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July 2, 2008

The Sound of Lying Around the House and other Japanese Naming Trends

Every language uses onomatopoeia: words made out of sounds that aren't ordinarily part of language (from Greek onoma, "name," and poiéō, "make").

ferrari.png And every language creates onomatopoetic names. The most famous in English is probably Meow Mix, while the most prestigious in Italian must be Ferrari. Okay, Ferrari is an eponym, named after a person, but it still sounds like a roaring sportscar engine, so perhaps Enzo's career was destined from birth.

However, Japanese may be fonder of onomatopoeia than any other language. David Mankin puts it this way: "The Japanese have words for sounds that cannot be heard."
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Not only that, they reduplicate these sounds into word pairs-pairs. My favorite is garo garo, the sound of lying around the house, as described by Rebecca Milner of the CScout Japan trend research blog in her list of Japanese product names created with this technique.

If you're naming a product for the Japanese market, it might be a good idea to pick up a copy of Jazz Up Your Japanese with Onomatopoeia.

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Posted by Diane Prange at July 2, 2008 7:53 AM
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