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Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2007

Buzzword book taps into zeitgeist language


Special to The Japan Times

Since 1948, a huge compendium (about 1,700 pages in its 2007 edition) of words, phrases, slang, jargon and acronyms in dozens of categories titled the "Encyclopedia of Contemporary Words (Gendai Yogo no Kiso Chishiki)" has made its annual appearance.

To get the general public involved, publisher Jiyu Kokumin-sha invites people to vote online for the Ryukogo Taisho (buzzwords of the year) awards. The top 10 winners were announced to the media with the usual fanfare at Tokyo Kaikan on Dec. 1.

The two Grand Prix went to a European athlete's name and part of a book title. Ina Bauer was the 1950s German figure skater who pioneered the "spread-eagle" move. It was used by sports commentators to describe the spectacular skating of Turin Olympic gold medalist Shizuka Arakawa during the women's free skating event. She had bent backward until her head was upside down, akin to forbear Bauer.

Ina Bauer shared the top honors with hinkaku, from mathematician Masahiko Fujiwara, whose best-selling book "Kokka no Hinkaku (The Dignity or Moral Character of a Nation)" berated the attitude that "anything is OK as long as it's profitable." His book, published by Shinchosha, broke records for sales, shooting past the 2 million mark in 190 days.

The remaining top 10 recipients included:

* Erokakkoii (sexy in a cool way): Used to describe Kumi Koda, the 24-year-old J-pop diva known for performing in abbreviated costumes. Also referred to as erokawaii (sexy-cute).

* Kakusa shakai (the class-structured society): Tokyo Gakugei University professor Masahiro Yamada is credited with this term as he used it to raise concerns about how the disappearance of Japan's egalitarian "100-million middle class" society will lead to a growing gap between the haves and have nots.

* "Tarako, tarako, tarako:" Lyrics from a catchy TV commercial for Kewpie mayonnaise sung by Haruka and Rena, the kiddie duet known together as Kigurumi. Tarako are codfish eggs.

* No tore (brain training): From "No wo kitaeru toreningu (brain training for adults), the best-selling game software for Nintendo's DS game console. Awarded to one of the people credited with conceiving the game, Professor Ryuta Kawashima of Tohoku University.

* Hankachi oji (the handkerchief prince): Yuki Saito, star pitcher for Waseda Jitsugyo High School, used a hankie to wipe sweat from his brow while leading his team to its first victory at the Koshien Summer Baseball Tournament.

* Mixi: With 5.7 million members, Japan's most popular social network service is a prime example of the so-called nanaroku sedai, the "third generation" of IT entrepreneurs born around 1976, hence nana-roku. (Mixi's 31-year-old president, Kenji Kasahara, was born in 1975 -- close enough.)

* Metaborikku shindoromu (Metabolic syndrome): This came from the Japanese Society of Internal Medicine, which issued a warning that a triple or quadruple whammy of disorders, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, fatty liver, etc., in middle-age raised susceptibility to heart attacks and strokes.

In addition to Jiyu Kokumin-sha, the vernacular magazine Weekly Playboy (Dec. 11) issued its own list of 30 new expressions particular to the subculture, a large portion of which appear to have been sourced from blogs. They include:

* Megadoru: Any pop idol (aidoru) who wears eyeglasses (megane).

* Furage: To obtain magazines, books, CDs, etc., before they officially go on sale. A word synthesized from the English "flying get."

* Taoru myujikku (towel music): Audiences at live performances by such artists as reggae group Shonan no Kaze demonstrate their enthusiasm by twirling towels.

* QBK: Short for kyu ni boru ga kita node (because the ball came very quickly), so said by Atsushi Yanagisawa in the Japan-Croatia match in the 2006 World Cup when explaining why he missed a sitter in front of goal.

* Koneko-goroshi (killing kittens): Novelist Masako Bando shocked the nation when she confessed in her newspaper column that she had performed feline infanticide.

* Shujin ga oarikui ni korosarete ichinen ga sugimashita (a year has passed since my husband was killed by a giant anteater): This appeared on the subject line of a spam e-mail widely circulated last summer.

* Youtsube (pronounced yoh-tsu-bay): Googled in katakana, this is the somewhat garbled rendering of an unfamiliar foreign word (YouTube) used when Japanese want to access the popular video-sharing site YouTube.com

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