18 Nov 2007

Omakase, Yojimbo....Bento?? Makes sense, little sense, no sense at all.

filed under: journal  :: japanese  :: language  :: software  :: terminology

I have stated here quite a few times (most recently) about my feelings of awkwardness (the perfect Japanese word for it would be kusuguttasa (くすぐったさ)) about the inclusion of Japanese culture into Western and/or American culture in recent years. One aspect that I don't think I've touched on is the use of Japanese phrases for American/western products. Some of these make sense, others are laughably off.

Amazon Omakase Links, the contextual ad serving system for the Amazon Associates program, makes sense, because omakase means "leave it up (to someone else)". They took it from the sushi restaurant usage of the word, so the meaning is quite clear. You leave it up the Amazon elves to serve up the most appropriate product listings for your site.

Bare Bones' Yojimbo, the 'bits of data' organizer for OS X, makes sense only halfway. A yo-jimbo- (用心棒) is a bodyguard or a 'heavy', and I'm not sure how Yojimbo the software program guards your data in any way - it just collects it in one location. My best guess is that they just picked a vaguely related cool sounding Japanese word out of a hat.

Bento is a new product for Filemaker Pro, which, if I understand correctly, seems to put a pretty graphical 'dummy layer' on top of Filemaker Pro so that 'non-programmers' can make databases. Here's a review on TidBITs. Now here the use of Bento makes little to no sense whatsoever. It seems (from the graphics on the Filemaker Pro site) that they took the compartmentalized-box metaphor of some bento boxes. But that doesn't really serve to explain the functionality of the actual product at all.

Since Japanese companies have been borrowing English, or other language, words at will to slap sometimes head-scratchingly obscure names on their products for decades now, I suppose it's payback time. I need to stop paying too much attention to it, to avoid going batty.

(As well as being slightly put off by all the 'raw fishy' puns in the TidBITs review. Sushi does NOT equal Japanese food, ffs. This is sort of why I'd wish these American/Engish-monoglot namers of products would lay off Japanese and go and assault a language I have no familiarity with. Go go Finnish!)

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