First, to state the obvious, I find "JAP" offensive. I am a Caucasian American who lived in Japan for an entirely too short a period. The role I played in Japan required that I communicate with many people - Japanese people; customers, vendors, suppliers, employees, and friends. So, I was very conscious of how I spoke, how I communicated with others. "JAP" was a phrase I would not use, anymore than I would use the term "nigger". The probability that it would be offensive is too great, in my opinion, to even consider it part of my language. It is probably because we heard that term in a derogatory way when referring to the events of WWII.
Of course, I am aware that "Jap" is considered offensive, so the thread title (which referred to Gil's column) has to be viewed as merely rhetorical.
Now aside from political correctness, I think that we have to consider each term or denomination offensive that the target group itself (in this case Japanese) deems offensive. That applies to "jap", "yankee", "kraut" or whatever. And - to add another aspect - could also apply to the term "gaijin" which is used in Japan so "innocently".
I often wondered, and asked, about the term 'gaijin' while living in Japan. I have several very close friends there - Japanese - who consistently insisted that the term 'gaijin' held no offensive connotation whatsoever, other than the its literal meaning of outsider. As you know, Japan is/was a very homogenious country, and although that has changed dramatically in the past 50 years, there is still much about Japan that an 'outsider' has difficulty bridging. I was one of the fortunate ones, I think, in many ways, and was able to cross a few of those bridges during my all-too-brief stay in Japan. Perhaps, I was able to cross a few of those bridges because I was genuinely interested. Hard to define. The Japanese culture never included a great deal of 'openness'.
I assume it all depends on the context in which terms such as "gaijin" are used. I am sure that most Japanese have no discriminatory intentions when referring to foreigners as gaijin. I am always amused to see Japanese tourists using this term for non-Japanese even while being abroad themselves.
As you mentioned, it is most important to be willing to bridge cultures. Mutual understanding, however, requires bridges to be crossed from both sides.
Sorry, Thomas, but I dont agree with you in this point. In my humble opinion the term gaijin has a racial connotation. According to the still existing tale, Japan was created by gods himself. I agree, such legends exists in almost every society. But it implies, that Japan is not only a holy place on earth, but also that Japanese are something unique and therefore better than others. Please dont misunderstand me: I dont want to offend anyone and never would offend Japanese, because I like them pretty much, and personally dont have a problem with the term gaijin. I just like to express that I dont agree with your interpretation. In my humble opinion has the term gaijin a racial connotation - but it doesnt disturb me and hope Japanese dont feel disturbed, that in my mother tongue some words have such a connotation too...because it just comes from old, old times, right?
h.mmm... obviously, I am not the only one who has thought about this term. While I know that it literally means 'outsider', it is usually translated, even by Japanese, as 'foreigner'. That's a term you will also see readily used in our own INS documents, and in other pieces of literature. It is not derogatory, unless you want it to be. That is, we are currently in the midst of a battle of wits with the pros and cons of 'illegal aliens', particularly those coming across the Mexican border. So, in this context, 'foreigner' is often said with derision. But is otherwise, just a generic term.
I lived in Japan long enough to work with a lot of different people in all walks of the social strata. I conversed, negotiated, supported, played, and caroused with many. Not once did I ever detect a derogatory sense of the word when used to refer to me, or others -- and I heard it many times!
I don't think it is intended to be derogatory, unless the user specifically wants it to be.
LOL .... the bar flies will use the term gaijin deragotorily when the gaijin boys are trying to pick up on japanese girls.
I use the term myself as much as a African-American will use the word "nigger" amongst themselves.
But, I have to admit that this is more of a media disfunction than a prejudice. Japanese folks aren't used to a fully heterogenous community yet. ie .... news, whenever a gaijin is mentioned the term gaijin is used instead of the nationality. Not until the media changes will this gaijin usage.
I just don't like being referred to as a gaijin while I'm home in the states!
BUT! Japan is not the only country that uses such terminology. The Germans have the word "Auslander" which means outside-land-person.
Give the Japanese some more time and cable TV .... things will straighten itself out.
I think Japanese people should be called nothing but Japanese . Jap is a name used for japanese in world war 2 , just like how the Germans where called Gerries . No one calls Germans that anymore so why do it to the Japanese . Jap is considerd very rude and we have made peace with Japan . So there is no reason to treat them or give the names we did 60 years ago when the Japanese where taken away from their homes and locked up !!!
If I am wrong, please correct me: But I have the impression that our opinions on this topic are not very far away. Because I guess, everybody of us would support that people use "Japanese" instead of the shortened term "Japs", right?
But I doubt, if we all have the opinion that the term "Jap", which is just a relict from old times, will die out anytime.
"Give the Japanese some more time and cable TV .... things will straighten itself out."
Please excuse me, but I definitely disagree with this prediction - not only because Japan has already the largest media environment in the world. In my humble opinion, the modern media - especially the Japanese - doesnt support such an "Enlightenment". In fact, the opposite is true. Because, as many, many analysis of the media development since the Second World War show, media are less describing things detailled. Instead their reporting becomes more and more superficial, what has the advantage, that everybody can understand what they like to inform you about, but also the disadvantage, that less people can form their own, explicit opinion. Just think about, how media currently report about world affairs that almost every country affects... well, they report more and more: but black and white, right?
I agree, this raises questions that might bring us to other topics, for example the role of the so-called "globalization". But, anyway, in my humble opinion, you are wrong:
Give the Japanese some more time and cable TV .... things will NOT eradicate cultural preconceptions, in fact, the opposite is the true! Right?
ahhh true that Japanese won't just simply change due to TV and Cable but you must remember even with a sever beating the Japanese won't just change overnight.
