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NYT arcticle on English loan words


Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
Reported by theNew York Times, Oct. 23, 2002:

To Grandparents, English Word Trend Isn't 'Naisu'

When Ayako Komata, 18, talks fashion with her
friends, she throws around terms like "hippu hangu," or hip-
hugging, jeans and "shadoh" (eye shadow), and ponders their effect
on "chou naisu gai" (very nice-looking guys).

This contemporary Japanese, spoken at breakneck pace and filled with
English-sounding words, is incomprehensible to her grandparents. So
when they complain that her underpants are showing, Ayako patiently
explains that the fashion these days is to wear jeans just above the
pelvis, which someone decided should be called "hippu hangu."

The Japanese government, like many older Japanese citizens, is
unimpressed by these linguistic imports that are transforming the
language. Invoking a widening communication gap in three-generation
households, among other reasons, it has decided to act.

In an effort reminiscent of France's doomed bid to halt the
proliferation of English words in the language of Moliÿre, the
government of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi recently appointed a
panel to propose measures to stem the foreign word corruption in the
language of Lady Murasaki, author of the 11th-century "Tale of

Their target is words written in katakana, a script largely reserved
for writing the exploding number of trendy words imported from
Western languages, especially English - even though Japanese has
been borrowing Western words, changing their pronunciation and
giving them a Japanese flavor, at least since the 19th century.
Before that it did the same thing on an even larger scale with
Chinese words.

With his permed mane, snappy dress and plain speech, Mr. Koizumi
himself has been a distinct trend setter. But the politician, who
studied at the London School of Economics in his youth, has drawn a
line when it comes to the purity of the Japanese language. He was
moved to action not by the puzzling speech of teenagers, but by the
English-infused and equally difficult-to-track bureaucrat-speak that
surrounds him - involving clunky Japanese derivations of things like
outsourcing, back office, redundancy and accountability.

"How can ordinary people understand if I don't understand?" the
prime inister complained during a recent strategy session on how to
revive Japan's technology sector.

Among the offending words was incubator, rendered "inkyubeetaa" when
pronounced according to the katakana spelling. "You have got to use
expressions that are more easily understood," Mr. Koizumi said.

No firm regulations have yet been introduced, but the Council on the
Japanese Language, a body somewhat akin to the Acadÿmie Franÿaise,
is already honing its powers of persuasion. It says it will analyze
newly arrived vocabulary each year and advise the government and the
media to avoid terms it regards as unwanted or as confusing

"We do not think that katakana words will disappear from the Japanese
language, because there are just too many arriving all the time,"
said Satoshi Yamaguchi, director of the Japanese language division
of Japan's Cultural Agency.

He continued, "The problem is there are so many words that most
people don't understand."

Among the recent offenders he cited were negotiation (negoshieishon),
literacy (riterashii) and interactive (intarakutibu). New terms that
mysteriously cleared the comprehension barrier, as measured by the
language agency, included home helper (herupaa) and treatment

Some language experts here think Mr. Koizumi is treading much too
lightly. Rather than seeing the growth of English-derived terms as
an inevitable side effect of globalization, which is striking
cultures around the world, they see the spread of katakana words
here as a uniquely Japanese peril.

"We Japanese have an inferiority complex over language which has
turned into a dangerous longing," said Chikara Kato, a professor of
linguistics at Sugiyama Jogakuin University in Nagoya. "As a result,
Japanese youngsters are taking a distance from Japanese and favoring
katakana words. If you go into a clothing store that caters to young
people, you'll find that everything is in English."

In fact, although borrowings from English are by far the most
numerous, they are not alone in invading the Japanese language. Many
medical terms come from German, and in conformity with national
stereotypes, the language of romance has been invaded by French.

A young woman who sleeps out for a night, unannounced to her
parents, is said to have pulled a "puchi iede," or roughly a petit,
or little, night out - "iede" is standard Japanese.

People like Professor Kato become incensed over the thought that
entire sentences can be strung together in contemporary Japanese
using nothing but Western-derived words, save for an occasional
Japanese verb or particle.

Try for example: "Kasuaru use of katakana is not reezunaburu."
Reasonable or not, the casual use of katakana seems almost
uncontrollable, and most Japanese people, especially those under 50,
seem unconcerned about the debate. The love affair with English is
so well established here that a Japanese purification program would
have to erase everything from the name of the country's perennial
baseball favorites, the Yomiuri Giants, to renaming virtually every
part in their automobiles, from the doa and taiya to the mootaa
(door, tire and motor).

For his part, in fact, Tomatsu Komata, the 79-year-old grandfather
of Ayako, affects nonchalance about the subject, claiming to have no
difficulty understanding.

At 43, Sumiko Komata, right in the middle of this yawning language
divide, knows better, and slyly begins to pepper her speech with
borrowed terms like dilemma, policy and mental. A few moments later
she asks granddad if he understands, and he throws up his hands in

"To tell you the truth, if we go to a restaurant and I don't
understand what's on the menu, I just give it to her," Mr. Komata
said, chuckling as he gestured toward his daughter-in-law. "With all
the new words, half the time I have no idea what they are serving."

Copyright © New York Times
Interesting and like the end of the article, Japanese would have to be basically re-written from scratch to erase all the loan words. Kill all high school girls and then ersase half of the OL population.

Effectively, this won't work! Unless Japan decides to wage war against the US. Back during WWII baseball had to rename all loan words so strike became sanshin, first base was ichi ryu and what not.

More importantly I think would be just to repair the educational system and get things back on track which would effectively reduce the number of loan words found acceptable.
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