What do you call a bento creator?

Now that bentos are becoming more and more popular outside of Japan, the question arises:

What do you call someone who makes bentos?

Personally, I’m inclined to call a bento maker a bentoist. I think this term is in fairly wide use on English language bento blogs and such. I like the term myself because it seems somewhat related to “artist”, and many bento creators are quite artistic. Bento artist works for me too, as does bento creator or bento chef/cook.

A new Japanese magazine called Obento Biyori (お弁当日和) whose premier issue just came out the other week, uses the term Obenter. (I was going to post a review of the magazine, but on second thought I probably won’t unless there’s a big demand for it. Short review: it’s ok.) I have no idea if they coined the term themselves, and Googling the term doesn’t really show it in common use on Japanese websites. But they use it in the English portion of their Twitter profile, which says “This is the magazine of Japanese Bento for OBENTER.”. I’m assuming, perhaps erroneously, that they think that it’s a term used outside of Japan. I tweeted them suggesting (in Japanese) that this was not really used in English speaking circles, but so far no one has responded to me. (I also checked how they spell it out in the actual magazine, and they just do so phonetically in katakana (オベンター), the character set usually used for foreign import words.) Personally, I can’t stand the term. It doesn’t make any kind of sense etymologically speaking. It sounds like the worst kind of wasei eigo, or made-up and twisted around Japanese version of English. (Even though I’m supposed to be like native-level fluent in English, not to mention Japanese, I am quite frequently brought up short by such wasei eigo terms in Japan. It drives me up the wall.) If it does indeed enter the vernacular, I’ll be quite pissed.

Perhaps an equally bad wasei eigo term for a bento creator, especially applied to charaben makers, is karisuma (charisma) character bento (or food) artist. It’s used in the English version of the iPhone app Charaben, reviewed here, and makes no sense when used outside of Japan. Karisuma applied to ‘experts’ in various fields is widely used in Japan, so I’m resigned to its use there even if I hate it personally, but I doubt it will spread anywhere else, because you know, in ‘real’ English terms is pretty silly.

What do you think? If you’re a bento creator, what do you call yourself? What term works for you, and what doesn’t? (Is it even worth thinking of a term? ^_^;)

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Re: What do you call a bento creator?

"Bentoist" fits a pattern of wasei eigo words like "jeanist" (there's an award for "best jeanist" every year, seriously) but it also reminds me of my "tadokist" friends (多読 is extensive reading, a language learning technique that I heartily endorse.) So it sounds good to me! But I can't honestly say that "obenter" really sounds terrible, particularly for non-rhotic speakers like Japanese people and many British people. Linguistically, I'm not sure why "-er" really makes any less sense than "-ist." I've forgotten the term for when elements from two different languages are combined to make a word, but in the end, they're both coinages and neologisms, so they're bound to irritate somebody! I imagine somebody somewhere in Japan is annoyed that anyone's even using a word for this that isn't purely Japanese. Heeheehee.

Then again, I don't have the allergy to wasei eigo that many people do. English is full of French terms that the French don't use, or at least pronounced and meaning things that they don't in France, and also full of Latin that never existed in ancient Rome. It's the nature of inventive language cultures to do that kind of thing. I wasn't as mellow about all this before becoming an English teacher and studying linguistics, though--go figure. ;) It's a challenge for English speakers learning Japanese and Japanese speakers learning English, but at least it means we have some kind of starting point that we otherwise wouldn't have.

--
http://www.readableblog.com (for English learners)
http://www.talktotheclouds.com (for teachers)

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

Perhaps "obento-er" is acceptable, but "obenter" is a big fat fail to me, as is "obentist" for that matter.

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

Hmm, the とアー results in a weird almost "twaa" sound...in that case, let's stick with "bentoist" or "obentoist." ;)

--
http://www.readableblog.com (for English learners)
http://www.talktotheclouds.com (for teachers)

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

I go with "bentoist"

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

If I were to name a person who regularily makes proper (i.e., nutritional, tasty and appealing in general) bentos, I'd go as far as say bento-ka, but that's considering most people I would have a serious discussion about bento's with would instantly connect it with manga-ka.

