I’m currently reading ‘The Chinese Secret Service’ by Roger Faligot and Remi Kauffer when I came across this passage:
"The Japanese language had inherited the old Chinese ideograms…but pronounced them differently. For example ‘England’ in both countries is translated as ‘The Land of the Heroes’ but is pronounced Ying Guo in Chinese and Eikoku in Japanese’
It goes on to state that the word for France is Fa Guo (the Country of the Law).
Page 188 of the Headline Press edition.
I’ve never heard of that before and I was wondering how those descriptions/names originated and what the translation of the Chinese and/or Japanese name for Ireland is (being of the Irish ilk). What does their name for America translate as as well for that matter.
According to my dictionary, there is an alternative way of writing Ireland, 愛蘭 (still pronounced “airurando”), which literally means something like “love orchid”. But the characters aren’t chosen for their meaning, just their sound (individually they are pronounced “ai” and “ran”).
In Chinese, the first character in 英国 (Ying Guo) is actually shortened from the full transliteration: 英格兰 (Ying ge lan). It’s the same thing with America, where the 美 (Mei) comes from 美利坚合众国 (Mei li jian he zhong guo).
Most countries don’t have their names shortened like this, Ireland for example doesn’t. Off the top of my head only a few others like France, Germany, Russia, and other countries that had a lot of dealings with China are commonly shortened.
Think they did chose words with pleasing meanings, but the primary reason for using them was because of the phonetics, so the meanings aren’t necessarily relevant.
In Japanese also, country names are sometimes abbreviated using the first character of their kanji name. This is commonly done with neighbouring countries like China and Korea, but the UK, US, France and Germany are commonly referred to as 英, 米, 仏, and 独 (hero, rice, Buddha and alone). 豪 (tremendous – Australia), 露 (dew – Russia), 伊 (phonetic “/i/” – Italy) are also commonly seen.
These characters are often combined together to talk about international relations. For instance, “米中露” US-China-Russia. In this context, Japan is abbreviated with 日 (sun/day), so that Japan-Russia relations translates as “日露関係”. This is politically. In a cultural context, Japan is 和 (harmony). Hence, an English-Japanese dictionary is “和英辞典”.
This leads us to the Ireland Working Holiday Support Center, which in Japanese goes by 愛和-ホリ. (Context is important; there are several companies called 愛和, without any relation to Ireland.)