On a recent trip to Tachikawa (立川), a city that is part of Tokyo, I came across a sign that said:
ホルモン焼き (horumon yaki)
At first glance, the first word here sounds suspiciously like “hormone”. The second word “yaki” has a variety of meanings related to cooking: “grilled”, “toasted”, “baked”, etc. So I assumed this meant something like “grilled hormones” and immediately lost my appetite.
Of course, there is more to the story. Eventually I looked up this word on the Japanese Wikipedia and discovered that it actually means grilled internal organs of animals (heart, liver, kidney, etc.) While this does sound a little better than “grilled hormones”, and I have had some of these before, to be honest I’m not a huge fan.
But I was curious about the word ホルモン (horumon) that sounded suspiciously like the English word “hormone”. Fortuntaely, the same Wikipedia page had some details about that.
According to one theory, “horumon” here came from the phrase “放るもん” (houru mon) in Osaka dialect meaning “things that are thrown away” (捨てるもの), and this got shortened to “horumon”. However, it is noted that the “biological regulatory substance” meaning is also related because hormones are present in internal organs.
By the way, while there are claims as to how healthy these organs are and how they can be good for your skin, it seems there are two sides to the story. For example, some say that such internal organs are not only hard to digest and high in calories, but contain substances that may cause gout.
In any case, I’m pretty sure that using the word “Hormone” in an English translation would be a pretty bad marketing idea (: