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Namiko Abe

The Origin of "Peeman"

By August 27, 2008

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When I travel to a foreign country, I like to go to local markets. It is very interesting to see what local people actually eat or use. When you go to a Japanese market, you might feel the same way. Most vegetables have Japanese names, but some use English words with slightly different pronunciations. "Serori (celery)" or "Retasu (lettuce)" are two of them. "Peeman" is probably a funny sounding vegetable for English speaking people. Can you guess what it is? It is green peppers. Red peppers are called "aka-peeman". When I didn’t know English well, I thought it came from an English word. Later I was curious what the origin of "peeman" is. It turned out to be from the French word "piment." However, French people probably won’t be able to figure out what "peeman" is either. Japanese translation


August 27, 2008 at 10:34 pm
(1) franck says:

As a frenchman ( and amateur linguiste) , i have guessed. But you are right even french people cant guess that peeman icomes from piment (piman) in french.
Best regards

August 28, 2008 at 12:51 am
(2) maurishio says:

Is right, sometimes is difficult to understand the Japanese borrowed words, first when I read the title I think: peeman it would be a manga or anime character.
Serori (celery) and Retasu (lettuce) have their respective Japanese names?? Or are imported from other countries??

August 28, 2008 at 3:41 am
(3) nikkô says:

That’s interesting… but what is weird is that in French, “piment” means “hot/chili pepper” (“green pepper” is said “poivron vert”).
So, how do you say “chili pepper” in Japanese then?
By the way, we could talk about the way the Japanese have imported some of their words for hours… Sometimes I find it is a pity, because we sort of lose “standard Japanese”… but sometimes it is very convenient for foreign people and quite funny! ^^

August 28, 2008 at 1:44 pm
(4) Brian says:

In America we use the word “pimento” meaning a sweet red pepper, often pickled. I think the word is borrowed from Spanish.

August 29, 2008 at 3:29 am
(5) nikkô says:

Or from Portuguese? I think that many words come from this language…

August 30, 2008 at 10:50 pm
(6) celia says:

“piment’ it doesnt come from the French but Spanish ‘pimiento’ Until the end of the 1700′s The area of Japan (Guam) Pacific Islands, including Hawaii, were considered as part of the spanish Empire, The world was divided in two, the Portuguese: East(/africa, India – up to Vietnam, and the /west- Spain all :P acific Islands including Japan, Philipins etc, and America… etc etc. Tempura was intruduce in Japan by the Spanish monks. Some of the American fruits, vegetables …chiles and peppers were intruduce to Asia by the Spaniards and Portuguese.

August 30, 2008 at 10:56 pm
(7) celia says:

I forgot to say that south of Spain has many TAPAS that are made with Tempura batter… and they have them for centuries.

August 31, 2008 at 2:14 pm
(8) Shinetrue says:

Is Tenpura originated from Spanish language?

September 1, 2008 at 9:50 pm
(9) Marc says:

When you hear ‘peeman’, it does sound quite similar to the French pronunciation.

And I’m pretty sure tempura was introduced to Japan by Spanish or Portuguese traders centuries ago.

September 2, 2008 at 10:08 am
(10) Steve Speck says:

I’ve had first-hand experience with this one. My girlfriend at the time was from Tokyo, and one time while visiting the U.S., she handed me a grocery list in Japanese (and English, when she was sure of the English words) since I was going shopping, and the only item on the list that stymied both of us was “piiman.” It wasn’t until we both went to the supermarket together that she was able to point out that the green bell peppers where what she was after.

September 25, 2008 at 11:10 am
(11) Jan Peeman says:

this is funny, I am from Holland and living in France for the past 30 years, I found out myself the link between my name and red peppers. I like to use the peeman(piment) de cayenne.

October 4, 2008 at 2:07 am
(12) Steve S. says:

I thought “peeman” was a famous superhero ;-)


P.S. Abe-san, I see you are a graduate of Kwansei Gakuin… I teach there! :-)

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