snopes.com Post new topic  Post a reply
search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Hello snopes.com » Urban Legends » Language » "America" in Japanese

 - UBBFriend: Email this page to someone!    
Author Topic: "America" in Japanese
snopes
Return! Return! Return!


Icon 19 posted      Profile for snopes   Author's Homepage   E-mail snopes       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Comment: If you write the word "America" in Japanese, it spells out the
word "Asshole" or "Bastard" in Hebrew. And this is for real. Israeli
tourists in Japan often buy tourist guides to America in Japanese just to
show their friends this fonatic coincidence.

Posts: 36029 | From: Admin | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
OptimusShr
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


Icon 07 posted      Profile for OptimusShr     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
This strikes me as false. It would help if we knew which Japanese alphabet it was supposedly written in. I will try to find An image of America written in them and see if anyone who knows hebrew can help.
Posts: 104 | From: Peabody, MA | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
SilvorMoon
A View to a Krill


Icon 1 posted      Profile for SilvorMoon   E-mail SilvorMoon   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
I read enough Japanese to know what the Japanese spelling of "America" looks like. I did a little webcrawling and found images of the Hebrew alphabet, and while the lettering looks vaguely similar to Japanese katakana (which is what you'd use to write "America" with) there aren't perfect matches for each of the Japanese characters involved. I'd say at most there could be a glancing similarity, but not likely.
Posts: 67 | From: Farmville, Virginia | Registered: Nov 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
OptimusShr
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


Icon 1 posted      Profile for OptimusShr     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by SilvorMoon:
I read enough Japanese to know what the Japanese spelling of "America" looks like. I did a little webcrawling and found images of the Hebrew alphabet, and while the lettering looks vaguely similar to Japanese katakana (which is what you'd use to write "America" with) there aren't perfect matches for each of the Japanese characters involved. I'd say at most there could be a glancing similarity, but not likely.

Ah, so katakana is used for America. I thought that could have been the alphabet.

However I think we should still see the katakana and Hebrew text side by side and see if any of the characters for asshole and bastard look similar to the characters for America and as a result spawned the myth.

Anyone here speak Hebrew so we can figure out how its spelled.

Posts: 104 | From: Peabody, MA | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Razela
"Repaint and thin no more!"


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Razela   Author's Homepage   E-mail Razela   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
I speak a bit of hebrew. Hebrew is VERY different looking than japanese though, so I don't know how true this would be. The hebrew word for bastard is "mamzer" and asshole "tachat." I can write them in hebrew, though the only way to put it up on the internet would be to actually write it out on a sheet of paper and scan it. A lot of trouble right now, but if someone does the Japanese, I'll do the hebrew and we can compare.
Posts: 20 | From: Tucson, AZ | Registered: Feb 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
YudanTaiteki
Deck the Malls


Icon 1 posted      Profile for YudanTaiteki     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
If you can read Japanese characters on your computer, there are three ways to write America:

アメリカ (the usual way)
米国 (more formal, often seen in newspapers)
亜米利加 (the old way using phonetic kanji, found in pre-war writing)

Posts: 333 | From: Columbus, OH | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Razela
"Repaint and thin no more!"


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Razela   Author's Homepage   E-mail Razela   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Yudan, I don't have Japanese characters on my computer, so unfortunately all I see are little boxes.
Posts: 20 | From: Tucson, AZ | Registered: Feb 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Em
Happy Holly Days


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Em   E-mail Em   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
A screencap (with hugely enlarged text):

Originally posted by YudanTaiteki:

 -


Edited to use a narrower picture. If it's still too wide and is screwing with the page width for anyone, let me know and I'll shrink it further.

--------------------
What the NFBSK does YOMANK mean?

Posts: 1646 | From: Melbourne, Australia | Registered: Jul 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Kamino Neko
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Kamino Neko   Author's Homepage     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Looking at a picture of the hebrew alphabet, the modern version of lamed bears a passing resemblance to the kana for a, ayin looks, at a quick glance, like ri, and het and the kana for ka could, if you weren't really paying attention and what you're reading was hastily written, be mistaken for eachother. I can find no Hebrew letter that bears any real resemblance to the kana for me, although, again, if you're not really paying attention and reading something hastily written, ayin could serve there, as well.

