I've been wondering lately about the usage of 外来語 that seem especially redundant, such as ドライバー instead of ねじ回し, ヘア instead of 毛, or マップ instead of 地図. I understand many of the purposes of 外来語 when a native word exists, such as distinguishing between a Japanese and foreign version of an item, advertising and stylistic reasons, and offering a way to distinguish between similar objects that use the same word in Japanese (such as ヘルメット and かぶと or 針{はり} and ニードル). However, when dealing with a simple object, especially an object that is unlikely to have cultural differences and is simple enough to negate the need for synonyms, where do these words fit in?

To be more specific, is there a nuance in the usage of 外来語 versus perfectly well-known and functional Japanese terms in daily speech? Would the usage of such 外来語 potentially irritate some people? Does this nuance change when the native word in question is 大和言葉{やまとことば} as opposed to 漢語{かんご}? Are these sort of 外来語 mostly common among younger or more trendy crowds, or would they enter the daily speech of, say, a middle-aged housewife?

1 Answer 1


This greatly depends on the word...

As for 地図 vs マップ and 毛 vs ヘア, the traditional kanji versions are still the normal choices. We hear ヘア in very limited situations, like in hair salons and ads for shampoo.

See: Difference between マップ and 地図

As for ねじ回し vs ドライバー, ねじ weren't common in Japan until after the Edo period, so it was natural that ドライバー became the first choice.

But there are some words that have actually taken the place of traditional Japanese words in the last 100 years or so. See my answer in: What causes loan words to displace native words for existing concepts? Hypothetically speaking, if someone removed the kanji 鏡 from 常用漢字表 today, after 80 years, I guess everyone would use ミラー instead :-)

In general, using unfamiliar katakana 外来語 excessively may irritate some people, yes (exaggerated example here, although this is a kind of joke).


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