Take our user survey and make your voice heard.

Be careful how you talk about 'spaghetti' in Japanese — you may sound unhip


Although Italian in origin, the words pasta and spaghetti are now everyday words in English. Thanks to the foods’ proliferation around the world these words can also be found in Japanese, pronounced "pasuta" and "supagetti" respectively.

But in recent years, it seems as if the word “spaghetti” has been falling out of favor in Japan, being replaced by the word “pasta.” Although in English the distinction between “spaghetti” and “pasta” is pretty clear (pasta being the foodstuff, spaghetti one of its many varieties), it seems there is a whole other world of nuances when the words cross over into Japanese.

This trend can be illustrated by a discussion on Japanese message board site 2-channel where someone posted a simple question several years ago that triggered a flood of comments: “Do you say ‘spaghetti’ or ‘pasta’?”


Interestingly, many comments suggested that calling a dish of long and thin noodles spaghetti is kind of old-fashioned. Someone compared it to someone calling an iPod a Walkman. Although the meaning is easily understood by all the person saying it sounds hugely out-of-touch.

However, with spaghetti becoming outmoded, it has to be called something. Therefore pasta is becoming the de facto name for spaghetti. Other pasta dishes like macaroni or lasagna are generally called by their regular names but may also be referred to as pasta.

A matter of taste

Others suggested that either word was valid but had different connotations. “Pasta”, they said, seems to have a more exotic and sophisticated feeling to it, whereas “spaghetti” sounded like something plain and domestically produced.

There were a few who shared experiences of going to restaurants only to find dishes listed as “pasta” on the menu without referring to what kind of noodle was used. This is because when a restaurant uses “spaghetti” it conjures memories of fast and cheaply made Napolitan spaghetti more suited for kids’ lunches rather than an elegant meal.

It seems counter-intuitive that using a less-specific name sounds more sophisticated, but that’s how it is. Also, some Internet users mentioned liking the simplicity of the broader term since it allowed them to avoid embarrassment by not knowing the different types of pasta, which they liked to a non-Japanese person walking into an udon shop and ordering ramen.

It all boils down to…

Much like when cooking pasta and/or spaghetti, this information should be taken with a pinch of salt. I personally thought the entire issue rather odd, so I decided to ask around and get some opinions on the matter. Interestingly, the teenagers I asked all seemed pretty well in tune with the English convention of “pasta” being the overarching term for the Italian foodstuff and “spaghetti” being one type of pasta. Other than that they didn’t feel that there was any significant difference between the words.

The twenty-somethings we talked to shared similar sentiments to the teens but did acknowledge that “pasta” somehow felt classier than “spaghetti.”

Moving into the thirty-somethings, they also shared the feelings of sophistication as those in their twenties did, but found that the context was more important. For example, if you simply said, “This is spaghetti.” it wouldn’t come across as odd. However, if you said “Let’s go have some spaghetti!” you might sound like an old fogey trying to be cool.

So it really depends to whom and how you talk about spaghetti that determines if the word is “cool” or not.

In the end, Japanese is an always evolving language. Judging by the younger generations’ response to this issue, we may still see the word “spaghetti” being used as a broad term in Japanese after it goes through this rough patch of uncoolness.

Source: 2-channel via Niconico News

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- How to easily turn your dry pasta into “fresh” noodles -- Boiling Spaghetti with Salt Shown to Do No Good for It -- Noodle maker does everything you can’t: make noodles!

© RocketNews24

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

Login to comment

I tried to teach my haffu granddaughter (3 at the time) how to say spaghetti..."please repeat su"..."su"..."pa"..."pa"..."geh"..."geh" ..."ti"..."ti"..."spaghetti"..."skabetti"...every time LOL.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

My granddaughter called it "basketti" !

2 ( +2 / -0 )

'Bisketti' here. :-)

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I could never call it pasta, pasta is something, that you actually put onto the spaghetti.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

I don't know who at JT wrote this article, but here in the United States we started calling spaghetti "pasta" about 30 years ago. So if the writer thinks this is some "Japanese fad" I can only imagine that he/she is too young to know this.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

Spaghetti is one type of Pasta, similar to how most sausages here are called wieners.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Exactly. It's not wrong to call it pasta because it's just one type of pasta. But calling it "spaghetti" is more specific, so I don't really get the point of this article.