So, a Hebrew word written het ayin ayin lamed (חעעל ) and the Japanese rendering of America could, if you squint real hard at a badly written passage, look alike, I suppose. Not really knowing anything about Hebrew I don't know what that would mean or if it's even a valid word.

--------------------
Blueberry, Blackberry, Raspberry, Strawberry
Merry Merry-go-round, Funky Funky Playground

Posts: 3645 | From: Ontario, Canada | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Razela
"Repaint and thin no more!"


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Razela   Author's Homepage   E-mail Razela   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Kamino, how are you able to type in hebrew letters? I can write the words for you if I can do that.
Posts: 20 | From: Tucson, AZ | Registered: Feb 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Jason Threadslayer
Let There Be PCs on Earth


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Jason Threadslayer     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Razela:
Kamino, how are you able to type in hebrew letters? I can write the words for you if I can do that.

Use the Hebrew chart at the bottom of the page to get the decimal Unicode encoding (second column). Then put that number after &# and follow it with a semi-colon ( ; ) . For instance, shin is 1513, so you type in ש, and get ש.

You can do the same with any other alphabet Unicode supports. For example, the Coptic letter gangia (uppercase) is 1002, so Ϫ will get Ϫ.

--------------------
All posts foretold by Nostradamus.

Turing test failures: 6

Posts: 5481 | From: Decatur, GA | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Kamino Neko
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Kamino Neko   Author's Homepage     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
What Jason said.

That method also allows you to type some symbols that have meaning in HTML, and thus tend to screw things up on certain boards, or when you're typing raw html.

--------------------
Blueberry, Blackberry, Raspberry, Strawberry
Merry Merry-go-round, Funky Funky Playground

Posts: 3645 | From: Ontario, Canada | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Moreta24
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Moreta24         Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
I can't type in Hebrew either, but I read/speak it - if you squint a little, that kanji looks like the Hebrew letters that would spell out the English word "maniac" transliterated into Hebrew letters. Hebrew reads from right to left, so in that order, the kanji letters look like the Hebrew letter mem, nun, yod, aleph, kuf - M-N-Y-[silent letter]-C. Hebrew is voweled using dots and dashes that usually appear under the letters, so appropriately voweled, it would spell "maniac".

The original post is not true, but not too far out either.

Posts: 5 | From: Washington, DC | Registered: Apr 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Avril
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Avril     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
You have to REALLY squint! As with many things, once you told me to look, I saw it, but I NEVER would have thought of that on my own.

Even at that, it's an English word, not a Hebrew word.

Avril

--------------------
There is no failure unless one stops. --Ray Bradbury

Posts: 2115 | From: Oklahoma | Registered: Aug 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Mickey is a Hanukkah Bush
O Come Let Us Adore Sales


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Mickey is a Hanukkah Bush   Author's Homepage     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Has anyone considered that they may be thinking of cursive Hebrew? I can draw it out, take a pic, then put up a link for a pic, if people want to compare that to Katakana.

--------------------
My mom, about my nervousness with Jeopardy!: "Don't worry about it. Just get drunk and you'll do fine."
Blog Just call me Mickey 2

Posts: 3295 | From: Radford, VA/Herndon, VA/Orlando, FL | Registered: Jan 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Dr. Dave
Frosty the Pitchman


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Dr. Dave     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Without squinting at all, that first Japanese ("the usual way") spelling looks like a combination of printed and script (think type versus printed versus cursive) Hebrew- sort of what it would look like if a person was freehand writing but using the printed alphabet. Reading right to left, you get Mem-Nun-Yud-Aleph-Kuf. In Hebrew, the vowels are dots and lines under (or in one case juse above and to the side) the letter, and are often lefty out when writing by hand- so yes, very easily the transliteration of Maniac. In Israel, a lot of people, especially younger, speak English, or know some English, and words are often transliterated, be they modern invetions ("televisia" "autoboos") or slang ""L'tfok" = To NFBSK.

