I can’t believe I’m scooping No-sword on this, but Top 60 popular Japanese words/phrases of 2008 (at Pink Tentacle, translated from a list from publishing company Jiyu Kokuminsha, from which “a panel of judges will select the trendiest Japanese word of 2008”) is a most interesting look into contemporary Japanese culture and language. There’s everything from baseball:

30. Make Legend (meiku rejendo – メーク・レジェンド): This is the slogan of the 2008 Yomiuri Giants baseball team under manager Tatsunori Hara, who beat the odds to win the 2008 Central League Championship. The slogan is reminiscent of the team’s 1996 slogan of “Make Drama” (which, in hybridized Japanese-English, means to achieve success after a dramatic turnaround). That season, the Giants under manager Nagashima captured the Central League pennant and “Make Drama” was recognized as the trendiest expression of 1996.

to politics, economics, and history; there is also, of course, pop culture, though not as much as one might have expected, and the occasional note about pure language use (“Choriiissu (チョリ~ッス): Shibuya slang for ‘hello'”). Via MetaFilter.


  1. With regards to #45–imagine if the U.S. Treasury Dept. came out with a mascot ‘Billy the Bailout Whale’. God I love Japan.

  2. Very interesting and informative. Nice to catch up on the introverted world of Japan.
    I was interested in the translation of これでいいのだ as “It’s all good”. これでいい normally means “that’s satisfactory”, “that’s OK”, “that’s fine”. It’s not quite the same as all-out praise because it could be used to tell someone to leave things as they are.
    The entry on 屁の突っ張りでもないですから fails to mention that 屁の突っ張り means ‘a fart’. So it seems to mean “It wasn’t even a fart”. I’d say it is as dismissive as it sounds (屁もしない he mo shinai means ‘not give a fart’).
    I was mildly taken aback at せんとくん/まんとくん (sento-kun, manto-kun). I’m not sure what Sento-kun means — is it related to ‘saint’? Manto-kun is an obvious take-off on this, because Manto looks like a manjū or bun with filling. But what took me back is an the fact that there is a word senzuri which means ‘(male) masturbation’, and modelled on it there is also the word manzuri, meaning ‘female masturbation’, from a Japanese term for the female genitalia. This is a rather old word pair, but still… when they came up with Manto-kun, did some mischievous person have this at the back of their minds?

  3. Sento is 遷都 “moving the capital” (No-sword). Manto is マント “cloak”, from French manteau (No-sword).
    Sen (千) and man (万) are “thousand” and “ten thousand”*, so the same contrast could easily have been in mind without any particular reference to masturbation.
    * Senzuri = “a thousand rubs”, manzuri = “ten thousand rubs”.

  4. A.J.P. Crown says

    ‘I’m turning Japanese,’ is a reference to masturbation though, isn’t it? (I’m not sure how, though. I just know the song.)

  5. A.J.P. Crown says

    Sorry about the two thoughs in consecutive sentences, that was my secretary’s fault.

  6. Well, well. Thanks for the reference to that thread. Which I have seen before (I actually left a comment) but totally forgot!
    I considered 遷都 for sento, and of course I was also aware that there were lots of temporary capitals before Nara became a relatively permanent one (i.e., before it was finally shifted to Kyoto), so it might have fitted…. But let’s face it, 遷都 is kind of lame, which is why I ruled it out.
    The creators of the character have had a field day with puns, and the most prominent one is the “thousand”/”ten thousand” opposition Tim has pointed out. The first thing they say is that 万人 manto (ten thousand people) is way ahead of 千人 (which is how they wrote sento). That’s because manto was chosen by 五万人 gomanto (lots of) people, and is looking forward to being loved by 万人 manto (lots of people).
    Then they draw attention to the Manyoshu (万葉人 man’yōbito) and 満都 (manto), which has three different meanings.
    When it gets going, Japanese punning tends to extend in ever widening circles! I guess Bathrobe has again betrayed his fascination with the baser aspects of life….

  7. fascination with the baser aspects of life
    In some circles this is considered the apex rather than the base.

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