Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Katakana Analysis Draft

The most interesting katakana word I saw was キレイ. It was on the back of Pantene Pro-V hair product. In this manner, katakana is used for emphasis. When I first looked at the back of the bottle, this is one of the first words I noticed, which means the fact about the product being emphasized was done so successfully. If キレイhad been written in hiragana or kanji, I would have just read over it.

The other example of katakana I saw was also used for emphasis, the word ヒップ on a package of stockings. I looked on the package, and noticed that the word for height was written in kanji, but the word for hip was written in katakana. I'm not sure why there was emphasis placed on the word "hip." I think people choose to write certain words in katakana because they want  you to be especially aware of them. It's clear why the beauty product company Pantene wants you to pay attention to the fact that the product will make your hair look pretty, but I'm still not clear on why "hip" is emphasized. Could this mean that hip size is more important...?


  1. I agree that キレイ was used to emphasize the meaning. However, I believe the word "hip" was used as it is. As you know, Japanese borrows a lot of its vocabulary from English, and "hip" is just another word that stuck. Just like ドーア or プレゼント whose equivalent Japanese words are: 門,贈り物。

  2. おもしろいポーストです。

    It is neat that both of your examples have come from a similar source - beauty/fashion/clothing products - and yet they are noticeably different uses of カタカナ. I wonder not only why キレイ was written in カタカナ, but also why a loanword was not used in its place (e.g. プリティ). What is the difference between using a Japanese word in ひらがな/かんじ, a Japanese word in カタカナ, and a loanword in カタカナ, if they all denote the same thing? Since there are so many aspects to the beauty and fashion industries, maybe you could find examples of contrasts in how companies convey the same concept (but perhaps through different words and scripts, and with different implications). It seems like a very interesting topic.


  3. Katakana being used to place specific emphasis on the meaning - I definitely agree with this. In fact, I also used キレイ as an example of katakana usage to draw attention to the word.

    Do you think there's any method to which words can be transliterated into katakana? Like if the word was not きれい but some other adjective that is not often transliterated for effect would it still be appropriate to do it? Hmm..

  4. A lot of the examples we used in class and have seen in other places are on items to be bought and sold - either in packaging or in high-profile regions of the product. This might be a product of us seeing those areas more often, and therefore bringing more, but it could be that this marketing usage is distinct and important. The usages you presented make one think that a reader gives greater clout to a claim made in katakana than otherwise. Being hip or pretty is fairly subjective, so they might be trying to rationalize these claims be giving this emphatic, foreign perspective.

  5. I definitely agree with your point on Katakana being used as a means to draw attention to certain things. In a visual sense, the straight and direct stylization of katakana is sure to stand out in a sea of smooth and curved hiragana characters.

    As for your inquiry on the ヒップ on the stockings, I think the katakana serves a different function there. As a girl, and wearer of tights, I would say from experience that the importance of hip and height are probably equivalent for the consumer, so perhaps they used it ヒップ because it is the form of the word 腰痛 that is more commonly used (at least among the younger generation).

    Did it not perhaps have the other meaning of 'hip' in english? As in cool and trendy? This also seems like a likely scenario, since it is common to come across katakana forms of American slang like ヒップ、クール.

  6. I think you got the reasoning behind the first example spot on. Katakana really stand out from other types of script a lot, don't they?

    I really find that second example interesting. I don't think I've seen kanji mixed with katakana very often. I wonder if there's some special meaning for the mix of the two, or if it's just that they decided that one script was more important for one word, and the other for the other. I think that hip was written as ヒップ in order to make it a pun. Since ヒップ can mean both the literal hip and also cool/trendy. There certainly exist kanji to refer to the hips, and height was apparently in kanji, so there's definitely an inconsistency there. My guess is that it's either that it's an attempted pun, or ヒップ is a very common loan word which might be used just as much as the native Japanese word.