So, although I have no idea about the veracity of Israeli tourists buying the shirts to show their friends, I can certainly see the joke.

From UdanT: アメリカ
Hebrew: מניאק
Hebrew with vowels added: מֶנִיאָק
would be pronounced "Meh-neey-ahk"
(Analogy: If the above is "Times New Roman," Imagine it transformed to the Hebrew equivalent of Comic Sans)

Edited to move the Hebrew closer to the Japanese, then again to add the vowels and the pronounciation.

Posts: 400 | From: Maryland | Registered: Jun 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
ds_40
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


Icon 1 posted      Profile for ds_40   E-mail ds_40   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
I'm learning Hebrew, and can read it fairly well. I originally would've seen the first letter as tav. Because it has a foot. Now that the other two have called it mem, I can see that too...although since it's chimney isn't centered it still looks more like tav to me.

I guess it can go either way, and since you get "maniac" with mem and not tav that's probably how it's supposed to be read.

And no, it doesn't look like cursive handwriting, it does look like poorly handwritten block letters, though.

--------------------
àðé ãåã äîìê

Posts: 26 | From: New York, NY | Registered: Apr 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
ds_40
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


Icon 1 posted      Profile for ds_40   E-mail ds_40   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
 -

Here's an image of "America" actually written on a book. In the form that it's written here, I'd recgonize the letter on the right more as mem than tav. But, it still could be either.

By the way, does what does that letter to the right of the word mean? If it was printed larger, as it was on some other books when I searched, it'd really take away from seeing "maniac"

In case you don't know, these are the two letters I'm comparing:
tav: ת
mem: מ

--------------------
àðé ãåã äîìê

Posts: 26 | From: New York, NY | Registered: Apr 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Ganzfeld
Let There Be PCs on Earth


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Ganzfeld     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
It's the character

(no)
It's a phonetic chracter. It means something like "of" or "'s" in this case. (Not part of the word America.)

Posts: 4922 | From: Kyoto, Japan | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
LeaflessMapleTree
The twelve shopping days 'til Christmas


Icon 1 posted      Profile for LeaflessMapleTree   E-mail LeaflessMapleTree   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
アメリカ (the usual way)

As far as I know (in my grade 12 private school Hebrew education), the word "maniac" is indeed the same in Hebrew. However, it's pronounced "mun-yuck", not "meh-neey-ahk".

--------------------
"For me, religion is like a rhinoceros: I don't have one, and I'd really prefer not to be trampled by yours. But it is impressive, and even beautiful, and, to be honest, the world would be slightly worse off if there weren't any."
-Silas Sparkhammer

Posts: 3239 | From: Ontario, Canada | Registered: Sep 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
ds_40
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


Icon 1 posted      Profile for ds_40   E-mail ds_40   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by MapleLeaf:
As far as I know (in my grade 12 private school Hebrew education), the word "maniac" is indeed the same in Hebrew. However, it's pronounced "mun-yuck", not "meh-neey-ahk".

After checking some dictionaries, apparently it is the same word, except it's spelled with two yods (מנייאק). Although, from how hard I had to look to find it, I don't think it's really popular. As Dr Dave pointed out many slang words in Hebrew are the same as words in English, so it may be popular that way.

In reality, with how messy it's written in the first place, missing a letter, and from that extra letter in my image above I'd be suprised if an Israeli would immediatly recgonize the word without either being told, or it the Japanese letters being written to resemble Hebrew letters more closely, as a joke.

Maybe eventually I'll ask my family, most of whom live in Israel and speak Hebrew as a first language. I hope they haven't heard of this, though.

--------------------
àðé ãåã äîìê

Posts: 26 | From: New York, NY | Registered: Apr 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Razela
"Repaint and thin no more!"


