Lucky for us, Finlay from Edinburgh but now in Tokyo speaks fluent Super Mario:

In the latest podcast you mentioned the phrase “1-up”. This is a classic example of Japanese English: basically, when the Japanese borrow words from English, sometimes the meanings change.

In this case, the Japanese word(s) for “up”, usually represented by the character 上 (down is 下, in case you were wondering), have a wider range of meanings than the English word “up”, including things like go up, increase, get up, over, on, and so on. When they borrowed the English word “up”, it was applied to a wider range of meanings, in this case particularly the one meaning “increase”. Another word that was changed is “get”; they use it when they achieve something.

Some of these phrases eventually filter back into English, so you often see 1UP and GET in videogames, and internet denizens sometimes use get in phrases like FIRST POST GET!!

And that is today’s lesson about linguistic borrowing. We’re all learning through play, we really are.


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2 Responses to “1upmanship”

  1. rosario001 Says:

    Loved that!

  2. Finlay Says:

    Glad you liked my contribution! I found an example “in the wild”, which I thought I should share with you. It’s from a drinks can. Here the first line indicates the flavour: カシスオレンジ/kashisu-orenji/cassis-orange; while the writing in the circle says ジューシー感UP (jūshī-kan UP), or literally translated “juicy-sensation UP”. In English we would probably say something like “More Flavour!”. Or maybe something like “We’ve increased the level of juicy flavour in this can.” ;p

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