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Or other cases when a single word/particle is rendered in romaji within a sentence otherwise written in normal Japanese. This is something I first came across on cooking websites, for example:

ルクエde白パン (where ルクエ refers to the cookware used)

塩麴{しおこうじ}deあさりのパスタ (where 塩麴 is a notable ingredient)

I've also seen it in advertising materials, for example a range of children's toys that you can use in the bath, made by トミカ is called 「おふろDEトミカ」

The interesting part is that this seems to be much more common with "de" than with other particles, as far as I can tell (examples with "ni"/"no"/"to" exist but they seem to be less frequent - please correct me if I'm wrong on that).

Actual questions:

  1. Is this usage influenced by the existence of "de" as a preposition in Spanish and French?
  2. In cases like の, when the romaji version could be read as the English word "no"/shorthand for "number"/etc, is this avoided? Used for puns?
  3. Is this a very recent phenomenon? Was there a particular source that popularised it? (For example a popular cookbook or restaurant used it and the people I see on the internet doing the same are just copying that).
  4. Are there cases where this happens for other parts of a sentence, e.g. just one particular noun or verb rendered in romaji?

Examples of really good/bad puns using romaji in this manner also very welcome.

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

I think it comes from French as you guessed. In modern Japan (as well as in many other countries), it is generally considered that French cuisine is the world's most sophisticated dish, and the best place for studying abroad for cooking was France. Many of the top chefs in Japan had studied cooking in France, and they tend to use French in the menu. That is why you see de mainly in cooking context.

For the recent use, I think they are parody/puns that derive from this practice. Particularly, your トミカ example is out of the context of cooking, and is obvious that it is a parody.

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Thanks! That makes sense - I see the same happening in English where French terms are often used in restaurants (like putting creme anglaise on the menu when really you just mean custard). – nkjt Jun 12 '12 at 14:55

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