These words may seem to be English in origin, but they’re definitely Japanese words.
Have you ever spoken with someone who’s grown up speaking Japanese and they suddenly whip out a word that they keep insisting is English, but you have no idea what it’s supposed to mean? It’s as if two English words have been squashed together, or a single word has been given an entirely new definition.
A quick example of this would be “my boom”. If you’ve been asked what your “my boom” is and have no idea what that means (something like “what you are extremely interested in right now”), welcome to the wonderful world of wasei eigo. These words sound like they should have an English origin and definition, but they’re more accurately Japanese words made from English elements.
This fun video from Great Big Story gives more examples of wasei eigo. They highlight Japanese words that have become so popular and commonly used they’ve actually become a part of the English vernacular.
It’s interesting to realize the meaning of karaoke is literally “empty orchestra”. And as anyone who has dabbled with karaoke in Japan knows, a night singing with friends often starts or ends with a round of purikura — another example of wasei eigo which combines the words “print” (puri) and “club” (kura) to form that magical Japanese photo booth that makes your eyes huge and skin especially glamorous.
As the proficiency of the English language continues to rise in Japan, who knows what other sort of words they will come up with that will mystify a native English speaker. With the transformations they’re making in the English language, maybe one day there will be a full Japanese dialect of English.
Until the day arrives where you will need to take a full course in order to understand nihonben (“Japanese accent”) English, here are some more handy lists of wasei eigo terms that you can familiarize yourself with.