Friday, November 20, 2009

Top 60 Japanese words and phrases of 2009

I enjoy this list every year, as it condenses all the news stories and variety programs.

Some of the highlights this time:

“4. Herbivorous men [sōshoku danshi - 草食男子]: Coined in 2006 by author Maki Fukasawa, this term refers to an emerging breed of man whose passive nature stands in stark contrast to conventional notions of masculinity. Typically in his 20s or 30s, the herbivore doesn’t earn much money, spends little, takes a keen interest in fashion and his personal appearance, and does not aggressively pursue “flesh” (i.e. romance and sex). Friendly and home-oriented, he tends to favor cosmetics over deluxe cars and would rather eat sweets at home than treat his girlfriend to dinner at a fancy restaurant. [More]”

I’m amused by this as if you translate the kanji for sōshoku separately it means "Grass-Eating.” A phenomenon that seems to be related is the so-called Skirt Boys. One can probably be a Grass-Eating man without being a Skirt Boy, but I’d be very surprised if the reverse was also true.

“5. Herbivorous/carnivorous [sōshoku-kei/nikushoku-kei - 草食系/肉食系]: Where the herbivorous man is passive, the so-called “carnivorous woman” is aggressive. The words “herbivorous” and “carnivorous” have come to denote one’s level of passiveness or aggressiveness, particularly with respect to sex and romance.”

One of the members of NEWS was on a show where the female host got him to imitate with her a rare male-female comedy duo’s routine involving standing face to face. The host, of course, took the opportunity to glomp onto the poor young man, and after they were separated he could be heard to weakly utter, “…she’s really a carnivore, isn’t she…” Considering Japan’s social norms, I would think the carnivorous female is a rare creature.


“30. New flu [shingata infuruenza - 新型インフルエンザ]: About 6 million people in Japan have been infected with the new strain of influenza A virus subtype H1N1 since early July.

It’s even become a new word – the news has started saying “infure” instead. Since I was wondering earlier, there have been over forty deaths in Japan so far.



A visiting teacher is instructing some of the girls in traditional Japanese dance, the kinds with fans and quick, small movements. We were invited to watch, and when we first entered the gym it was a dizzying array of colors and patterns as the girls wore their yukata. At first I thought the tomboyish and awkward thirteen-year-olds would suddenly display unknown grace, that somehow their heritage would shine threw. It was oddly comforting that they were just as stilted as I would be performing the same moves. They dropped their fans and got tangled up in their long sleeves.



A fairly self-explanatory comedy routine, the haunted electric shaver.

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