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Sep 2, 2013
This week's theme
Words borrowed from Japanese

This week's words
kabuki
honcho
skosh
kamikaze
tycoon

kabuki
Kabuki
Photo: St Stev

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

We have had a week (or more) of words borrowed from Spanish. We have featured a week (or more) of words borrowed from French. We have showcased words borrowed from many other languages, but so far we have not had a week devoted to words borrowed from Japanese.

Last month I visited Japan. And instead of a lousy T-shirt, I have brought back for you Japanese words that English has borrowed.

You may already be familiar with Japanese borrowings such as futon (literally, bed quilt -- in Japan a futon is a thin mattress to be placed on the floor for sleeping), karaoke (literally, empty orchestra), and sayonara (literally, thus if it be). This week we'll see some other Japanese words that are now part of the English language.

Also, look for my travel reports in AWADmail over the next several weekends.

kabuki

PRONUNCIATION:
(kah-BOO-kee, KAH-boo-kee)

MEANING:
1. A form of Japanese drama that includes highly stylized movements, dances, singing, and miming, and all parts are played by males.
2. Done for the show only; make-believe.

ETYMOLOGY:
From Japanese kabuki, from ka (song) + bu (dance) + ki (skill). Apparently this is a reinterpreted form of the verb kabuku (to lean, deviate, or act dissolutely). Kabuki is the popular form of the older Noh, the classical drama of Japan. Earliest documented use: 1899.

USAGE:
"I think a first date should go like this: The man reaches for the check, the woman offers to split it, the man declines, saying 'No, I've got it.' It's a bit of Kabuki theater."
Andrea Pyros; You're Paying, Right?; Denver Post (Colorado); Nov 12, 2012.

"In the kabuki theatre of British parliamentary politics, great crimes do not happen and criminals go free."
John Pilger; Let's Learn from Blair's Mistakes; New Statesman (London, UK); Feb 20, 2012.

"Cokie Roberts: This week though, really, is a kabuki dance. Everybody is going through motions that they know are going to lead nowhere."
Deadline Still Hangs Over Debt-Ceiling Talks; Morning Edition; National Public Radio (Washington, DC); Jul 18, 2011.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
It's impossible to be loyal to your family, your friends, your country, and your principles, all at the same time. -Mignon McLaughlin, journalist and author (1913-1983)

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