Wednesday, September 13

Dubious Etymologies of the Demimonde

From Tokyo suisho 東京粋書 [Notes on Tokyo chic] (1881), by Nozaki Sabun:
Ōraigi ["ōrai" courtesans]: What does ōrai mean? Perhaps to come by invitation, or perhaps to be expected to come? But this is not the case. According to my investigations, this word derives from the English phrase “all right.” “All right” is equivalent to “sore de yoroshi” or other expressions of possibility or assent in Japanese. So, when a customer wants to tumble a courtesan, if he pays a little cash and asks “How about it?”, the courtesan quickly gives assent. This assent is “all right”...
    He goes on a bit to talk about the fashionable use of English words lately, including “kame” for dog. (This one is still in the Kôjien dictionary. It’s apparently derived from hearing foreign sailors yell “come here” at their dogs.)
    I found this, by the way, in the incredible cornucopia that is the National Diet Library’s Modern Digital Library. I think it is no exaggeration to say that this is greatest thing ever put on an internet. Do you want to know what the style was in Shinbashi 125 years ago? Learn Esperanto through Japanese? Compare six different translations of the Arabian Nights?
Or maybe get this amazing illustration from Jinpingmei tattooed on your back? (If anyone does this by the way, you should send me a photo.)

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