Ninjas vs. Pirates: Who would win?

If you are under the impression that ninjas and pirates only exist in history books, Hollywood or Somalia, think again. Japan is full of both, but not the stereotypical types. I’m talking about English Piracy and Ninjutsu.

The Japanese are experts at pirating English words for their own twisted uses. The Japanese language has amassed a fortune in loanwords over the past century, mostly appropriated from English. After stealing a word, English pirates then Japanize many of them, either in pronunciation or meaning, so that they are hardly recognizable to their original owners. The Japanese word homu, for example, comes from the English "home" but means a platform in a train station. Service at a store is not help from the shopkeeper, but a free gift given to a customer. Coke is a type of juice, Kim regularly argues with her co-workers about whether “taste” and “challenge” are synonyms and up and off are opposites (You can level up by increasing your English-speaking ability, but if you want to decrease your daily calorie intake, you buy calorie off soda.).

Not to be outdone by their fellow countrymen, Japan is also full of English ninjas who have undergone eight years of compulsory training as part of their public school curriculum. They may insist to you that they don’t speak English, and you may be fooled into believing their protestations when you think of all the Engrish you’ve encountered. You begin to let your guard down, strengthened and comforted by the belief that you speak a secret code language that no one in Japan has cracked. But then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere HAIYA! someone blitzes you with the most obscure piece of vocabulary, or even more surprising, a complete, grammatically correct sentence. English ninjas have hit me with words like “barbarian” and “ubiquitous”. I know native speakers who don’t know the word “ubiquitous”.

In the classic battle of ninjas versus pirates, I’m pretty sure the Japanese win either way.


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