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Saw this on a charger I bought online and was really perplexed. What foreign word does it represent? "concentric"? What does that have to do with outlet and where did it come from?

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up vote 11 down vote accepted

It is 和製英語. Sometime around the 1920s, employees at 東京電燈会社 created a device which consisted of a plug and outlet. This was called コンセントプラグ "concentric plug". Outlets without the plugs are now referred to as コンセント. Needless to say, English "concentric" does not make much sense.

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Why should the コンセント part of コンセントプラグ be interpreted as “concentric” if doing so does not make sense? –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jan 20 '13 at 17:37
    
Shogakukan gives the same "concentric plug" as the etymology. This is also not so strange as an English phrase, as found in this US Patent # 6786744 B1. Limiting one's search to the UK also finds examples like this part ordering page or this entry in an English-French online dictionary, which even includes the abbreviated form "consent" in the English. –  Eiríkr Útlendi Jun 3 at 19:15
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It comes from concentric plug. Although the origin is not 100% clear, it appears that plugs were round (concentric) in early 20th century England, which may be where the word comes from.

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See my comment to Dono's answer -- this isn't 和製英語 at all, but what appears to be British slang "consent" for "concentric plug", itself a pretty straightforward term for the round plugs-and-sockets common in many countries. –  Eiríkr Útlendi Jun 6 at 23:42
    
@EiríkrÚtlendi I'm afraid I can't find the entry where the English is abbreviated to "consent". The English-French dictionary doesn't have an entry for "consent", only a buffered search containing "consent", which probably came from here, i.e. コンセント could mean either plug or consent (authorization) and lumping them together bled into other dictionaries. So far, I still think it more likely that コンセント is 和製英語, derived from "concentric plug". –  Earthliŋ Jun 7 at 0:04
    
There's a reminder to slow down when I'm tired. Sure enough, that was a cached search. That said, I still don't think it's 和製英語 so much as a straightforward abbreviation, given that "concentric plug" or "concentric outlet" is in use without reference to Japan or Japanese (google.com/…), and the meaning is the same. –  Eiríkr Útlendi Jun 7 at 0:36
    
@EiríkrÚtlendi Do you call パトカー 和製英語 or a "straightforward abbreviation" (or a "non-straightforward abbreviation")? –  Earthliŋ Jun 7 at 0:40
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