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Hotchkiss and stapler

One morning, I overheard a colleague’s conversation over the phone about someone wanting a “hotchkiss” being delivered to an event’s venue.

“Hotchkiss”, I paused and gave a brief thought about its meaning.

Stapler.

A quick search on the Internet revealed that “Hotchkiss” not only is common to the Japanese, it is also attributed to Benjamin B. Hotchkiss for machine gun, a weapon that was widely used during the First World War. It was also popularized, thanks to the company name “E.H Hotchkiss”.

The word “stapler” might be foreign to the locals, so mentioning its name might draw confusion. I was reminded of the last trip with my friend few years ago when I wanted to buy a medicine to overcome a mild fever at a local drug store in Tokyo station. I asked the salesperson if they sell Panadol. Unsurprisingly, the salesperson didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. I then followed up by asking if they sell paracetamol.

Disappointingly, they said they didn’t sell the product that I mentioned. Armed with Google search, I finally found what I want.

It turned out that the Japanese are more comfortable and familiar with the term ibuprofen. Hence, brands like Bufferin and Tylenol are more prominent in the local drugstores (and they work like Panadol too). However, I am a bit puzzled to Panadol’s unavailability here, while it is widely available in Taiwan (very helpful whenever I visit there!). I also noted that Watsons is not available in Japan, but it has branches everywhere in the neighboring Taiwan. Hmm.

In the end, I learned something new — something that is common back in the home country isn’t always that common in another country.

By Adrian Khor

Speaks Mandarin Chinese, English, Japanese, and Malay. Software developer based in Greater Tokyo, Japan. Specializes in .NET stack and C# at web and desktop development. Loves to listen to music, watching movies, reading books, and travel.

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