Thursday, May 26, 2011

SpyShopper-- A Guessing Game

A cake...what?

Guessing Game Time!

They had slices of cake out at our Daiei today.  Sometimes I get some for dessert.  Today, I just took a photo because what the sign says is one of my favorite loan words in Japanese.

Here's the game (open to those who don't speak Japanese, or at least not very much.):

The sign above the cake (the one telling you that it's Y98 each) says "Cake Viking".

Guesses as to just what exactly they might mean by that?  The sign is written in Katakana, the syllabary used to transliterate foreign words.  So the sign says literally (just transliterated, not translated--it's two English words written in Katakana) "Cake Viking".


  Minna yoku gambarimashita, ne!! (Everyone tried very hard!)
Alice is the closest-- it basically *is* a buffet, and the same word "Viking" is also used in restaurants to mean that (and was, in fact, where I heard used first).  The question, though, is "Why 'viking' to mean 'buffet'?"
 Well, it goes something like this (although I have no direct evidence of the correct etymology, so this is my Best Guess etymology):

    Another word used in English for 'Buffet' (borrowed from French), is 'Smorgasbord', borrowed from Swedish.  Click on that link back there for more Food Porn.   'Buffet' and 'Smorgasbord' are pretty near translations of each other.  English (greedy language that it is) has borrowed both words.
Japanese, like English, loves to import sexy foreign words to sell stuff... but apparently 'Smorgasbord' was just a bit much for Japanese mouths to handle.  So since the Smorgasbord originated in Sweden, and Sweden is a Scandinavian country, and the Vikings were *also* Scandinavian... Viking just got substituted for Smorgasbord.  Or 'Smorgasbord'=Viking-Style, with 'style' left off.

In restaurants, the Drink Viking is very popular (same as the US--where you just go up and get your own drinks out of the fountain and coffee from the pot instead of the waiter bringing them to you).  Drink Viking is, in fact, the first place I heard the term.  Thought it was *hilarious* (well, once I'd figured out what the heck they were talking about).  Every time we go to a restaurant that has one, I wish desperately that I still had my horned Viking helmet that I used to wear when I taught German (Diana will know what I'm talking about;-)).  I would dearly love to saunter up to the Drink Viking... and calmly  drop ice cubes into my glass with a horned viking helmet on my head;-)  Mysteriously, there never seems to be any mead available at the Drink Viking, despite the inevitable images of Valhalla that the term conjures up.

So there you have it (maybe)... convoluted enough for ya?


  1. hmmmm...
    Do you, like me, get funny looks from people when you get your camera out in shops or on the pavement to photograph weeds & cakes?! They look like sort of 'fairy cakes' or whatever they are called...
    Are the cakes pirated? Have they been Made by Scandinavians? Did they travel thence by serpent headed drakkar?
    No idea - but I am no good at crossword puzzles. You are torturing us with what is sometimes called food porn!

  2. that was dom by the way...

  3. I'm going to go with: Buffet?

    Why that would go with Viking, I have no idea. It just looks like the cake buffet at our local restaurant.

  4. man i don't know, that's a tough one. I'm trying to say it out loud the way i know it's spelled, to see if phonetically it sounds like something else, but all i can come up with is Cake Fighting - which doesn't make any more sense and since i'm sure there's a direction translation for fighting (OT, my fav katakana word to say is pineapple)

  5. Good guesses by all! (And I notice that Chris has commented, but abstained from guessing..;-))

    Sarah-- pineapple is *totally* fun to pronounce in Katakana English!

    Alice-- *Very* good guess! I'm going to call you the Winner:-)) Details above in the Update...

    Dom-- I just assume people are staring, whether they actually are or not. I feel sure, even if they are not so rude as to actually stare outright, that children *must* be tugging their mother's sleeves as soon as they are out of earshot and asking "Mommy, why is that foreign lady sitting on the concrete taking pictures of weeds?"

  6. So… Nothing to do with Danish pastries then? Damn, I'm hungry now.

  7. Ha! Nope--nothing to do with Danish pastries, though there's nothing to prevent Danish pastries from appearing there amongst the cake...;-)

  8. Oh now, I need a cheese danish, Daz...

    Well, I'll take half credit. -laugh- I love that it is smorgasboard, that is wonderful. I wish I'd been able to figure that out.

    I love the idea of May in the horned helmet, that made me giggle.

  9. Er.. Amy, not May. I need to wait until my hands have warmed completely from being out in the cold rain before I comment anywhere!

  10. Alice--I just came in myself....oooh. Cheese danish... Understand about the cold hands and commenting:-)) Glad to make ya giggle!;-))

  11. Smörgås is buttered bread - 'smear' is cognate in English, & bord is table - cognate with 'board'. When I lived in Norway I could never understand why people always had the sliced bread with stuff on in their 'matpak' - lunch pack - & I always folded it over. But then I am a true barbarian!

    That reminds me of a scene in Blackadder The Third -

    Now; Baldrick, go to the kitchen and make me something quick and simple to eat, would you? Two slices of bread with something in between.

    Baldrick: What, like Gerald, Lord Sandwich, had the other day?

    Blackadder: Yes -- a few rounds of Geralders.


  12. Hi Dom! (Yay! Somebody besides me who knows what Smörgåsbord means! Didn't put that in because I'm never quite sure who else would want to know stuff like that;-)) I ate Brot mit a lot of Schmierkäse in Germany...

    Blackadder-- ha! Thanks for teh laff:-))