Rare cheese cake and other oddities

The other day we were having lunch with friends and one of them brought us some Camembert Rare Cheese Cake for dessert.

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The name was written in English, not Japanese, and we wondered what was rare about this dessert. Camembert, even from Hokkaido as this was, isn’t rare, so what did it mean?

It turns out that in this case the Japanese-English word meant uncooked like rare roast beef. A bit unnecessary really since cheesecake is normally uncooked unless it is baked cheesecake.

We guess that someone had looked for a word for uncooked, found rare, and used it without checking if this was correct usage.

It reminds me of some other odd transpositions of foreign words into Japanese like arubaito (アルバイト) from the German arbeit. In German, this is simply work, but in Japanese it is only part-time work. Full-time work has its own Japanese word: shigoto (しごと; 仕事)

Then there is shotsu (ショーツ), which I used recently thinking it would mean summer shorts. But these are not running shorts or summer shorts but specifically undershorts (from the American I suppose).

For what I think of as shorts, I must say shotopantsu (ショートパンツ).

Of course this happens in English, too, where fashionable ladies may wear elegant culottes, which in France are simply panties. Presumably this dates from the time when culottes looked like bloomers which, outside France, is what culottes look like, more or less. In Japanese culottes, in the English sense, become kyurottosukato (キュロットスカート) which at least has the advantage of being clearer.

And, vice versa, in France you wear a jogging, whereas in England you go jogging, wearing a tracksuit or possibly jogging trousers etc. (In America you might wear sweatpants …)

Finally, this reminds me of the time my wife was asked by an American friend to attend an event wearing pants, which of course she always does, whether wearing trousers (pants in American English), or a skirt or dress over them!

All of these are faux amis – or false friends: words in another language that do not mean exactly what they appear to mean, based on spelling or pronunciation.

Do you have any favourite oddities?

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