Friday, January 13, 2012

Won't Miss #407 - bicycle/bike confusion

Neighborhood kitty doesn't care what word I use. It just wants a place to sleep.

Sometimes the simplest conversations get tangled in a web of confusion and the use of the word "bike" in Japan always seems to spin this web. When I'm speaking in English with a Japanese person and ask, "have you ever had your bike stolen," and the answer will be, "I don't have a bike." That same person may have mentioned previously that he or she indeed has a bicycle, but this is a Japanese-English problem. In Japan, "bike" means "motorbike" or motorized scooter. You may not think bicycles are going to be discussed all that much, but, in Tokyo, more people use bicycles than cars by a huge margin. It becomes very frustrating and tiresome having to modify my natural and absolutely correct English to suit the manner in which Japanese-English works.

No matter how many times I tell students that, in English, "bike" and "bicycle" are one and the same, there will be a miscommunication any time this simple topic is broached and I won't miss it.