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

I like the terms Bentoist and bento-ka, but I personnaly use bento maker. I see what you mean, Maki when you say bentoist is a bit like artist, but I think it also sounds like a religious person, as in buddhist. Since I am completely obsessed with bentos, I think it's almost like a religion myself :) I call it my bentobsession ;)

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

Wait, they use the katakana オベンター ? (O be n ta a?) I'm not so good with katakana pronunciation but doesn't ター sound like ta-a? How do they get an -er sound from that?

In fact, if I was importing the word obento into English, and wanted to talk about a woman who made bento, I probably would talk about an Obenta. But I would understand the construction to be ironic, since I would be using Latin style suffixes to produce the word. And Latin style suffixes would predict Obento-o for a man who made bento, which would be downright ridiculous, since English always omits repeated vowels at the end of the word, turning it back into Obento. So a man who made obento would himself be an Obento. Which is funny once, and just sounds terrible afterward. Obenta sounds like it should almost get a suffix like "Obentaasan" by analogy with お母さん and おばあさん. I could actually get to like Obenta-san, but I don't think it is correct to refer to myself with a -san honorific.

(I would have thought a straight transliteration of Obenter could end with a ロ sound, which sounds neat to my ears. E.g. O-be-n-te-ro, with a nice rolled r.)

I could endorse Oben-tist, with the final -t transliterated as タ, thus, Obentista. It has a nice sound resembling "fashonista", a slang English word for fashion enthusiast, which has a humorous, self-deprecating connotation. And despite the feminine ending, the word is definitely used by some men to refer to themselves.

I would think that there is some danger that American anime fans who also love bento will latch on to "Obentaku" right away. I mean, I really like it, and part of being an American fan is totally ignoring the negative connotation of "otaku" in Japanese.*

Obenter has the problem that it sounds like a very stereotypical New England area mis-pronunciation. I immediately think of John F. Kennedy, and his habit of calling the country Cuba the name Cuber. George W. Bush's accent produced something quite similar.

As an American-English speaker, I'm keep thinking of examples of names for hobbyists, as used in English.

Bikes: cyclist,
Trains: trainspotter, model railroader, modeler,
Anime: fan, Otaku, anime nerd
Video games: gamer
Theater & Arts: projectionist, actor, actress, designer, costumer, gaffer.

So -er and -ist endings do seem popular for this kind of thing, don't they?

Will

*Sometimes that's just cultural appropriation, and sometimes that's a humorous acknowledgment that fans really are pretty separate from the rest of society. Being separate from society has a pretty low cost in America, and most people in America are an otaku about something, even if they don't know the word.

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

Since there is no "-r" ending in Japanese, "-er" is often spelled "-aa" in katakana, much as "ah" and "eh" sounds are often written "ar" or "er" in non-rhotic English dialects such as various upper-class British dialects (e.g., I just read a book where a small child said "parsketti," which would have been "pasketti" in an American book).

And coincidentally, saying -r endings that way sounds more or less correct to speakers of a lot of English dialects (various British dialects, various East Coast and Southern US dialects, Singaporean English, etc.), as well as people who learned their English in those places. :)

--
http://www.readableblog.com (for English learners)
http://www.talktotheclouds.com (for teachers)

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

I'm with you, Maki. "Obent-er" makes as much grammatical sense as would "laund-er" for a person who washes clothes. Makes my skin crawl. I really like "bentoist" the best, as the suffix implies a certain skill level along with mere ability.

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

Yeah, "obenter" is definitely out the window. There's no way it could catch on with the rest of the English speaking world, since it just sounds "off" to any native speaker, and linguists could tell you why. Bentoist sounds better, but it sounds like "pianist" or "flautist" or the like, which I'd point out are rarely used outside of the professional classical music world.

