OK, I know that a lot of words that westerners take from other languages, especially in the past, end up being seriously bastardized version in the western language. Only more recently have some of these words started to more closely resemble their original counterparts.
However, where the heck did western (or at least American) languages come up with "Hari-Kari"to denote suicide in Japanese? There are a several words in Japanese to denote suircide under varying cirucmstances (from seppuku on down). Yet none of them seem to have any resemblance to “Hari-Kari”.
Main Entry: hara-kiri
Pronunciation: [FONT=courier new]"har-i-'kir-E, -'kar-E
Etymology: Japanese harakiri, from hara belly + kiri cutting
Date: 1840 1 : ritual suicide by disembowelment practiced by the Japanese samurai or formerly decreed by a court in lieu of the death penalty 2 : SUICIDE 1b[/FONT]
I was surprised to learn, many years ago, that the proper pronunciation was “hara-kiri” = “belly cutting”. I had always heard (and seen written) “Hari Kari”.
I assumed that the most likely reason was a Western tendency to reshape words into convenient and more familiar forms, mixed with a tendency to rhyme. We have lots of word combos like “Helter Skelter”, “Pell Mell”, “Hurly Burly”, etc. “Hari Kari” would fit right in.
I’ve neve encountered the word in any use prior to WWII, so I’ve always assumed that GIs brought this home. Is it possible that Chicago Sox announcer Harry Carey’s name had anything to do with it?
If it’s any consolation, the Japanese mutilate the pronunciation of English words they borrow, too (eg, Hotel becomes “ho-tay-ru”). Although they seem to be following a more logical method of adapting English words to the somewhat different Japanese sound system. There’s nothing that odd about pronouncing Hara Kiri correctly in English, other than anglicizing the “r” sound. Same with Karaoke.
I guess “Harry Karry” rhymes and sounds a bit “funny”, so maybe it’s a way of taking a backhanded swipe at the Japanese, who were our enemies in WWII.
FWIW, seppuku and harakiri use the same kanji, but in reverse order. The character for ‘stomach’ can be read as either hara or fuku, while the character for ‘cut’ can be read as either setsu or ki(ru) (the latter is the verb form, so the ending half can change). Put together, you get harakiri, ‘stomach cutting’, or setsufuku, which then gets condensed to seppuku, ‘cutting the stomach’.
I don’t think there’s anything of a “swipe” about it at all. As I noted above, there is a tendency to change words to rhyming sets – and not just in English. There are cases in other languages as well. As one example, consider the words “Hocus Pocus”, usede as a magical incantation. It has been suggested (most plausibly, I think) that this comes from “Hoc est corpus meum”, the Latin spoken at the moment the Host is elevated in the RC Mass, and when the Bread is seen to become the Body of Christ. (Much magic steals from various religions).
And, as I suggest, the name of Harry Carey might have suggested the rhyming form hara kiri be changed to.
None of this is disrespect or swiping at another language.