Hikikomori, zangyo and hentai surprisingly understood abroad

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I don’t quite believe this goo Ranking of Japanese words that people are surprised to learn are understood overseas; of course, I have no reason to dispute the results, but as this style of survey is picking a selection from a list of words, I cannot really understand why the survey compiler picked zangyo, overtime as a representative word. I’ve done a quick search of the BBC and New York Times, and while both have stories mentioning hikikomori and hentai, zangyo draws a blank.

I’m surprised at Doraemon and Sailor Moon featuring so high on the list too, as I am aware from watching Japanese television that these cartoons and any others are rather popular all over the world.

I just searched for hikikomori on Flickr, and on the first page was two pictures of bugs in rice. So, instead I took the first usable photo for otaku, which turned out to be an instance of too niche a Japanese word to be understood widely abroad, the ita-sha, the sort of car no-one other than an otaku would be seen dead in.

ITA-Sya. (OTAKU car)
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“English” words Japanese don’t realise aren’t English

Today’s survey from goo Ranking looks at Japanese-English, words that are English (or have their roots in English but have taken on distinct Japanese meanings. Specifically, the survey was about Japanese-English words people were unaware that they were Japanese-English only.

Demographics

The survey was conducted from the 21st to the 23rd of November 2013, and 1,054 people completed a private web-based questionnaire. Note that the score in the results refers to the relative number of votes for each option, not a percentage of the total sample.

I once tried to explain to a Japanese person that “speed up”, “slow down” and “slow up” were perfectly valid, but the Japanese-English “speed down” was nonsense in English!
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Surprising loan words from Japanese to English

goo Ranking had a fun little ranking survey recently, looking at what unusual loan words that have come from Japanese to English. I believe the survey was conducted based on a Japanese Wikipedia list of loan words.

Demographics

Over the 22nd and 23rd of July 2011 over 1,000 members of the goo Research online monitor group completed a private internet-based questionnaire. However, the link to the sample demographics does not work. Note that the score in the results refers to the relative number of votes for each option, not a percentage of the total sample.

About the only words you’ll find in a dictionary are hikikomori, which made it into the Oxford dictionary a couple of years ago, and the food ones. I’d like to know how Wikipedia decided on which words to list, as outside of the cooking ones most seem related to anime and manga, in particular the more seedy side of it.
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“November” is the hardest month for Japanese

Do you usually have reason to read or write months in English? graph of japanese statisticsThis survey from iShare was educational for me, and I hope it will be educational for some of my readers who may be unaware of the Japanese names in this look at month names, in both English and classical Japanese.

Demographics

Between the 24th and 29th of September 2010 461 members of the CLUB BBQ free email forwarding service completed a private internet-based questionnaire. 52.5% of the sample were male, 28.6% in their twenties, 30.6% in their thirties, and 40.8% in their forties.

In modern Japanese, the months are ridiculously easy to remember, being basically “Month 1”, “Month 2”, and so on up to “Month 12”, but before they adopted the Gregorian calendar there was a completely different set of names which I rarely see and could not name any of them at all. Note that although in Q1SQ I mention the English month, there’s not really a direct one-to-one correspondence as the old Japanese calendar was lunar-based, so they tended to repeat months here and there to stop things getting horrendously out of sync.
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Poorly-understood job titles in Japan

Here’s a quick ranking survery from goo Ranking to squeeze in as my entry to the September 2008 Japan Blog Matsuri on poorly-understood job titles in Japan. As the theme of this month’s Matsuri is language, I’ll list the original Japanese too. I’ll bet many of my readers will be stumped by some of the translations too!

Demographics

Between the 25th and 28th of July 2008 1,072 members of the goo Research online monitor panel completed a private internet-based questionnaire. 50.3% of the sample were male, 5.7% in their teens, 14.4% in their twenties, 31,0% in their thirties, 28.1% in their forties, 10.5% in their fifties, and 10.4% aged sixty or older. Note that the score in the results refers to the relative number of votes for each option, not a percentage of the total sample.
It’s interesting that most of the confusing job titles are English ones. Number 7, Vice-President, refers not to people like Dick Cheney, but to something I notice in start-ups, where everyone in at the founding and/or with substantial shareholdings gets an honorary vice-presidentship for their troubles. I’m not sure what number 14 is doing on the list – an orchestra conductor is a 指揮者, shikisha – do they mean bus conductor?