A 76 teacher that I work with mentioned that what ever Lafcadio Hearn mentioned what some 100+ years ago still apply today.
Japanese have this inate ability not to change. Many feel that if it "ain't broken, it shouldn't be fixed".
I can think of the some major changes in Japanese history:
Tokygawa Period -- Japan under one rule with social classes being set.
Meiji Period -- the introduction of the true sense of the word "I"
Post WW2 -- Emperor declares he's human, panty hose, chocolate, and GI's are rampant in the cities.
80's -- Japanese venture oversease en-mass.
I mentioned Cable TV because it's a way to help the Japanese to change their perceptions of the world. My idea has lot's of flaws and protrays a "Hollywood" type of image, but I was hoping that even with such a problematic media as TV the Japanese would slowing see the world from a much larger angle.
surely this is a problem faced by most if not all japanese people, I have on occasion heard quite nasty tags being given to the japanese people, some I would never dream of repeating, how ever the people speaking these words have to be ignorant to the real japan and are afraid to admit that they know nothing of the culture, coming from Nr.Ireland I to have the problem of nasty tags and world wide impressions that are harsh and untrue.
I understand the feelings expressed by other people on this subject, but feel that we should not be too quick to take offense to the term 'Jap'.
I leave to Americans and people more familiar with American culture whether it is a racist term there. However, in the UK, where I have lived and worked for over five years, the term is often used in a friendly familiar way. The offensive word, especially among older people, is 'Nip'.
I would use the word 'gaikokujin' rather than 'gaijin' in conversation. The difference is that the former means person from a foreign land and the latter means outside person or stranger.
Some use of the word 'gaijin' *CAN* be offensive, but I doubt that most Japanese people think of it as such. My husband, who is English and lived in Japan from 1990 to 1996 does not find the term offensive.
When my daughter went on a school trip to France it was interesting that the local French children were quite happy to be called 'Froggies' and to call the visitors 'Les ros bif' (spelling?). It was all meant in fun and fitted in with the spirit and humour of the situation.
My husband has several Australian friends who always refer to him as a 'Pommie' and to their mutual American friends as 'Seppos'. I am told that Pom or Pommie means "Prisoner of the Motherland" and Seppo comes from Sceptic Tank, which in turn comes from Yank. As far as I know, it is all meant in fun and should not be taken as an insult.
I understood that the term 'gaikokujin' was merely the formal, correct pronunciation of the kanji, whereas, 'gaijin' was merely the shorthand form. Similarly, 'watakushi' in formal occasions, or in the presence of your superiors, vs 'watashi'; but, again, the kanji is identical.
Now, in formal, traditional language, women in Japan are much more likely to use the 'watakushi' and 'gaikokujin' terms, than men. Otherwise, I have always understood the meaning to be the same.
My wife and I still use a lot of Japanese in our home, here in Arizona, and we often use the word 'gaijin' to refer to foreigners (meaning non-Americans) here, as well. It has no derogatory connotation in our usage, and we never felt that while in Japan.
So, I think it is interesting to note that this threaded discussion has, so far, operated under the assumption that 'gaijin' was referring to a non-Japanese person. Not necessarily true! (GRIN)
Hmmmm.... I just realized I made a mistake. ﾅ?Oﾂ坂?伉人, obviously, is not the same kanji as ﾅ?Oﾂ人ﾂ｡ However, I know that I have seen them used interchangeably, with ﾅ?Oﾂ人 being more common. I really have never heard them used in a manner that would suggest their meanings are different.
I read that note about the use of the word 'Nip', however. I had completely forgotten that word. I think of that word only in the context of its use during WWII. Definitely derogatory. But I also tend to think of the term 'Jap' in the same context. Again, would never use it. I remember a couple of times when I wanted to abbreviate a filename on the computer, and almost used 'jap', before self-consciously, changing it to 'jpn'. Obviously, I am not comfortable with the 'jap' term, either.
As I am sure you know, the reading of kanji can be very different, even with people's names. However, the choice of reading is important when it comes to the formality and appropriate usage of a word or phrase in a given setting. The selection of appropriate words and phrases is all part of keigo, which is often very difficult to learn.
The choice of words or phrases required for keigo in Japan in not unique to us. I have observed similar variations in diction and register with British people.
A good friend of my husband's used to own a number of country inns in Sussex. While enjoying a pub lunch with our friends I was often able to watch the way that the barmen and customers interacted. There was a lot of variation based on familiarity, social class, and company (ie with or without wives/girlfriends).
I have noticed the same thing among my colleagues at Ardingly College and SOAS. It is a complex code of unwritten rules that can be confusing for people not brought up with it.
The trouble is a lot of this stuff is taboo so its connotations are left unchallenged. I guess you could address any terms that you may find offensive, as you come across them spoken by people, but other than that, you should stand firmly to what you believe is derogatory or not. It's all subjective, either through misinformation most of the time...
e.g. The term "gaijin" is a weird one for me. I don't really find it derogatory, but the abbreviation "Jap" definitely is for me. However, a lot of places here in the UK (London, anyway) use this abbreviation (without the fullstop/period to indicate it's an abbreviation). In shops you'll see stickers on items like "Rare Jap Import," etc. but it's certainly practised due to misinformation rather than intent to be derogatory
Same thing goes for the term "oriental." Here in the UK, a lot of people use it to refer to a SE Asian individual. However, I believe it's offensive in the USA. All these weird rules... i try not to get too much in a bother about them, unless the person uttering them is doing it spitefully or with intent to be rascist.