Apr 5, 2009

The Word for Termite in Japanese

I just thought everyone would like to know a little thing I learned in Japanese but never made a correlation to it in English. This great discovery is that ants aren't too much different from termites. In fact, it is only the color that changes the insect.

In Japanese

ants = ari 蟻 or アリ - in katakana
termites = shiro ari  シロアリ - white ant

Shiroi is the Japanese word for white. Since shiroi, or 白い is in adjectivial form, before a noun we take away the i, or い , so that we have "shiroari", 白アリ or termite instead of shiroi ari. (In the case above, the word for termite is written in all Katakana, which implies that the Japanese think that termites aren't of Japanese origin. However, they still call them white ants because of the shiro part, they just don't use the kanji part for white, 白い.)

That is to say that termites are just ants that are white, or white ants. Doesn't that make sense? In English we totally get screwed up thinking that termites are an all together different species of insect, but really, they are just white ants that like to eat wood.

Japanetics is Language learning to the max