Last week we started the return visit to the ‘k’ column of the chart with sound changes that make the ‘k’ sound into a ‘g’ sound. Let’s take a look at ‘gi’, represented in hiragana as ぎ and katakana as ギ.
Gibusu (ギブス), sometimes written gipusu (ギプス), means “a cast”. It comes from the German word ‘Gips’, which I think refers to ‘gypsum’ – the material from which an old cast would have been constructed – rather than the actual cast itself. Note that the ‘g’ sounds here are hard, which would be closer to the German than the English. There is an assumption that katakana words are English, but they can come from any foreign language. I think I have already given examples from Dutch, Portuguese, French, German, Russian, and maybe Chinese. This word threw me when I first heard it: I thought they were talking about some kind of primate. (Or maybe something about the moon.)
Giri (ぎり) really means a kind of duty, debt, or obligation; however, it is commonly used almost as a prefix to identify in-laws. If I were sensible enough to get married, my wife’s mother would be giriokaasan. This seems more a way to describe someone’s relation to someone else, but I probably wouldn’t call someone that. We can write it in kanji as 義理.
Sorry, it took so long to get this one up. My busy schedule is only partly responsible; my house guest left me a new game cartridge for my DS. My O-C tendencies are sucking time as I strive to clear each level with the top rating.