Is it also unhip to use terms like "ramen" and "soba" instead of calling everything "men"?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

pasketti or sketti - when i was a young un

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Do not visit an Italian restaurant in Japan, if you want to go home with your nerves intact (especially one where lunch can be had under 1500 yen). Hearing the locals slurping it like it were soba makes me sick every time, and it happens every time, mostly with oyajis over 50. Oh yeah, they also eat it American style, with the totally unnecessary spoon helping to rotate it, another disgusting custom for any European especially Italians.

0 ( +2 / -2 )


Great points! The slurping drives me crazy as well!

In contrast, this all reminds me of the now defunct plan Japan had a few years back to create 'sushi police' that would go around the world telling people and resaurants how to make and eat 'real' sushi.


1 ( +1 / -0 )

Based on this article, I think the people of Japan need to get out of the country to see the wide variety of pasta types found even here in the USA. I'm not sure how the Japanese would accept penne, rigatoni, lasagna, radiatori and rotelle shapes for pasta (and that's only scratching the surface of the wide variety of pasta types known).

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I'm not sure how the Japanese would accept penne, rigatoni, lasagna, radiatori and rotelle shapes for pasta

With the exception of radiatori (which I've never heard of), I can get all of those at my local supermarket.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

, with the totally unnecessary spoon helping to rotate it, another disgusting custom

Where did the custom come from, I wonder?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I use a spoon. I didn't know the Italians do as well. It's much easier to eat long pasta with a spoon.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

For me Spaghetti is the long thin noodles. Anything else (Ravioli, Penne, etc.) I just call pasta.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Slurping and shoving long noodles (of any sort) into the mouth while they are hanging out of the mouth is unhip. If they are in a soup like ramen or udon, snorking up the runny snot is unhip, too. Calling all varieties of noodles pasta--a more generic term over a specific one--and calling it more hip is a minor infraction in comparison even though it is a mask for ignorance. It's probably preferable to eating 'rabiori' or 'tagriteri' or 'ringini' even if you do know which is which.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Oh yeah, they also eat it American style, with the totally unnecessary spoon helping to rotate it, another disgusting custom for any European especially Italians.

Italians in Canada and USA do this all the time, and I live in an area 80% Italian in origin. Spoons are often used.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It seems to the that as a word "Spaghetti" is kinda outdated, I mean, everytime i hear it it makes me think of old western movies (which at some time it was called "spaguetti western") besides, the other pasta names are so specific at the moment of ordering: you ask for Ravioli, Caneloni, Fetucchini, Lasagna, you don't ask for "pasta" hoping they will serve you gnocchi do you? In LatinAmerica we use a fork though for long noodles if you don't use a knife you rotate them, i thought it was curious that you mention they use a spoon, never seen that

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Japan. Always good for a laugh. Just because some vocabulary is "old" does not make it any less correct.

As people have said, pasta has many types of which spaghetti is one. I can see if they want to say pasta to describe a place that serves other kinds of noodles, such as penne...but to have a dish of noodles in front of you and not call it what it is, is rather silly.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Asking for pasta in an Italian restaurant is like walking into a sushi bar and asking for sushi... you'll get something but it probably won't be what you're thinking of.

zichiJun. 29, 2014 - 05:10PM JST In Italy the people eat the long types of pasta, like spaghetti, with a spoon and fork because its the easy way to eat it.

Last time I was in Italy (about 10 years ago) the people I ate with just used a fork for any of the long thin pastas. You place the fork into any of the long thin pastas, rotate it so the pasta wraps around the fork, then eat. Kids often ate with a fork and a spoon, because... well, kids.

The only place I've seen people eating pasta with a fork and spoon is in England, and that's because they put a TON of sauce onto the pasta, so you need the spoon to catch the sauce that's dripping off the pasta. They also put chunky sauces on thin pasta, which is just totally daft, because the chunky bits slide off the pasta and make eating very messy.

If you eat pasta in Italy in a traditional restaurant there's a lot less sauce, normally just enough to flavour the pasta and give it a nice thin coating, so it doesn't drip and you don't end up eating just sauce once you've finished your pasta.

I did notice that some hotel restaurants had more sauce, but I think that's probably because they were catering to the expectations of their international clients, rather than serving authentic Italian food.

Maybe tastes and traditions have changed since I was last in Italy, but I doubt it.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites