8 English Words From Japanese (tycoon, honcho, skosh, kudzu, ramen, futon, rickshaw, and sudoku)

takashi0930

Senior Member
Japanese
'Tycoon', 'Skosh', & 6 More English Words From Japanese

The above article is from Merriam-Webster's website. It talks about 8 English borrowed words from Japanese: tycoon, honcho, skosh, kudzu, ramen, futon, rickshaw, and sudoku.

My American friends say they've heard of or used them except for "kudzu". How about British people (and other native speakers)? Do you use these words? I'm especially interested in "skosh".
 
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  • Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I did not realize that these words were Japanese in origin.

    I hear "skosh" used to mean "a little" in American English.

    Woman to seamstress: These pants are a bit too tight; can you let them out a skosh?

    I hear of "kudzu" used as a reference to nuisance plants or metaphorically to refer to anything that is invasive and annoying.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I've heard all of them, probably used all of them, certainly could use all of them if the opportunity came up. (At least three are in my home right now: ramen, a futon, and sudoku. Whether or not we have a honcho here is open to debate. I wouldn't say we have a tycoon, though one or two people who might fit that description have visited us in the recent past. I'm sure we don't have kudzu or a rickshaw. And I have at least two suits that were altered for a skosh more room in the seat.)
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Personally, I've not come across 'skosh' or 'kudzo' before.
    I would say that it is only in the past five to ten years that I've heard these words. "Skosh" mostly on TV, but I've adopted it.

    "Kudzu" was considered a beneficial plant that quickly covered open ground and prevented erosion. I looked it up when a comic strip of that name began to be printed in our local paper in the 1980s.

    Kudzu (comic strip) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Kudzu was a daily comic strip by Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonistDoug Marlette about rural Southerners. Distributed byUniversal Press Syndicate, the strip ran from 1981 to 2007.

     

    takashi0930

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Thank you, everyone. It's so interesting. I didn't know the comis strip "Kudzu"!

    Let me confirm one thing.
    "A skosh" is used to mean "a little", but "skosh" (without "a") isn't used to mean "little", is it? I mean,
    You can say "There is a skosh water." to mean "There is a little water."
    But you can't say " There is skosh water." to mean "There is little water." Is that correct?
     

    takashi0930

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Also, can "skosh" also mean "a few", or is it only used to mean "a little"? (I'm wondering about this because in Japanese "sukoshi", from which "skosh" came, can mean both "a little" and "a few".)
     
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    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    (Sukoshi is the conventional transliteration into Roman characters, even though the u is ~silent even in Japanese).
    I have learnt Japanese and spent many years with a Japanese Americam wife and family. They have been using skosh for a long time and only ever as a noun. However, as with many borrowed words, the speakers of the borrowing language often mangle the original pronunciation or grammatical use of the word:) I've not heard skosh used as an adjective even outside this Japanese American setting, but have indeed heard it more often recently. A parallel in English is the word "tad" - also meaning a bit or a little, and some do use it as an adjective in "a tad bit" eek:
     
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    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Perhaps, but this extra 'u' serves only to confuse people into thinking it should be pronounced, thus they mispronounce the word that contains it.
    The Japanese language is based on syllables not letters and the characters represent syllables. The characters are either vowel sounds alone, or consonant+vowel : a, e, i etc or su fu mi ka. Single consonants don't exist (except for terminal n) So, to write the sound of skosh, they must write su-ko-shi. This almost loss of u is about the only irregularity in their phonetic spelling system. (You should hear the questions they have about English "spelling":))
     

    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    'Tycoon', 'Skosh', & 6 More English Words From Japanese

    The above article is from Merriam-Webster's website. It talks about 8 English borrowed words from Japanese: tycoon, honcho, skosh, kudzu, ramen, futon, rickshaw, and sudoku.

    My American friends say they've heard of or used them except for "kudzu". How about British people (and other native speakers)? Do you use these words? I'm especially interested in "skosh".
    I am familiar with all of these. Of them:

    Honcho: I would have guessed that this was from Spanish.
    Kudzu: I'm familiar with the invasive plant, and also the use of kudzu starch in cooking.
    Skosh: I don't use it, and would have thought that it came from Yiddish.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    I know them all except skosh, which I've never heard of and I too thought honcho was Spanish. I don't know how I know kudzu; I must have read about its invasive menace in the USA.
     

