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Introduction: Long time ago, when I had no idea Velcro tape was called マジックテープ in Japanese I tried to suggest using it to my Japanese colleague. He had no idea about the word "Velcro", so I tried an example of bur, but I found Japanese people think of food when they hear ゴボウ (burdock) rather than its seeds.

Now I have found these stuck to my jeans:

Japanese burs

(in reality they were greener, about 5 mm in size).

Question: What is the plant (or seeds) called in Japanese and is its feature of sticking to animals/human known well enough to use it as an explanation of the way Velcro tape works?

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The generic name you are lookig for would be 「ひっつき[虫]{むし}」 or 「くっつき虫」.

「ひっつく」 means "to adhere to". 「くっつく」 is its synonym.

http://matsue-hana.com/yasou/hittukimusi.html

As to your other question, I just remembered hearing somewhere long ago how Velcro was invented from the observation of these plants, but I think that is because reading your question has triggered my memory.

「ひっつき虫のようにひっつくテープ」 would only be understood by those who are familiar with the word 「ひっつき虫」, which I feel like was in my active vocabulary as a kid but is not really there any more.

「マジックテープ」 would probably be the only word that every Japanese-speaker is familiar with.

  • マイナーな方言だと思ってましたが、Wikipediaにも(俗語として)記事があったのでびっくり… – naruto Oct 19 '15 at 12:08
  • Velcro themselves claim it was burr that inspired the tape. Several European languages (German, Norwegian, Polish) call the tape with a name derived from the word burr in their vernaculars, hence my immediate (failed) try with ゴボウ. – macraf Oct 19 '15 at 12:15
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    @l'électeur: Why do you keep making all of your answers into community wikis? I don't think your answers need true community collaboration. If you're trying to be "humble" by not gaining any rep, I assure you no one cares. – istrasci Oct 19 '15 at 14:50

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