Japan Word of the Day #90 – Gomu

wagomu-rubber-band-rinkya-japan

Today’s Word is: Gomu (ゴム)

Because so many words in Japanese are based on English, it’s easy to mistakingly assume one can communicate by simply saying English words in Japanese pronunciation. However, you have to remember that Japanese words are actually derived from many different languages.

One good example is rubber. In Japanese, rubber is called “gomu (ゴム).”
It’s named after Dutch word “gom.”
In English, rubber products are named in combination with the word rubber, such as “rubber band” and “rubber (as an eraser).” Since in Japanese, the base word is “gomu,” related items are named in combination with it.

Here are some examples:

1) Wagomu (輪ゴム): rubber band. Wa = loop / gomu = rubber
2) Keshigomu (消しゴム): eraser. Keshi = erase / gomu = rubber
3) Gomu (ゴム): a slang term for condom.
4) Gomu tebukuro (ゴム手袋): Rubber gloves. Gomu = rubber / tebukuro = gloves

However, some of the more recently introduced products such as car rubber mats are called rubber mat (rabā matto/ラバーマット), directly borrowed from English word. So in such case you’d just have to learn specific terms one by one.

Image source: Pokke

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