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Razela   Author's Homepage   E-mail Razela   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
DS, it can be written with 2 yuds or with 1. 2 yuds tends to mean there is a "y" sound rather then just an "ee" sound, but it is perfectly normal to write it with only one yud as well.
Posts: 20 | From: Tucson, AZ | Registered: Feb 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
ottercreek
The First USA Noel


Icon 1 posted      Profile for ottercreek   E-mail ottercreek   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Interesting talk here and I will toss in my piece. I have heard from a Korean man who aparently knows about Japan that prior to WW2, that the symbolic/metaphorical (for lack of anything else I know to call it) characters for the United States spelled out "Beauty Country" but were changed to "Rice Country" after WW2 as a metaphor for what would eventually be "chewed," a allegorical hint of revenge.

A couple years later a Japanese student told me the word for USA was "Rice Country". She did not confirm that it used to be "Beauty Country."

Now, first I must add that I don't know basically ANYTHING about Japanese or its characters, only that some ways of writing are metaphorical (symbolic) but there is a phonetical, or something like that...

Has anyone heard anything like this?

I am openly stating my lack of knowledge on this one other than what I was told..

Posts: 736 | From: Maryland | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Ganzfeld
Let There Be PCs on Earth


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Ganzfeld     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
The story you got is not correct, ottercreek. The correct explanation deserves a much longer post and I'm on my way to work so I'll post more later.
Posts: 4922 | From: Kyoto, Japan | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Ganzfeld
Let There Be PCs on Earth


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Ganzfeld     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Claim: The Japanese government changed the characters for America from "beautiful country" to "rice country" after World War II as a kind of revenge.

Status: False

Why does Japanese use the characters meaning "rice country" for America while other countries use the characters meaning "beautiful country"? Did the Japanese government change the spelling to spite the US during or after World War II?

There are two urban legends about the use of Chinese characters (kanji) to write the word America in Japanese. Both stories say that the Japanese changed the characters from those meaning "beauty, country" to those meaning "rice, country". One urban legend says that Japan changed the name after the war to spite the occupation forces of the US. The other urban legend, even more unbelievable than the first, says that Japan changed the name to promote the war effort, apparently to say "If we win we can import lots of rice from America." Both of these stories are completely untrue.

The truth is, during the 19th Century, there were two ways of writing the word America in Chinese characters*. Both of them have little to do with the meaning of the characters. Names of countries were determined by the sounds of the characters. For example, France is spelled with the character for Buddhism despite the fact that there were very few people of that faith in France at the time! In Chinese, the character for "beauty" sounds similar to the "me" in "America". Therefore, the Chinese still use the character meaning beauty. In Japanese, the same character is pronounced "mi" or "bi" so it would have looked like "amirica" or "abirica". The character for "rice", on the other hand, is pronounced "mei", which is similar to "me". Therefore, Japanese used the spelling with the word for rice.

Country names in Chinese characters have since been shortened in all languages that use Chinese characters. America became "rice, country" (which looks like rice country but doesn't mean rice country, it simply means America, now more commonly written with phonetic characters) in Japan and "beauty, country" in Chinese and some other countries that use the similar characters. These conventions have been around since the middle of the 19th century and had nothing to do with the war in the Pacific. (Incidentally, there are also mistaken explanations for why Chinese uses the character for "beauty". As in Japanese, it is just a character that fits the pronunciation and at least does not have an unpleasant meaning. It doesn't have anything to do with the Chinese opinion of America, although it would be nice to think it does.)

(* For browsers that can handle the characters, here are the two spellings: 亜米利加 亜美利加. 米is the character for rice and 美 is the character for beauty.)

This explanation comes from this page in Japanese:
http://www001.upp.so-net.ne.jp/yasuaki/misc/lang/lang31.htm

Posts: 4922 | From: Kyoto, Japan | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Steve
Happy Holly Days


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Steve     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Damn.

The Korean word for the US is "Meeguk", from the Chinese for "beautiful country". I'd always thought this was some kind of compliment to the US, a way of acknowledging our aesthetic greatness and general good looks.

Now I see it's just a matter of phonetic convenience. Another comforting illusion down the drain...

