クリーム ≠ cream

Well, at least not always:

クリーム = cream2

cream      = cream1

The Japanese クリーム often refers specifically to the whipped variety that goes on top of cakes or inside tasty treats, most notably the シュークリーム. I often see this romanized on packages as “chou cream” for whatever reason. For those of you who can’t read Japanese, it actually sounds like “shoe cream,” which is a funny thought.

The Japanese and English Wikipedia entries are subtly different. In English, whipped cream is only listed below under “Other cream products,” whereas in Japanese whipped cream gets its own section and the photo at the top of the entry is a photo of a bowl of whipped cream.

I rest my case.

6 thoughts on “クリーム ≠ cream

  1. Yeah, and the “chou” means “cabbage.” For real!

    I think that “生クリーム” is the easiest way to say “cream, but not whipped cream or weird cake cream.” Maybe the reason for the difference in semantic focus is that us Euro-derived folks have had cream since the days of churns and serfdom, but it got imported to Japan largely as a part of fancy pastries and stuff. “Ramen” in English is kind of similar — my impression is that by default it means the cheap dried stuff in packages, not real restaurant food in a bowl.

  2. Andy: Ha, once again I prove how American I am. On a related note, this past weekend I was laughing at a packet of kleenex – on the lift there was “SOULEVER,” which made me think, “Ha, soul-lever. Who would write Engrish that dumb?!” Then I examined the packet more closely and realized it was French.

    Matt: I like the ramen comparison. Wonder what kind of dairy products existed here before the black ships.

    Facebook friend Tommy noted that ソフトクリーム is another great example of クリーム-based 外来語 that doesn’t translate directly.

  3. Portuguese “creme” agrees with the Japanese version. I’m always kind of baffled at the English “cream”. It’s just fatty milk, dudes.

  4. Choux are a kind of French pastry which are filled with whipped cream, or choux cream, depending on where you’re from. I don’t know whether they’re named that because they look like little cabbages, but in any case it’s perfectly correct to refer to it that way. What is American-style cream called in Japanese then?