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A quick Edict, Kotobank, Excite.co.jp, and Goo search on ガム shows that it is an abbreviation for チューインガム.

Google results for ガム also seems to suggest so. (Notice that the results only show チューインガム and no 風船ガム)

But can ガム be used to mean "bubble gum", or is it actually already a codified term for "chewing gums"?

Take for example we have both a chewing gum and a bubble gum on a table. Will "ガム持ってきて" be ambiguous because ガム can refer to both items? Or would it non-ambiguous because in that context, ガム will most surely be referring to the chewing gum?

Note: Bubble gums can be blown, like a balloon coming straight out of the mouth. Chewing gums can't achieve that, no matter how hard one tries.

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What's the difference between bubble gum and chewing gum? –  Earthliŋ Jan 15 at 13:02
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@Earthling, bubble gums can be blown... –  Pacerier Jan 15 at 13:07
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I don't think the distinction is usually that clear even in English.. –  ssb Jan 15 at 13:10
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@ssb, Hmm not too sure what you mean by that, because people (at least in my location) definitely differentiate bubble gums from chewing gums en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bubble_gum –  Pacerier Jan 15 at 13:32
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@ssb: Bubble gum and chewing gum are very different things. –  istrasci Jan 15 at 15:44
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2 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Sure, ガム can be used to refer to bubble gum.

ガム is short for チューインガム, and according to 広辞苑, 風船ガム is a type of チューインガム:

ふうせん-ガム【風船ガム】
 息を吹き入れて風船のようにふくらますことのできるチューインガム

And if you look online, you can find people saying ガムを膨{ふく}らます. Sure, sometimes they write 風船ガム, but sometimes it's just ガム. For example, take a look at this question on OKWave:

ガムを膨らますことが出来ますか?

...

そこで質問なんですが、あなたはガムを膨らますことが出来ますか?
私の回答は「風船ガムならいつでも可、普通のガムなら二個以上なら可」です。

Here, they talk about how they can always manage to blow bubbles with 風船ガム "bubble gum", which they compare to 普通のガム "regular gum". And the question title simply says ガム, which appears to be a hypernym of both 風船ガム and 普通のガム. If ガム really didn't include 風船ガム, the question title would be confusing, and they wouldn't have had to specify 「普通の」 in the question body—just saying ガム would be enough. Obviously, that isn't the case!

The same goes for the top answer on the question. Here's an excerpt:

ガムを膨らますことは出来ました。
どんなガムでもOKです。

You can find plenty more examples like these. As you can see, people don't have trouble understanding 風船ガム (or バブルガム) as a type of ガム.

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I don't quite understand the question, but ガム means in all contexts some type of chewing gum (which includes bubble gum).

The word バブルガム is used sometimes, but not necessarily understood to mean "bubble gum"; it may refer to a particular branded chewing gum (e.g. Xylitol Trident Bubblegum).

There is the word 風船ガム which means "inflatable gum", so I guess, this would be the default choice to distinguish blowable gum from unblowable gum.

For other conceivable contexts where "gum" might be used (e.g. a water seal, anything rubbery), there is the etymologically related word ゴム.

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When you say that ガム encompasses bubble gums, do you mean that when there's a chewing gum and a bubble gum on the table "ガム持ってきて" would be ambiguous? Or would it non-ambiguous because ガム is codified to mean chewing gums? –  Pacerier Jan 15 at 13:39
    
I think it is ambiguous, but let me ask you: There's a green apple (青りんご) and a regular (reddish) apple (りんご) on the table. I tell you "りんごを取ってください". Is this request ambiguous? Or is it non-ambiguous because りんご is codified to mean "regular (reddish) apple"? –  Earthliŋ Jan 15 at 13:49
    
This is a wrong substitution. In the first scenario, "bring the chewing gum over" would be unambiguous when there's a chewing gum and a bubble gum on the table. "bring the gum over" would be ambiguous because in English, "gum" is not codified to mean chewing gum. Now in Japanese, is ガム codified to mean chewing gum? –  Pacerier Jan 15 at 13:55
    
My answer is no, as I stated in my answer. I use the wording of the Wikipedia page you linked to (where it says "Bubble gum is a type of chewing gum"), so that chewing gum includes bubble gum. The Wikipedia article seems to suggest that "bring the chewing gum over" should be ambiguous, because bubble gum is a type of chewing gum. In your last comment, you seem to suggest that chewing gum is different from bubble gum (just both are a type of "gum"). –  Earthliŋ Jan 15 at 14:08
    
Technically a bubble gum is a type of chewing gum, but the term "chewing gum" has another usage, that which is codified to mean "gum that can't be blown". Basically, I'm wondering if "ガム" has this usage as well. In the first scenario, "bring the chewing gum over" would be unambiguous because "chewing gum" can mean either "soft, cohesive substance intended for chewing" or "gum that can't be blown". The context makes it clear that the sentence means "bring the gum that can't be blown over". –  Pacerier Jan 15 at 14:21
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