We don't always like being nonplussed

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Flail it Yourself: Ho, That's Who

A couple weeks ago we talked about the dysfunctional H/F family of kana and their use in pronouncing foreign (in this case English) loanwords. Today we've got one last example of this weirdness: today's post is brought to you by the letter Ho.

For some inexplicable reason, certain words that begin with the Wh sound are prefaced with Ho- I presume because of the atrocious accents of whoever first brought English to Japan. Probably the British, who really cannot be trusted to pronounce their own language. (Or anybody else's: listen to a British person say "samurai" sometime if you really need a laugh.) This is why, for example, you'll occasionally see Transformers inventor Wheeljack listed as "Hoiljack." "Hoiru" is the preferred Japanese spelling for Wheel.

And since we were speaking of Gundam yesterday, that's also why the White Base's name is spelled "Howaito Besu" in Japanese. But like most bits of bizarre Japanese syntax, it's not universal: Family Guy fans may be disappointed to learn that this rule would not extend to the pronunciation of Cool Whip; generally "whip" is begun with a U sound since there's no Wi-kana, so the result is usually "uippu."

Tomorrow, we'll be back with more Dragon Quest VI! Or possibly even 6!

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