22

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 electrical outlet and where did it come from?

18

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 '14 at 19:15
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    It's not that "concentric" doesn't make sense but absent any context, "concent"/"concentric" tells you nothing and doesn't mean the same in English. In other words, if you say "concentric" in English to an English speaker, they would never understand that as an electric outlet. – psosuna Sep 26 at 17:19
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    The context is the charger and the electrical outlet. – JACK Sep 27 at 18:55
13

It appears that コンセント derives from "concentric plug", as plugs were round (concentric) in early 20th century England.

コンセント

source

  • 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 '14 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 '14 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 '14 at 0:36
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    @EiríkrÚtlendi Do you call パトカー 和製英語 or a "straightforward abbreviation" (or a "non-straightforward abbreviation")? – Earthliŋ Jun 7 '14 at 0:40
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    Right, somehow we were cut off in the middle of a conversation 5 years ago =) Anyway, I agree that 和製英語 in my earlier comment is probably not the right term, as it is quite likely just an abbreviation of a transliteration like コンセントリックプラグ (or just コンセントリック). I guess you agree that the abbreviation would have happened in Japanese, though, and not in English. – Earthliŋ Sep 28 at 0:00

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