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Saturday, June 18, 2016

KONSENTO

After two years working in Japan, you start talking a language between Japanese and English with your assistants. I am slow to pick up a language, but I did realize today while engaging in this kind of conversation with my assistant, that a random English or Japanese speaker walking by may have no idea what we were talking about. Along that way of learning, there are words that are just the same as our English words but slightly askew. The Japanese have a separate alphabet for these words called, Katakana. I kind of like the system, in general when you look at a word you know if it is a Japanese word or if it is imported from another culture. For instance one day near the beginning of my stay here I asked "I could really use a donut, what is Japanese for Donut?" And my assistant replied, "Donuto." That made me laugh. It surprised me that they wouldn't have their own word for it. It is not as simple as just adding an "O" to the end of some words. Bare with me for a moment while I explain something you may know. The Japanese language doesn't have a consonant free from a vowel except for the consonant "N" All consonants are followed by a vowel, so Donut becomes, in Katakana, "Do Nu To." One of my fellow Wizards was joking with an assistant, I can't recall exactly what about but it had something to do with them checking his costume that he was wearing at the time, and he put up his hands and said, "You have my consento." And both our assistants started giggling uncontrollably. We thought they misunderstood him in some kind of sexual way, so he started to explain, as best he could, in simple English, the many meanings of consent, contracts, obligations, and of course, the importance of giving consent. They nodded their heads, looked at each other bewildered, and we just moved on with our day. A few days later while I was with another assistant she said, "Offu Seto (off set) On Seto (on set) consento!" She was just enjoying the sound of the words, and she started to laugh. And then I realized, "Hey maybe that word does not mean what we think it means." She said she would draw me a picture of "Ko n se n to." And I, of course, laughed. She drew a picture of a plug and an outlet… “Konsento” means “Electrical Outlet.” So my fellow wizard had put up his arms and said to them without knowing, “You have my electrical outlet.” The strange thing is their word “Konsento” is in Katakana, which means it derives from an English word, but in no definition in english do I see the word being used to mean anything electrical. Perplexed, today I finally looked online and found the answer:
“It is 和製英語. Sometime around the 1920s, employees at 東京電燈会社 created a device which consisted of a plug and outlet. This was called コンセントプラグ "concentric plug". Outlets without the plugs are now referred to as コンセント. "Ko N Se N To" Needless to say, English "concentric" does not make much sense.”
So, now you know something new.

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