Jewish race tongue




Above is a photo sent to us by Stephen in Tokyo, who asks:

What is a Jewish race tongue?

I’ve attached a photo of the English version of instructions for disposing of rubbish in my building. The instructions won’t win any prizes for literary style but I can just about guess what it most of it means…except for the bit about a Jewish race tongue. What is it and how big is one? Is there a chance that I may have unwittingly disposed of one in the wrong fashion?

Readers, could you go to the comments to shed light up this? Perhaps you could feed the phrase ‘Jewish race tongue’ into Google Translate, turn it back into Japanese, and translate that properly.


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10 Responses to “Jewish race tongue”

  1. Jonny 5 Says:

    Have to agree with Yoshiaki – it is a mistranslation from carpet.

    Archimedes – here is the Yahoo translator;

    Also you said yourself that produces ‘Jewish Tounge’, which pretty much confirms that this is where the mistake comes from, rather than a hebrew/table mix-up. It seems quite a strech that someone would type ヘブル (heburu) instead of テーブル (te-buru) – anyway translation sites would just translate ヘブル as ‘Hebrew’ not ‘Jewish Race Tounge’

    Also as the just after ‘Jewish Race Tounge’ comes ‘furniture’ and ‘desk’ it would seem weird to say ‘table’, ‘furniture’ and ‘desk’.

    To be conclusive would need to see the Japanese version of course.

    • Archimedes Says:

      What Yoshiaki has done is enter the symbols which are only used for foreign words (which jyutan isn’t) for the sounds “jyu” and “tan” separated by a hyphen to prevent proper translation into a selected translator which has not translated it, but has produced a direct phonetic conversation to give “jew” and “tongue”. There is no translation of meaning, apart form which “jew tongue” does not correspond to the target phrase very well.

      Then no Japanese would ever write a native Japanese word in katakana. It would be written in hiragana or more likely kanji. Yoshiaki’s argument is baseless.

      To go from teburu to heburu requires one key error (yes Japanese keyboards use western style letter keys in the QWERTY layout, and the words are typed in a normal way with completed phonemes giving the user prompts to select required characters), while the carpet theory requires an artificiality created combination of sounds being entered in to specific software.

      It also seems much more likely that table would be included in a list of items of furniture than a carpet would be, and given the content of the poster I doubt the writer would be bothered with tautologies. Besides which carpets are very rare in Japanese homes and who disposes of their own carpets when the people fitting the new ones can take the old bits away.

      As to why heburu would produce Jewish Race Tongue, one reason may be the strange ways translators try to separate the nationality from the language (the tongue), clearly something odd has happened in the translation process, but this doesn’t support the case for carpet.

      Anyway, I think I’ve covered just about every conceivable point here, lets hope we get to see the original.


      • Jonny 5 Says: – probably the most common English to Japanese web translator used in Japan changes ジュータン in ‘Jewish Race Tongue’.

        I have seen the phrase ジュータン クリーニング used pretty widely in Japan, so don’t think it would be that unlikely for someone to write it in Katakana and every Japanese house I have been in or rented has had at least one small rug – which is also called a jyutan.

        It must be Friday for me to want to spend this long thinking about Japanese rugs…

      • Finlay Says:

        Well, it’s wrong that Japanese-origin words are ONLY written in hiragana/kanji and NEVER in katakana, to start with. Animal and plant names are usually written in katakana, and words that people want to emphasise are written in katakana. Another example I’ve seen is ケータイ for mobile phones (normally it’s けいたい or 携帯 but it can be written in katakana for a variety of stylistic reasons), or there’s at least one advert I’ve seen with トーキョー for Tokyo. It’s not so clear cut.

        But you’re right that this is usually the case, and here, the web translator that Jonny linked basically shows you the answer here – whoever wrote this used the katakana ジュータン, but the translator didn’t recognise this as the word for carpet because it’s comparatively rare to write it like that.

        I also think テーブル > ヘブル as a misspelling is a bit of a stretch, since it’s not only the change from テ to ヘ but also the addition of that line thing.

  2. Yoshiaki Ichibagase Says:

    Hi!, Helen & Olly.
    I enjoy listing your Answer Me This! Podcast. I suppose a Jewish race tongue means a carpet. A carpet is called “Jyutan” in Japanese, especially by aged person. It sounds like “Jew tongue”, and may be happened because of mistranslation by a goofy Japanese web translator. Bye.

    • Archimedes Says:

      Yoskiaki, why would translation software make jyutan into Jewish Race Tongue? There is similarity in sound between jyutan and jew tongue but that’s how it sounds, not a translation and where does “race” come from.

      If you type teburu into to Google translate it prompts テーブル and translates to table, if you type heburu in you are prompted with ヘブル which give Hebrew. Seem much more likely.

      • Yoshiaki Says:

        Archimedes, Google translator is a quite smart. Please try to use Japanese Yahoo translator by typing ジュータン in Katakana. It gives The Jewish race tongue.

        • Archimedes Says:

          1. Yahoo don’t provide a translator (that any search in or can find).
          2. Bing translator translates ジュータン as “Justin”
          3. does produce “Jew Tongue” – but as the phrase being examined is “Jewish Race Tongue” I don’t really feel that is a match, especially considering:
          4. ジュータン in katakana is not the standard spelling of jyu-tan – which is normally written in kanji. If you want to write it hiragana (which it being a word of Japanese origin should be written in kanji or hiragana) it would be じゅうたん – which is jyutan. – as I’m sure you know katakana are used for load words – the load word for carpet is “carpet.”

          In summary, I dispute your suggestion..

  3. Archimedes Says:

    Most likely explanation is that Jewish Race Tongue started out as table – which in hiragana would be te-bu-ru. This has been entered into the translation software as he-be-ru by mistake which produces Hebrew – the tongue of the Jewish race.

  4. Finlay Says:

    There’s a Japanese version above the English – perhaps the answer is in there?

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