Dead words from the 70s and 80s in Japan

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Well, some of the words in the list have an even longer pedigree, but most of the ones in this list from goo Ranking of Showa era (1925-1989) words that people don’t know the meaning of.

Demographics

On the 19th of November 2009 1,166 members of the goo Research monitor group completed a private internet-based questionnaire. 59.9% of the sample were female, 13.4% in their teens, 20.6% in their twenties, 28.2% in their thirties, 23.2% in their forties, 8.3% in their fifties, and 6.3% aged sixty or older.

This survey will be of most interest to students of the Japanese language, although I hope others can also enjoy it.

For these students of the language, I used a rather good online Japanese slang dictionary (note, Japanese only) as reference for the meaning of a few of the words.

It’s a bit of a curious twist that the only word I (and probably most of my readers) recognise is the number one unrecognised word, kimosabe!

Ranking result

Q: Which of the following words from the Showa Era do you not know the meaning of? (Sample size=1,066, multiple choice)

Rank日本語English/RomajiMeaningScore
1キモサベKimosabeA trusty friend100
2可取り専攻Katori senkou“If only I could pass the exam…” way of thinking – has same pronunciation as mosquito coil98.9
3ウニるUniruBrain is all confused. From uni, sea urchin, which sort of looks like brains91.9
4BGShort for Business GirlAn even less PC version of Office Lady90.7
5カイワレ族Kaiware-zokuMiddle, high school student who can only survive in a controlled society. Kaiware is a radish sprout, so someone too weak to stand on his own88.6
6ベルサッサBeru-sassaSomeone who leaves for home as soon as the bell sounds88.5
7ビフォア9Before 9Using morning commute time for personal development88.1
8ミツバチ族Mitsubachi-zoku, bee tribePeople who tour Hokkaido, etc by motorcycle86.6
9ロンタイRontaiShort for Long Tight Skirt81.2
10ワンコンWan-konShort for Wan-len (which is short for One Length, long straight hair) plus Body-con (short for Body Conscious, a tight-fitting dress)75.6
11くれない族Kurenai-zokuSomeone who often says “Shite-kurenai”, “someone won’t do something for me”74.7
12パンキョーPan-kyouShort for 一般教育科目, ippan kyouiku kamoku, general education course74.6
13家教Ka-kyouShort for 家庭教師, katei kyoushi, home tutor70.1
14イマいImaiTrendy, vogue67.6
15クリスマスケーキ(の女)Christmas Cake (woman)A woman past her marriage sell-by date, nominally 2566.3
16ニュートラNew-tora (new traditional)In vogue style from the mid seventies to the eighties63.8
17太陽族Taiyou-zokuFrom the book and movie Taiyou no Kitetsu, Season of the Sun, by Shintaro Ishihara (current Tokyo governer), describing the rebellious youth culture featured in the book62.5
18トラバるTorabaruWoman who changes jobs. From the French travail61.6
19ハマトラHamatoraAbbreviation for Yokohama Traditional, a local variation on New Traditional above60.0
20パンピーPan-piiOrdinary people, formed from 一般, ippan, ordinary, and the English people44.4
21ブッチBucchiRun away without saying a word, skive off work, ignore a phone call, etc39.7
22銀ブラGin-buraAbbreviation of Ginza Burabura, loitering around the streets of Ginza31.9
23半ドンHan-donA day with only a half day of work, school31.4
24結構毛だらけ、猫灰だらけKekko ke darake (quite covered in hair), neko hai darake (covered in cat ashes)Joke pronuniation of “kore ha kekko de aru”, “this is OK”31.0
255時から男5 pm manBusinessman who only comes alive after work29.6
26新人類Shin-jinshu, the new raceYoung generation with a new way of thinking, feeling27.8
27花金Hana-kinTGIF20.4
28マブいMabuiBeautiful, lovely19.9
29フケるFukeruSkiving off work19.7
30クリソツKurisotsuResembling, spitting image of. From a jumbling of the word sokkuri19.0
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7 comments »

  1. Laura said,
    January 25, 2010 @ 01:12

    I’m surprised, you didn’t know クリスマスケーキ? That was the only one on this list that I had heard of, I thought it was still a semi-common word.

  2. bingobangoboy said,
    January 25, 2010 @ 03:41

    Ha! ベルサッサ… Someone told me about that term about 6 years ago, when I was new to Japan. Since it was possibly the first slang I knew, I wrote it down and of course I tried to be “cool” by using it whenever I could. Of course, nobody knew what I was talking about. I’d forgotten all about it, but at least now I know I wasn’t crazy.
    Yeah, クリスマスカーキ is one of those staple Japanese cultural factoids constantly recycled in amateur rhetoric about Japan. I think it sounds as weird to contemporary Japanese as it does to bright-eyed foreigners. File under “the nail that sticks up gets hammered down.”
    (FWIW, the average age of marriage for women in Japan has been over 25 since the 70s)

  3. January 25, 2010 @ 10:03

    I’m glad you translated this and that “Christmas cake” is on there–I get the feeling that it’s a real eye-roller among current Japanese, but it is still commonly promoted in English-language literature about sexism in Japan and/or about wasei eigo (Japan-made English phrases). Many lists and books of “Japanese slang” are horribly outdated.

  4. Sandra said,
    January 25, 2010 @ 12:06

    Interesting list! The only one I learned in the course of normal conversation was パンピー, though I’d heard a few of the others – imai, hanakin, and of course, Christmas cake. I wonder if they have a little more staying power in rural areas?

  5. akane said,
    January 28, 2010 @ 13:21

    Funny, interesting!:D
    LOL @ ベルサッサ

  6. Greg said,
    March 12, 2015 @ 09:44

    新人類 should be ‘shin jinrui’.

    Embarrassingly, I’d only heard of a few of these. Glad to know I’m not alone. BTW, I used まぶい the other day and everyone understood.

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