365 Days of Japanese Day #35

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Entry #34 had as its header image an old-fashioned TV.

What is TV in Japanese?

テレビ
“terebi”
TV set

Katakana? CHECK! Sounds like a word we recognise? CHECK! Loan word? YOU BETCHA.

I think a lot of people assume this is a loan word from English but I remember being told in Japan that it actually comes from Brazilian culture and the Portuguese word for television.

televisão
“tele-vizzo”
television

The Portuguese is similar enough to the English that just by looking at them in comparison to the Japanese word it feels like it could be a loan word from either language (or even another language with a similar “televi-” start to the word).

Nevertheless, I was assured that the Japanese word came from Brazilian culture. I haven’t been able to find anything to support this online – most sites simply put it in their lists of “easy to remember” Japanese words that sound similar to the English.

John Logie Baird (inventor of the TV) was a Scot and originally his invention was known as the “televisor”.

So presumably the Portuguese word comes from English anyway…and wouldn’t that make the distinction moot?

I suppose I always found it a bit bizarre how insistent the Japanese man was about the word in Japanese coming from Portuguese and not English. Writing it all out here the claim seems far less plausible than it did at the time.

This entry was a bit different from most. I wanted to set up the Brazilian-Japanese connection for tomorrow, though!

2 Comments

  1. The dictionary entry for テレビ says it comes from テレビジョン and also says “television”.

    https://dictionary.goo.ne.jp/jn/152861/meaning/m0u/テレビ/

    From just the above I thought it came from English, but the below says explicitly it came from French:

    「テレビジョン」はフランス語のtélévision(テレヴィジオン)に由来し、

    https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/テレビ

    Having said, the word originally came from Greek:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Television

    The word television comes from Ancient Greek τῆλε (tèle), meaning ‘far’, and Latin visio, meaning ‘sight’.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s really interesting that it explicitly says it came from French!

      Perhaps that influenced the Japanese person in my entry – that they knew for sure it wasn’t from English but just got the actual language of origin slightly wrong 🤔

      Liked by 1 person

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