    Miss Julie

    Senior Member
    English-U.S.
    The Japanese language is based on syllables not letters and the characters represent syllables. The characters are either vowel sounds alone, or consonant+vowel : a, e, i etc or su fu mi ka. Single consonants don't exist (except for terminal n) So, to write the sound of skosh, they must write su-ko-shi. This almost loss of u is about the only irregularity in their phonetic spelling system. (You should hear the questions they have about English "spelling":))
    I'm still baffled. For example, there have been a few Japanese baseball players in the U.S. with the first name of Kosuke. If I hadn't been told, I would have pronounced the name as ko-SU-kay (or maybe KO-su-kay). If it did not contain the 'u', I would have most likely pronounced it correctly, KOSE-kay, the first time. :oops:
     
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    Copperknickers

    Senior Member
    Scotland - Scots and English
    'Tycoon', 'Skosh', & 6 More English Words From Japanese

    The above article is from Merriam-Webster's website. It talks about 8 English borrowed words from Japanese: tycoon, honcho, skosh, kudzu, ramen, futon, rickshaw, and sudoku.

    My American friends say they've heard of or used them except for "kudzu". How about British people (and other native speakers)? Do you use these words? I'm especially interested in "skosh".
    Have never heard of skosh or kudzu before this thread. Have only really heard 'ramen' through American tv shows, although Japanese food is starting to become popular in the UK now so I'm sure you could find it easily if you looked (sushi has been popular for a while but not so much hot dishes).
     

    Hildy1

    Senior Member
    English - US and Canada
    Sparky Malarky's picture of kudzu shows just what it looked like years ago when I returned for a visit to the southern United States. Kudzu, which I had never heard of when growing up there, had taken over and transformed the landscape. Since then people have, at great effort and expense, got it under control.

    So if you have never heard of kudzu before, consider yourself lucky.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I'm still baffled. For example, there have been a few Japanese baseball players in the U.S. with the first name of Kosuke. If I hadn't been told, I would have pronounced the name as ko-SU-kay (or maybe KO-su-kay). If it did not contain the 'u', I would have most likely pronounced it correctly, KOSE-kay, the first time. :oops:
    The bold version is actually pretty close to their way - the u hasn't completely gone the syllable is just very short. Just like there is actually a sound between the s and n in hasn't :) In our way of representing sounds, we know what we mean by -s but the very end of the sibilant is different from the middle, and they consider it a separate "sound" - so we have words ending in an s sound using the su character that get transcribed with that u. In Japanese characters it is written ko-su-ke, with the su the same as in sumo, where it is not "lost". The transcription into Roman characters represents the Japanese characters, not a pronunciation aid for English speakers :) However, you are obviously way ahead of others who might well say CO-sook:)

    Wiki has a longer list of words, but the ones in the OP are ones that might not be as recognizably Japanese as haiku, origami or bonsai:)
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    I've never heard of skosh, kudzu or ramen.
    I also imagined honcho was from Spanish ... though now that I come to think about it, I don't know any Spanish word honcho:oops:
    And if I'd been asked I would've said tycoon was from Chinese, like typhoon:)
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    I have heard most of these words in common use since the 1960s...except "ramen" which only became common on US grocery shelves years later, and "sudoku" which is more recent.

    I am used to "skosh" meaning a small amount (add a skosh of salt) but not a few.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I've never heard of skosh, kudzu or ramen.
    I also imagined honcho was from Spanish ... though now that I come to think about it, I don't know any Spanish word honcho:oops:
    And if I'd been asked I would've said tycoon was from Chinese, like typhoon:)
    Convergent etymology, ewie-san
    Typhoon also comes from Greek, apparently:) and also seems to be the Japanese pronunciation, while Chinese has several, I suspect.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I've never heard of skosh, kudzu or ramen.
    I also imagined honcho was from Spanish ... though now that I come to think about it, I don't know any Spanish word honcho:oops:
    And if I'd been asked I would've said tycoon was from Chinese, like typhoon:)
    It sounds like "concho" which is from the Spanish for a stamped or shell-like metal ornament.

     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    I've never understood the use of 'u' in Japanese words...if the 'u' is not supposed to be pronounced, why is it there? :confused:
    Be nice - they only have 5 vowels, and only 5 vowel sounds (we have more than 30 vowel sounds). Don't take one away.:D

    In Japanese 'u' is not "never pronounced": pikachu, kigurumi, sushi, tsunami and many other words use the sound.

    But it is sometimes very short. So it is the best way to spell a foreign word that has two consonants in a row. It is impossible to write two consonants in a row in Japanese (or Chinese) writing.
     

