Four Words from Japanese That English Really Needs

Neologisms from the Land of the Rising Sun

Why is it that English (particularly the American dialect) is so peppered with loan words? Is it because America prides itself on being the melting pot? Perhaps foreign words and phrases just have a lot of je ne sais quoi, to use a French loan word. Perhaps it is a reflection of the wabi-sabi of the English language that keeps it open to neologisms. What is wabi-sabi? Read that title again. It's the first one on the list!


Something that has "wabi-sabi" is flawed, incomplete and evanescent but admired all the same. This practice can be seen in Japanese painting and floral arrangements. Books with cracked spines, tattered concert tees and houseplants that you can tell at a glance are real have wabi-sabi because their imperfections make them beautiful.


This word is like "thank you" (an English word that doesn't get used enough) but refers only to gifts of food. At one time, the custom was to hold a gift of food over one's head and say "I humbly receive this". A lot of care and effort that many people don't appreciate goes into both cultivating and preparing food and this word reflects a grateful acknowledgement of that fact.


The Japanese are fond of onomatopoeias to the point that they'll use them even for things that don't make sound! "Fura-Fura" refers to the sensation of light headed dizziness. It could be a way to describe the muffled ambient sounds one hears (or at least thinks they do) after a round on the roller coaster or that third cup of saké.


Fans of anime are familiar with this term that translates as "beautiful boy". In many manga and anime, a male character may be drawn with a slender frame and long silky hair, traits usually associated with female characters. They exist in real life, more so with the recognition that gender is a fluid concept.

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Dave Child

Dave is the founder of, and has been building websites since the early 90s. He's one of those fortunate people who gets to do what he loves for a living.


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