I used to have an unofficial job title of Transcontinental Code Monkey (I might even still have the T-shirt somewhere), but that’s another story.

Oh, and for the Blog Matsuri I though this or this would have been much more appropriate, but the translation defeated me!
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MM! IW! 3M!

Ahh, the youth of today! If it wasn’t hard enough to follow Japanese in the first place, the kids are using romaji (roman alphabet) abbreviations that make LOL, BRB and CUL8R seem so simple. This survey from goo Research in conjuction with the Yomiuri Shimbun into in-vogue abbreviations looked at their use and abuse.

Demographics

Between the 25th and 28th of March 2008 533 young people from the goo Research monitor panel completed a private internet-based questionnaire. The report says there was a 1:1 male to female ratio, but that would leave one extra. The age split is not noted, but 35% of the respondents were students, 30% were full-time employees, and 11% were home-makers.

I think most foreign residents of Japan will have heard of KY at least; indeed, one of the best selling non-fiction books these days is a KY Dictionary!

When the survey questions mention “conversation”, I believe it is referring to spoken language, not email.

Q3 is probably wrong in many places, so I hope my readers can point me in the right direction!

Which annoys you the most?

View Results

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Why the Japanese like being Japanese

As part of their 104th Ranking Research, DIMSDRIVE Research asked 5,003 members of its monitor group why it was good that they were born Japanese. This poll was conducted towards the end of November.

When I first read this I laughed out loud at the item ranked second, and I think everyone else who has lived in Japan will raise at least a wry smile when they see probably the most groan-worthy stereotypical nihonjinron-like answer.

If I had to choose the top reasons why I’m happy that I was born Scottish, I’d probably choose the Scottish socialistic (with a small ‘s’) character, the great outdoors, our football team that can inspire both laughter and tears, something to do with our culture and heritage, and, of course, that I wasn’t born English.
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Word of the Year 2006 (Chiezo version)

Another word of the year list for your entertainment, this time as selected by the editors of (or contributors to?) the annual magazine 知恵蔵, chiezou, Store of Wisdom, a publication that covers the theme of current language matters.
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This year’s key words and phrases

On the first of December Japan’s biggest correspondence course company, U-CAN, and Jiyu Kokumin Sha (a book publishing company) released the results of a survey into the top words or expressions to come into vogue this year. The voting was conducted, I believe, by means of a public web poll though both of their web sites, but no demographic information is available. On the web site linked above you can find all sixty candidate words that the winners were selected from.

The handkerchief prince meme became one of the most irritating ones for me; it seemed that almost ever comedian picked up on it, and the merest dab of their foreheads with a blue hanky was enough to send the studio audience into paroxisms of mirth.

Regarding Metabolic Syndrome or middle-age spread, and to stray rather far away from the topic, I had an intersting discussion at work this afternoon regarding the best way to tackle this issue. This year’s winter bonus seems to have been spent in one of two ways; first, on the Panasonic Joba, a decidedly non-bucking bronco for your living room. One colleague recounted a story how one of the old guys in her English class is a cowboy freak, so at home indulges in cosplay by dressing up in a cowboy outfit, saddling up and watching John Wayne movies. As a result, his English is rather advanced but contains many expressions that died in the Wild West. Second, the Wii. Quite a lot of people old enough to know better queued overnight for the release and spent the weekend working out to Wii Sports.
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Japanese murdered on the internet

A little while back goo Ranking published the results of a poll into the top 30 new internet words. Many of these neologisms are unlikely to ever find their way into a dictionary, other than perhaps one of the Wiki family, of course. As usual for goo Ranking, the top vote gets 100 points, and all the rest get a value representing the percentage of votes relative to the number one choice.

As you might suspect, many of these words were coined on 2 Channel.

As I no doubt have made many, many mistakes, please feel free to correct me!
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