    Miss Julie

    Senior Member
    English-U.S.
    I was familiar with all of the words (and knew that they came from Japanese, including "honcho") except for "skosh", which I had never encountered before today.
    I remember "skosh" from blue jeans commercials from the 70s or 80s; perhaps they were Levi's. The tagline was something like "they have a skosh more room in the seat..." I hadn't encountered the word before the commercials, and I hadn't encountered it since...until today. :D
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    It would appear that not many WR members are former Navy. It seems that "skosh" has been a part of the military slang (USA) since the end of WWII.

    Naval Terminology, Jargon and Slang FAQ

    Between Skivvy Folder and Skunk, and it appears to be used to mean "little" and "few":

    Skosh – Pronounced with a long ‘o’. From the Japanese sukoshi, literally 'small' or 'little'. The F-5 was long known as the Skoshi Tiger. (1) Little or low, as in "They better get that foul deck cleared; Dave's coming in skosh fuel." (2) Fast, or quickly, as in "We need to get this job done most skosh."

    This is the F-5 Tiger. I cannot see why it would be called Skoshi Tiger though.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    This is the F-5 Tiger. I cannot see why it would be called Skoshi Tiger though.
    Maybe it is because the F-5 was slimmer and lighter than the primary US fighter jets in the 1970s.

    It was purchased by many other countries as their primary fighter jet. For many decades the T-38 trainer version (no guns, no bombs) was the most popular plane for military executives to fly cross-country as transportation. While president, George Bush flew one and landed it on an aircraft carrier. I flew the T-38 in pilot school and loved it.

    Maybe the military is where I picked up "skosh" too.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Surprisingly, the original "Sparrow Project" became the "Skoshi Tiger Project" and apparently was an official Naval military program:

    F-5C/D Skoshi Tiger

    (2nd paragraph down):

    The F-5C was the designation given to the modified F-5A's that were sent to Southeast Asia during the mid-60's for the Skoshi Tiger program, a combat evaluation of the F-5 in Vietnam. The name is a corruption of "Sukoshi Tiger" (Japanese for "Little Tiger"). The Skoshi Tiger Program was originally known as the Sparrow Hawk Program. Project Sparrow Hawk at Eglin AFB, Florida had proven that the F-5 was a capable fighter-bomber. The primary modification from the F-5A was the addition of an in-flight refueling [IFR] probe to the F-5C.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    It would appear that not many WR members are former Navy. It seems that "skosh" has been a part of the military slang (USA) since the end of WWII.

    Naval Terminology, Jargon and Slang FAQ

    Between Skivvy Folder and Skunk, and it appears to be used to mean "little" and "few":

    Skosh – Pronounced with a long ‘o’. From the Japanese sukoshi, literally 'small' or 'little'. The F-5 was long known as the Skoshi Tiger. (1) Little or low, as in "They better get that foul deck cleared; Dave's coming in skosh fuel." (2) Fast, or quickly, as in "We need to get this job done most skosh."

    This is the F-5 Tiger. I cannot see why it would be called Skoshi Tiger though.
    I've never heard that type of usage (Ngrams don't help:() but I probably don't move in the right circles. Is it still in use that way - as an adjective and adverb - in naval circles?
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I've never heard that type of usage (Ngrams don't help:() but I probably don't move in the right circles. Is it still in use that way - as an adjective and adverb - in naval circles?
    I am just one Google-search ahead of you. I've just learned this stuff myself. To answer your question, "I have no idea."

    This has turned out to be a surprisingly interesting thread. I'm learning quite a bit here.
     

    Delvo

    Senior Member
    American English
    Let me confirm one thing.
    "A skosh" is used to mean "a little", but "skosh" (without "a") isn't used to mean "little", is it? I mean,
    You can say "There is a skosh water." to mean "There is a little water."
    But you can't say " There is skosh water." to mean "There is little water." Is that correct?
    I grew up in Missouri hearing "skosh" routinely, and never encountered it in a static, non-comparative use. It was used for comparisons (this bucket has a skosh more water than that one) or actions (that's too much water; pour it out a skosh). They're unified in a sense, if you think of such actions as making a small difference compared with the original state.

    I never noticed this before, but I think I heard that one from my mother but not my father. They both grew up in Kansas/Missouri in the mid-20th century, but her family had come from England several generations before, and he was in the first generation of his family born here instead of Germany or Russia.

