Amidst the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, Japan’s relatively good looking numbers have puzzled the world for the past months. Do cluster control and low-testing strategies work? Or could Japan’s mask-culture be the key?
We probably won’t ever know for sure, but new theories pop-up every week.
When serious studies are (badly) dumbed down
The latest theory floating around in Japan is that the Japanese language’s phonetic characteristics determine how much airborne particles we release when speaking. In other words, your speech could play a role in respiratory disease transmission.
While research findings comparing English, Chinese, and Japanese are fascinating, blaming one’s language for spreading the coronavirus is a stretch. However, Japanese broadcast station TBS has run with it, airing a demonstration that would make most linguists scream with despair.
Could the difference in pronunciation between languages be the reason the spread of infection has been slow in Japan?
In the video, a Japanese woman repeats the same sentence with a piece of paper clipped in front of her face. First, in Japanese “これはペンです” and then in English, “This is a pen.” When she speaks Japanese, the paper barely moves an inch, but her explosive English pronunciation just blows it away.
The clip’s top-right corner reads, “could the difference in pronunciation between languages be the reason the spread of infection has been slow in Japan?”
📺 A theory on why Japan was able to contain the coronavirus outbreak… according to TBS pic.twitter.com/9d0cIxvS1X
— Kurumi Mori (@rumireports) May 21, 2020
The demonstration was proof enough to woo the presenters of the show. They appeared immediately convinced that English speakers pronounce the “P” sound as if it is exploding out of their mouths.
The clip has triggered a flood of reactions. Most are counter-response videos proving them wrong. Grab some popcorn and scroll with us through tons of funny tweets for what will inevitably be known as #ThisIsAPenGate.
— ありす🇱🇨🇬🇧 (@_shiopan) May 21, 2020
Who knew English was so powerful?
This is a pen pic.twitter.com/jVg7JlD6us
— PDЯさん(Duncan) (@PDRnotPDS) May 24, 2020
Japanese folks joined in too
Here’s my variation of これはペンです pic.twitter.com/R2usUkJGQ0
— nabiru @ 🇯🇵 (@nabiruworks) May 21, 2020
This is a WHAT?
— Max D. (@MaxTatsuro) May 22, 2020
Here come the memes
— Melon 🍈 🌈 (@writerofscratch) May 21, 2020
— Torn Romance (@torn_romance) May 21, 2020
At least we have something to laugh about during all this mess.