I think part of the problem is that it's not often you need to describe someone to that extent when it comes to bentos. Most of the time, a label like that is really helpful when you need to describe someone's profession ("Occupation: Pianist"). But, since part of making bentos is part of an alread accepted profession (cooking; chef; homemaker; culinary artist; food blogger) it's usually not necessary to really call someone a label like bentoist, when "bento maker" serves just as well. Especially since most people still aren't likely to know what a bento is, saying something like, "I make bentos," is going to be a lot more approachable than "I'm a bentoist."

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

“Creator” as in the sentence, “The creator of this lovely box is Maki.”

“Bento Maker/Artist” as in the sentence, “What do I do? I’m a bento artist! Let me show you some of my work!” or “The bento maker cannot control the handling of the box during shipment.”

You’re only losing one syllable by choosing bentoist over bento maker, and the whole point of contracted names is to shorten them.

To quote Will

Quote:
Bikes: cyclist, Trains: trainspotter, model railroader, modeler, Anime: fan, Otaku, anime nerd Video games: gamer Theater & Arts: projectionist, actor, actress, designer, costumer, gaffer.
was originally man who bicycles, person who builds model trains, fan of anime, person who plays video games, and random people who work in theater.

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

I don't know, I kind of like Obenter (pronounced without the 'r'!) It makes me think of "inventor" (pronounced with a 'b' like インベンター). But then it should be spelt Obentor, eh? Inbentoer? ...yeah, maybe not. Bentoist makes me think it's a religion at first glance. Obento maker makes one sound like a machine, a la rice maker. Maybe we should just make a verb out of it. "To bento". I bento.

Obentor?

Obentor? Sounds like a the main robot on a sentai show!
I could get behind that, but only if it comes with five multi-colored nesting bento boxes that form one giant bento box!

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

it's called a housewife

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

You're probably trying to be funny, but 1. there's absolutely nothing wrong with being a housewife (or house husband) 2. and they have way more skills to master than making bentos. Besides, many people who are not household managers make bentos, e.g. students, working single people.

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

anon. wrote:

it's called a housewife

oh dear, through your ignorant guise of chauvinism you seem to forget that you don't need to be a housewife to make bentos. and if you're lucky enough to have a wife i hope you don't take her so for granted that you expect her to just make things for you without thanking her.

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

In my case "housewife" would fit me, since that's my job - and I also make bentos for my two school-age children and occasionally my husband. I am fully appreciated by my husband, in particular, and by my children who consider me "the best Mummy in the whole wide world". (Whether their opinion is ultimately true or not is beside the point!)

I think the person who first wrote that a person who makes bentos is "a housewife" simply was making a joke (it made ME laugh) and I don't think any chauvinism was intended. When I first thought about what a bento-making person would be called, my first thought was "Mum"! =)

I realize that all sorts of people make them and I'm excited about that. I love seeing what other people have put together and it never fails to inspire me. Thanks!

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

Ha, Please don't feed the trolls... especially not with obento! LOL!

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

obenter sounds terrible. i'd go for bentoist, it's short and even works in german. or maybe italian style: bentoista, like barista...

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

I love bentoista! Like barista or fashionista... it's just a little more flair to it!

(Although to be far, if we are talking purely practical terms and not just fancy ones, I guess "bentoist" makes the most sense to me as a native English speaker, although I can't articulate why.)

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

I vote for bentoist, at least in English speaking circles. The nuance is perfect, linking it to artist or maybe religion as you and others indicate. Obenter makes no sense to me, and obento-er seems like a term made up by someone with little imagination, although the meaning comes through unlike obenter.

'wasei eigo'--I had never heard of the term before. Thank you for explaining. I had heard of Japanglish or Japlish to mean English that comes out strangely when Japanese try to translate into English (similar term Chinglish for Chinese). However, to be fair, we Nikkei have used the term 'Eigo kusai' to refer to when one of us uses Japanese in a way that is twisted so that it resembles English.

So anyway, don't let obenter/obentaa get into the Japanese vernacular.

