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Slippers

As you may know, you take off your shoes when entering Japanese homes. As a Japanese, I feel relaxed sprawling on tatami.

What you can wear on your feet indoors is slippers. The word was taken into Japanese directly, and is pronounced as "surippa." But, as is often the case with loanwords, when we say surippa, it means mules rather than slippers. So you can wear either slippers or mules in Japanese homes -- other than in tatami rooms.

The Japanese language doesn't care about plural forms. So, whether it's singular or plural, surippa is/are surippa. It's quite an accident that the plural "s" in slippers came off when the word came into Japanese. And we use it as it is. Don't be embarrassed even if a Japanese would say to you, "Please put on a slipper."

Speaking of plural forms, the words like shorts, pants and jeans made me puzzled a lot when I first came across them. I thought, "Why do they have to be plural?" They have two separate parts for each leg, to be sure, but overall (not a pair of overalls!) they look like one, I mean, the parts are not cut off. Besides, I felt it quite troublesome to count them by putting "a pair of" or "two pairs of" each time. You can say "these pants," but it doesn't clarify in itself how many pairs there are. Actually, even now I'm not entirely used to referring to "a pair of pants" as "these pants." Now can you say like, two pants, three pants? What about one pants? ;)

Comments

kiyo, if I may be contrarian and the gaikokujin that I am...why is it that the slippers are not worn in the tatami mat room? To protect the mats (which aren't exactly irreplaceable)? I'm just curious, it doesn't matter in my household because I don't wear slippers anywhere, even in the bathroom or toilet. I would find it a nuisance (or mendokusai, if you prefer) to always have to switch or remove/put on slippers when going from room to room.

Probably, as you say, to protect the mats. Tatami is a kind of a floor. Also, it relates to manners of the Japanese.