Anime, Animes, Anime's

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Anime, Animes, Anime's

Postby ZeroRyoko1974 » Wed Apr 15, 2015 12:09 am

I had always been told that anime is both a singular and plural term, and using the word animes is incorrect. What confused me for some time, was using anime's (mainly because I suck at English grammer). I asked on another board that had a resident English professor who is also an otaku. Got a couple of interesting responses

Like a lot of issues in linguistics, there isn’t a set-in-stone rule, but as someone who often gets paid to translate/write about anime, here’s how most people who have to professionally work with Japanese loanwords handle it.

1. Japanese doesn’t have plural nouns, with a couple of exceptions that really aren’t used very often. For example, the word “ringo” means both “apple” and “apples.”

For words that aren’t commonly understood in English (i.e. words that the average person who doesn’t have a particular interest in Japanese doesn’t understand), translators generally don’t put an -s at the end to show plurals. For example, if I was talking about kotatsu, the low-lying tables with heaters attached to their underside that a lot of Japanese people own, I would use kottatsu for both the singular and plural. For example:
“The kotatsu I bought last week cost 5,000 yen, but many kotatsu cost more than that.”

2. For words that are commonly understood in English, some professional writers opt to add an –s to show a plural. Many don’t make the addition, though, so while you can find publications that would say “Ninjas were spies in feudal Japan,” you can also find others that would phrase it as “Ninja were spies in feudal Japan.”

In other words, the general attitude among translators seems to be, “If the Japanese word isn’t commonly understood in English, don’t add an –s. If it is commonly understood in English, it’s up to you whether you want to add it or not.”

The tricky part with anime, though, is judging just how commonly understood it is in English. Sure, among fans it’s readily understood, and a lot of young people who spend a lot of time on the Internet knows what it means, even if they don’t watch it. But if you just walked up to some random person in the grocery store and used the word anime, would they know what you were talking about?

Personally, I always go with "anime" instead of "animes." When I first got into it, anime wasn't particularly widespread in English-speaking countries, and after years of using the word in Japanese conversations, the word "animes" always sounds awkward to me.

I never knew about the plural noun thing. I would think that would be confusing. I guess that is why Ninjas seems to be ok. I don't think I have ever heard anyone say Samurais, or karoakes

Just in case it hasn't been clarified, adding an apostrophe designates possessive form. "Anime's best characters" means "the best characters of anime." The word "anime's" means "belonging to anime," and is grammatically correct. It doesn't mean "multiple anime."
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Re: Anime, Animes, Anime's

Postby bakamatt » Wed Apr 15, 2015 8:49 am

Nice. The same topic surfaced on a Facebook thread a couple of weeks ago, viz. if there was a difference between "mech" and "mecha", with the question of plural form also showing up. A lot of Americans seems to feel there was a formal distinction, but I don't know where they got that. A fair number of people also knew that in Japanese any machine is meka.

The professor's reply shows good sense. In general, I think, native speaker of English don't try to turn foreign words plural by adding "-s". Until, as he points out, the words become common English usage. (Or, as in Spanish, they also create the plural form by adding "-s", which I think is why everyone says "enchiladas".) In English kimono seems to be on the cusp: you see both "kimono" and "kimonos" for plural. (Somewhat surprisingly, you'll also occasionally see English speakers omit the definite article that Japanese lacks: they'll say something like, "I enjoy wearing kimono," as opposed to "a kimono".) No one seems to have any problem with "hibachis", though.

And a surprising number of classic Western words have had their original plural forms survive as well, at least sometimes: you hear "indices" as often as "indexes", "lacunae" more often than "lacunas", and even sometimes "formulae" instead of "formulas".

I've been informally tracking instances where Western writers do or don't feel obliged to explain what "anime" is. Mostly, these days, they don't.

If you could, please ask you correspondent about the astonishing speed with which the word "cosplay" has penetrated our culture. (Something which drives old-school "costumers" absolutely nuts. :twisted: )
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Re: Anime, Animes, Anime's

Postby Tsunami3k » Sat Apr 18, 2015 7:20 pm

I've always been partial to "animæ" which, conveniently, is inaudibly different from "anime". Plural otaku is inextricably awkward no matter how you roll it.
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Re: Anime, Animes, Anime's

Postby ca_jas » Sun Apr 19, 2015 12:51 am

It's an interesting problem. I actually never noticed that translators would purposefully omit plurals of non-English words. But more lately I often hear "Those Samurai da da da da". I think it sounds cooler to not add the -s.

Since "anime" is simply the short way to say "animation" (or at least, I hear some Japanese animators use both words interchangeably) you can use the same rules for applying -s to "animation", which is almost never. Just as a non-scientific test, the wikipedia article for animation has 167 instances of "animation", only 3 instances of "animations" and no instance of "animation's". Sometimes "animations" and "animation's" is correct but it feels uncomfortable so I think we can change the sentence in order to avoiding using the plural or possessive. You quoted this and it's a good example, " 'Anime's best characters' means 'the best characters of anime' "
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Re: Anime, Animes, Anime's

Postby bakamatt » Sun Apr 19, 2015 7:09 am

Tsunami3k wrote:I've always been partial to "animæ" which, conveniently, is inaudibly different from "anime".


Show off. It took me forever to learn how to do that. I suppose you still write "hæmorrhage" too.

Plural otaku is inextricably awkward no matter how you roll it.


Japanese does make one concession to plural forms; not surprisingly, it's used when one is speaking of people. It's the suffix "-tachi".

However, I've read that it isn't used precisely the way we do. The difference between otoko and otokotachi isn't the difference between "man" and "men": it refers to "the person being spoken of/to and his group". So it's implicitly plural, but carries an additional implication of association.

I'm very unclear on when it is or isn't proper to use. You certainly see things like senseitachi, and I believe you don't add it to a proper name. But I've got this vague memory even seeing it applied to animals - though that could have been some kind of ironic thing.

At any rate, since all fans are brothers and sisters, the word you're looking for is otakutachi.
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