English Atrocities: Wa-sei Eigo and the Legendary Unintelligible Abbrev.

Those with a mazakon may be shocked and humiliated to find that it is a word which well describes them, when it is eventually pointed out that the word is a grotesque mutation of the phrase “mother complex”. The good news is that a “mother complex” in Japanese is not the same thing as an Oedipal complex, and is merely a hip way of calling someone a “mama’s boy” (they are kind of different, right?). As such, it is classified as slang and often overused by the slanghappy, to the point that the mere mention of one’s mother in a neutral to positive light may result in one being labeled a mazakon, which, incidentally, is used as a noun identifying the person directly, not as a thing that person has. Example!

Ferdy: It’s Mother’s Day this Sunday so I thought I’d give my mum a call.
Hiroki-san: Geez, Ferdy, I didn’t realize you were a Mother Complex.
Ferdy: I’m a homo sapien.

Mazakon, or mazaa konpurekusu as it’s officially known, is also classified as Wa-sei Eigo, which means “English Manufactured in Japan”. The Japanese should stop manufacturing English. It’s a strange practice, and when you think about it, a little bit creepy. The Americans have dabbled in similar practices in the past, using the scraps of other languages to forge horrid non-words like “Croissandwich” and “Guac”, and even whole sentences like “Guac croissandwich, duderino?”, but such practices have generally been restricted to the corporate food world, where just about anything, no matter how filthy or disgusting, goes. In Japan, meanwhile, the spontaneous generation of pseudo-English atrocities is a phenomenon which occurs constantly, in our schools and Shintô shrines, on buses and in back alleys. I’ve had friends attempt it and then report back to me. “Hey, here’s a little Japan-Manufactured English I made up the other day. Wanna see if it activates your gag reflex there, Greggie?” “No testing phase necessary, buddy, go ahead and slap a price sticker on that one!” In the pursuit of self-expression, what is it that possesses a person to just jumble up foreign words into a nonsensical phrase when the option to use real words that actually exist is so glaringly present?

Well, you’ll find no answers within this blog; only layer after oniony layer of doubt. One thing that’s clear, however, is that these Japanese-Manufactured English expressions are produced with no intention of being used to communicate with people who speak real English. As such, the Japanese are free to abbreviate these words and phrases to the point of complete disfigurement, so that one would have no chance of figuring out what English word they originally came from. You see, the fact is that when an English (or whatever) word is transliterated into the Japanese katakana syllabary, it effectively takes twice as long to say because every consonant must be coupled with a vowel. Hence a simple word like is becomes izu when transliterated into katakana. Consequently, a phrase which would be semi-long in English becomes horrendously long in Japanese. People can’t be canceling meetings and dentists’ appointments left and right to make time for phrases like “mazaa konpurekusu” or “waado purosessa (word processor)”, but they also insist that such phrases must be spewed out as frequently as possible. The solution is to abbreviate these katakanafied words into briefer katakanafied words, so that the final product has no resemblance to the original root, not unlike the man whose face is permanently mutilated in a bike accident after a split-second’s poor decision. And thus, the mazakon. Thus, the pasokon (personal computer). Thus, the eakon (air conditioner). Thus, the rimokon (remote control). Thus, the gô-kon (a Japanese-English compound word for added blasphemy, meaning a sort of group date, coming from the kanji 合 (to meet) and the English word company). The same kon is an abbreviation for “complex,” “computer,” “conditioner,” “controller,” and “company”.

The cost of this continued horror insofar as it concerns your faithful writer is a multiple generation-spanning tendency of the Japanese to believe these words will somehow be easier for a person like me to understand, sometimes even choosing them over more accurate English. “I was on my PC the other day,” they might start. “Oh, by which I mean my pasokon, Greg, sorry. I know how confusing those abbreviations must be for you, so there’s the full English word there. Pasokon.” If they weren’t so damn well-meaning I’d be stamping “Don’t Tread on Me” on people’s faces left and right, but as it stands, I just feel like they ought to cut out all the fake English and make things a lot less complicated. Or to use the Japanese English, a lot less kon.

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