Corona, terminology and translation

Profession undoubtedly defines your way of thinking. When I hand my first PhD I already realised that there is no turning back. I will always pay attention to the things that most people seem to miss, enjoy them and talk about them. The recent events proved to be no different. When the world was gasping at each Coronavirus news, I was enjoying the news about terminology.

Recently, due to the sudden outburst of the Novel Coronavirus Japan has learned new terminology such as “cluster”, “overshoot” and “lockdown”. They all came from the English language epidemiologic background and were presented to the Japanese as クラスター, オーバーシュートandロックダウン, in other words as the so-called カタカナ語(Katakana language). A short time later, the Japanese Ministry of Defence referring to the charactisation of  Katakana langauge IT terms requested to re-translate the Katakana language terms (クラスター, オーバーシュートandロックダウン) into the natural for the Japanese language translation. Cluster has become 集団感染 (shuudan kansen – mass infection), Overshoot – 感染爆発 (kansen bakuhatsu – massive spread of infection) and Lock down has become 都市封鎖 (Toshi fuusa – city blockade) . As you can see, they are written in characters and most Japanese people seem more ok with these terms than the former ones written in the alphabet for foreign words (Katakana).

The reason behind this request was the fear that the employees of the Japanese Ministry of Defence might not understand the English language terms in Katakana. True, following this request the majority of Japanese news providers switched to the Japanese-like terms and I started hearing the Katakana terms less often. 

After this news I could not stay still and searched for some terms of the Japanese origin concerning Coronavirus. I found a word コロナ鍋  (Korona ka) and have been wondering how to translate this word for quite some time now. The “corona” part is quite clear. On the other hand, the “鍋” (ka – evil) part is a bit difficult to translate in this context. This term is widely used in the Japanese media and is not used in the English-speaking media.

It is always interesting to observe the naming of the various phenomenon in different countries. In my opinion, those naming demonstrate the attitude towards this or that phenomenon. When the English-speaking media seems to appeal to the fact that everyone is involved by introducing such terms as “corona pandemic”, “corona threat”, the Japanese media seems to appeal to its nature as the word’s greatest evil.

Stay safe and out of harm’s way everyone!

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