    Also: "skosh" is a noun, not an adjective, so, even if we were to use it for an amount that's not changing or moving or being compared to something else, it would still need to be worked into the sentence like a noun: "a skosh of water". The only way translating it as "a little" works is if you either think of "little" there as a noun or think of the whole phrase as an abbreviation for "a little bit of".

    I've never understood the use of 'u' in Japanese words...if the 'u' is not supposed to be pronounced, why is it there? :confused:
    The Japanese language is based on syllables not letters and the characters represent syllables. The characters are either vowel sounds alone, or consonant+vowel : a, e, i etc or su fu mi ka. Single consonants don't exist (except for terminal n) So, to write the sound of skosh, they must write su-ko-shi. This almost loss of u is about the only irregularity in their phonetic spelling system. (You should hear the questions they have about English "spelling":))
    I'm still baffled. For example, there have been a few Japanese baseball players in the U.S. with the first name of Kosuke. If I hadn't been told, I would have pronounced the name as ko-SU-kay (or maybe KO-su-kay). If it did not contain the 'u', I would have most likely pronounced it correctly, KOSE-kay, the first time. :oops:
    The transcription is not based on pronunciation. It's based on replacing each Japanese character with a standard letter or set of letters in our alphabet. The Japanese letter in that spot is associated with the sequence "su". Its actual pronunciation is just as inconsistent in Japanese speech as it is in the words we import; they're used to the fact that the same symbol can represent either "s" or "su". But there is only one standard way to convert that symbol into our alphabet, and it's "su", not "s".

    Most syllable-based systems have issues like that. It seems as if the number of actual distinct units of pronunciation is always greater than the number of symbols they assign to them, so some symbols always end up doing double duty, especially over consonants without a vowel after them.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Have never encountered skosh and kudzu. Japanese food is common here, so ramen and udon are well known.
     

    cissy3

    Senior Member
    English-England
    I knew of ''kudzu'', because although I'm British, I lived in the southern USA, and it was a real problem. (Came back to Blighty in '02)

    Kudzu, which I had never heard of when growing up there, had taken over and transformed the landscape. Since then people have, at great effort and expense, got it under control.
    I do hope they've resolved the problem, as it was driving out native habitats etc

    As an aside, a much feared invasive plant in the UK at present, is ''Japanese Knotweed''
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    The transcription is not based on pronunciation. It's based on replacing each Japanese character with a standard letter or set of letters in our alphabet. The Japanese letter in that spot is associated with the sequence "su". Its actual pronunciation is just as inconsistent in Japanese speech as it is in the words we import; they're used to the fact that the same symbol can represent either "s" or "su". But there is only one standard way to convert that symbol into our alphabet, and it's "su", not "s".
    As described in #15 and 22:)
     

    takashi0930

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Thank you again for lots of replies.:) (And Julian Stuart, thank you for explaining about the Japanese language to everyone!)

    OK, so, as is often the case with other loan words, "skosh" is not used in English in the same way as in Japanese.
    >Packard
    "Skosh Tigar" sounds cute and funny to Japanese ears. Our "sukoshi" only means "a small amount/number" and it doesn't mean "small (in size, as opposed to "large")/young", so a warplane named "skoshi tigar" sounds like a plane only a small part of whch is made of a tiger (and other parts other animals or other things.) It doesn't sound strong! The person who named the plane probably didn't know the real usage of the word in Japanese. I think people in those days should have done language exchanges instead of figting wars.:)

    Too bad kudzu (or "kuzu" in Japanese) caused such a big trouble in the southern U.S. "Kuzu" doesn't have a negative connotation in Japanese. It's used as herbal medicine and also in food/drinks such as "kuzuyu". Kuzuyu - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    (I wish there was a "Like" button on this forum so that I can press it for everyone's reply.)
     
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    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    I know them all, including skosh – now whether I know it from the Marines* (post 31) or from Kansas/Missouri (post 36), I don't really recall.

    From the Unofficial Unabridged Dictionary for Marines: skoshi: A small space or time, from Japanese. Sometimes Mo Skosh.

    I will say, though, that while some of the lingo followed me after my service, skosh was not one of the words. :)

    *They're under the Department of the Navy, so a lot of the terminology is shared.
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    I've never heard that type of usage (Ngrams don't help:() but I probably don't move in the right circles. Is it still in use that way - as an adjective and adverb - in naval circles?
    Not that I ever noticed. I know the word because a fellow I worked with (in Iowa) back in the '70s used it a lot. When I asked him, he told me it was Japanese.

    I'm familiar with all seven of the OP's other words, too, though like ewie I would have guessed that tycoon was Chinese..
     
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