Katakana Fail: There’s More Than Cheese in Somerset

In my never-ending quest for acquisition of the Japanese language, I have set the operating systems of both my computer and my iPod touch to Japanese. Sometimes this means that I pick up a word here or there. Other times it means I stab at my devices randomly with one finger until something happens. (One day, that thing will probably be “reset to factory settings” and that will be a saaaad day.)

Well, today it really paid off. I was looking at a map of Somerset to see where the nearest Starbucks was (hey, don’t judge, some people have Starbucks, others cocaine) when I saw this:

This is a seemingly innocuous map of the West of England, with every town and village spelled out in Katakana (the Japanese alphabet for non-Chinese foreign words). When I first saw this, I marvelled at the detail. Someone’s literally done all of Somerset this way.

Then I looked a bit closer at the Katakana for Cheddar:

チェダー チーズ
chedaa chiizu

Um, anyway you slice it (see what I did there?), they’ve translated the town of Cheddar as Cheddar Cheese.

Yes, that’s the Cheddar where the cheese comes from. And if you’re in Europe, it’s the only place you can get cheese from and call it Cheddar (making Wisconsin, I dunno, the overlooked middle child of cheese) because they have very strict rules on naming foods after places, or so I hear.

Nevertheless.

That doesn’t make a town a cheese.

I haven’t been. I hear there’s a nice gorge that’s worth a visit. I doubt the entire place is made of cheese, or is a cheese. (Although, of course, in my head, the gorge is totally where they mine the cheese!) But if you only read katakana you might get confused.

So, Japan, not that this helps, ’cause it’s not in Japanese, but whatever: there’s a town in Somerset called Cheddar. They make cheese there. But it is not a cheese.

Public Service Announcement over.

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