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Friday, Nov. 18, 2011

Dictionary details foreign brand names


Matsue, Shimane Pref. — A unique English-Japanese dictionary with the names of U.S. and European brands and products has been published by an English linguistics researcher to enhance readers' understanding of foreign novels, movies and news reports.

The English-Japanese Dictionary of Brand Names (Eiwa Burandomei Jiten), compiled by Masayoshi Yamada, contains detailed explanations of around 6,500 famous brands, including their history and origin.

Among them are relatively new products such as Roomba, a vacuum cleaner robot, and RadEye, a handy radiation indicator much in demand since the Fukushima nuclear crisis started, as well as brands recognized worldwide, such as McDonald's, Marlboro and Polo Ralph Lauren.

"I didn't learn about Subway, the world's largest sandwich chain, until I read about it in a newspaper, as there are no shops in Shimane Prefecture," said Yamada, a 74-year-old professor emeritus at Shimane University, based in the city of Matsue. "So I decided to include it (in the dictionary)."

Yamada initially came up with the idea of compiling a dictionary of brand and product names in the late 1970s, after he found that Tums, the name of an antacid, had been incorrectly translated as a cigarette brand in the Japanese edition of "Breakfast at Tiffany's," Truman Capote's famous 1958 novel.

Yamada was a visiting researcher at the University of Kansas at the time, and started collecting the names of products while shopping at supermarkets and reading novels and magazines.

After returning to Japan, he continued to gather information about product names through checking books, consulting with friends and sending letters to manufacturers, and in 1990 published A Dictionary of Trade Names (Eiwa Shohimmei Jiten).

It proved popular and was even translated into Chinese.

But given the huge number of new brands and products that have hit the market since the dictionary's publication, as well as all those that have been scrapped, Yamada decided to revise it with the help of Yoshifumi Tanaka, 50, a professor also at the University of Shimane.

"With the Internet, it's become easier to find new brands than when I worked on the first dictionary," Yamada said. "But it's also become more challenging to sift through enormous amounts of information and select . . . data."

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