Posts: 1699 | From: New York | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Ganzfeld
Let There Be PCs on Earth


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Ganzfeld     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
I should add that the character for "Buddhism" for France is also different in China, where they use the character for "law", also due only to differences in the pronunciation.
Posts: 4922 | From: Kyoto, Japan | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
YudanTaiteki
Deck the Malls


Icon 1 posted      Profile for YudanTaiteki     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Although in some case, the choice of phonetic does appear to be motivated by the meaning as well. The character used for Europe is 欧, which originally meant "vomit" -- this is thought by some kanji researchers to be a deliberate choice of a phonetic with a negative meaning.
Posts: 333 | From: Columbus, OH | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Ganzfeld
Let There Be PCs on Earth


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Ganzfeld     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Oh, that's the same in America, Yudan: "Yurp". It used to mean "vomit". Just kidding.

Well, the same character 欧 means "sing" and other things so I very much doubt there was any intentional meaning involved.

Posts: 4922 | From: Kyoto, Japan | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
ottercreek
The First USA Noel


Icon 1 posted      Profile for ottercreek   E-mail ottercreek   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Ganzfeld:Claim: The Japanese government changed the characters for America from "beautiful country" to "rice country" after World War II as a kind of revenge.

Status: False

Why does Japanese use the characters meaning "rice country" for America while other countries use the characters meaning "beautiful country"? Did the Japanese government change the spelling to spite the US during or after World War II?

There are two urban legends about the use of Chinese characters (kanji) to write the word America in Japanese. Both stories say that the Japanese changed the characters from those meaning "beauty, country" to those meaning "rice, country". One urban legend says that Japan changed the name after the war to spite the occupation forces of the US. The other urban legend, even more unbelievable than the first, says that Japan changed the name to promote the war effort, apparently to say "If we win we can import lots of rice from America." Both of these stories are completely untrue.

The truth is, during the 19th Century, there were two ways of writing the word America in Chinese characters*. Both of them have little to do with the meaning of the characters. Names of countries were determined by the sounds of the characters. For example, France is spelled with the character for Buddhism despite the fact that there were very few people of that faith in France at the time! In Chinese, the character for "beauty" sounds similar to the "me" in "America". Therefore, the Chinese still use the character meaning beauty. In Japanese, the same character is pronounced "mi" or "bi" so it would have looked like "amirica" or "abirica". The character for "rice", on the other hand, is pronounced "mei", which is similar to "me". Therefore, Japanese used the spelling with the word for rice.

Country names in Chinese characters have since been shortened in all languages that use Chinese characters. America became "rice, country" (which looks like rice country but doesn't mean rice country, it simply means America, now more commonly written with phonetic characters) in Japan and "beauty, country" in Chinese and some other countries that use the similar characters. These conventions have been around since the middle of the 19th century and had nothing to do with the war in the Pacific. (Incidentally, there are also mistaken explanations for why Chinese uses the character for "beauty". As in Japanese, it is just a character that fits the pronunciation and at least does not have an unpleasant meaning. It doesn't have anything to do with the Chinese opinion of America, although it would be nice to think it does.)

(* For browsers that can handle the characters, here are the two spellings: 亜米利加 亜美利加. 米is the character for rice and 美 is the character for beauty.)

This explanation comes from this page in Japanese:
" target="_blank">http://www001.upp.so-net.ne.jp/yasuaki/misc/lang/lang31.htm[/QUOTE]

Okay, so someone here says what I heard was false. I said, remember, that I basically HEARD this from someone and that I was openly not knowledgable about this story. If the above explanation is true, and it seems to be pretty concise so I have little reason not to believe it, than this urban legend is NOT just one that is here in the United States because the person I heard it from was from Korea where apparently, this story is told.

Now I wonder who started it all, where and why? That I would love to hear...

Now I would wonder

Posts: 736 | From: Maryland | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
   

Quick Reply
Message:

HTML is enabled.
UBB Code™ is enabled.

Instant Graemlins
   


Post new topic  Post a reply Close topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:


Urban Legends Reference Pages

Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2