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