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

Hi Maki,
I frequently read bento artist which I think is really appropriate. I guess that would also be easy to translate into Japanese (since I just learn to speak Japanese it is only a vague guess). For most European languages this term would sound really nice. The German "Bentokünstler"(maybe Germans would even tend to use "bento artist" as well), French "artiste de bento", Spanish "artista de bento" and English versions sound really nice and natual to my ears. In German(which is my native language) the Term "Bentoist" sounds a little bit strange since o-i-combinations rarely occur and the prefix -ist is only used for words of Greek origin (maybe Latin as well). Nevertheless "bentoist" is a nice term for English speaking communities and much better than bentoer, obentaa or obenter.
And you are really right with the problems of English as a foreign language. My Japanese class laughed really hard when learning "エレベーター". In Germany we have the same problems, too. There is for example one drugstore having the slogan "come in and find out" which most Germans translate "come in and find your way out". Lot of Germans don't even think about the sense of English terms and slogans. They just sound cool.
I really appreciate that you think about such things.
Have a nice day!

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

I usually say "bento-er" or use the longer way: "I make bentos." "Bento artist" seems to capture well what others do, but I guess I feel as if my efforts are still far from being worthy of the "artist" title. Kind of like a toddler scribbling as opposed to a piece of, well, grown-up art. Interesting question.

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

My first reaction to the question (in reference only to myself) was "Mom!" I think, though, that it might be necessary to define bentos first.

I see a difference between culturally Japanese packed lunches, artists who happen to use bentos as a medium, and people like me who pack lunches of mostly Western foods, but borrow the occasional bento technique. Food pick, anyone?

Personally I would use the phrases "bento maker" and "bento artist" in the same way I would refer to a "quilter" or a "fabric artist."

(I don't want to suggest that the makers of bentos or quilts aren't incredibly skilled or talented, just that sometimes the creation is for personal use and sometimes it's intended for a gallery wall. This is always a tricky discussion when approaching arts that are traditionally practiced by women. )

To me "bentoist" suggests a bento enthusiast who happily admires and consumes bentos, whether or not that person packs the bento him/herself.

None of these really describe my own hodge podge lunch packing style. "Bento fusion" makes it sound more well thought out than what I do, but might be a good description of some of the other East meets West packed lunch styles!

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

Dear Maki
I just read the title and immediately thought of bentoist (although I wasn't even aware that this already existed!)
From a western perspective, unfortunately without any knowledge of japanese (yet?) I'd definitely go for bentoist -as the "-ist" construction would work in many languages:

french: bentoist/e
italian & spanish: bentoista
german: bentoist

happy bentoing to all bentoists!

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

personally i like bentonian because the organized, pretty, and nutritious world of bento boxes is a pretty nice place to be. ^_^

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

How about a name reflecting the artistic nature of the bento? Such as:
Bento Fauvist
Bento Cubist
Bento Futurist
Bento Expressionist
Bento De Stijlist
Bento Suprematist
Bento Dadaist
Bento Surrealist
Bento Abstract Expressionist

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

I don't care for Bentoist, but probably because it makes me think of dentists >< But there are so many ways that could work. I personally like Bentologist, it's a bit professional and science-y! I like to think there is a science to bentology :P

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

I like "bentoist" very much.
I also hate "obenter."

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

bentoka.

someone who practices judo= judoka
someone who practices kendo= kendoka

i.e. someone who makes bentos= bentoka

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

Personally I would also go for Bentoka.
Though probably not proper japanese, it still keeps the sound.
For me a bento contains typically japanese foods (otherwise it would be a lunchbox) so a japanese (sounding) name would work better for me. Is there an actual term in japanese for someone making bento?

If I would have to choose between Obentoist and Obenter, it would definitely be the first. Obenter/Obento-er just sounds weird to me somehow.

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

Hmmm, Bentoist sounds fine to me, but Obenter sounds awfully off as I will never figure out what it's supposed to mean if you just threw the term at me..

Personally, I like Bento Artist. A little grand-sounding it may be, but that's just a personal preference. Or Bento Maker to.. well, people less close as it may seem pompous with "artist".

Re: What do you call a bento creator?

I call myself the "Master Bento Maker Overlord"...but only when others can't hear me. ^^;

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