Senkyoushigo: Macaronic Missionary Talk

Hey dode [partner < doryo], okinasai [wake up]! It’s time I got a start on asagohan [breakfast] so we can have some oishii [tasty] muffins before benkyokai [study meeting]. You’re dish-chan this week, so you go take the first fud [bath < ofuro]. Come on in and I’ll show you how to tsukeru [turn on] the mono [thing].

This sample of Japanese-English mixed speech is from an article by former Mormon missionary Kary D. Smout published in the Summer 1988 issue of American Speech (pp. 137-149). He explains:

Because there were so few English monolingual speakers in southern Japan, I gradually eliminated standard English from my active language list over the next few months; eventually I spoke no English, about eight hours of Japanese, and about eight hours of senkyoshigo [missionary-language] per day. As is generally true of Mormon missionaries in Japan, I spoke senkyoshigo so much and standard English so little that, when I returned to America at the end of twenty-two months, I could not form a single English sentence without first mentally editing it in order to eliminate the senkyoshigo expressions it contained.

At lot of senkyoushigo consists of normal Japanese words in normal English sentences, but it does contain some unique combinations:

  • cook-chan Person assigned to cook
  • dish-chan Person assigned to wash dishes
  • Eigo bandit Japanese person who speaks only English to American missionaries
  • golden kazoku Family interesting in joining the church
  • kanji bandit, kanji jock Missionary who can read and write Japanese characters

Other unique aspects are anglicized slang truncations of commonly used Japanese terms:

  • benny [< obenjo] Japanese toilet
  • bucho, buch [< dendo bucho] Mission president, supervisor of the missionaries (pejorative)
  • dode [< doryo] Companion, assigned roommate and work partner of a missionary
  • fud [< ofuro] Japanese bathtub

Finally, there are English terms with alternative meanings specific to the mission context:

  • armpit of the mission Least promising and most unpleasant city within the mission boundaries
  • greenbean New missionary who has just come from America
  • trunky Excited about going home; unable to concentrate or work hard [packed and ready to go]

Some of the above may now be obsolete.

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