The four writing systems utilized in Japanese (>kanji, katakana, hiragana and the Roman alphabet, known as romaji ) provide Japanese advertising copywriters, journalists and young people with an abundance of raw material from which to create new words. The great majority of these neologisms fade away after having served an ephemeral usefulness, but a select few earn a permanent place in the Japanese vernacular through inclusion in the authoritative Japanese dictionary Kojien (蠎・ｾ櫁拒, Iwanami Shoten Publishing).
The latest update of Kojien, the first in a decade, was published in January 2008. New entries were limited to a mere 10,000, winnowed down from an initial candidate pool of 100,000. Even relatively established favorites 關後∴(moe, infatuation) and 縺ｧ縺阪■繧・▲縺溽ｵ仙ｩ・(dekichatta kekkon, pregnant-marriage, “shotgun wedding”) didn’t make the cut.
Predictably, 40 percent of the new inductees are English loanwords that are written in katakana script.
In 2004, the Institute for Japanese Language tried to roll back the tsunami of katakana loanwords invading Nihongo by coining substitute kanji compound words for those judged least comprehensible to the average Japanese. But some of their targets, including 繝峨Γ繧ｹ繝・ぅ繝・け繝舌う繧ｪ繝ｬ繝ｳ繧ｹ (domesutikkubaiorensu, domestic violence) and 繧ｻ繧ｫ繝ｳ繝峨が繝斐ル繧ｪ繝ｳ (sekandoopinion, second opinion), nonetheless rolled right into this year’s edition of Kojien.
Many of the new entries are related to advances in information technology, and most of those are katakana English loanwords or acronyms, such as 繝悶Ο繧ｰ (burogu, blog), 繝ｯ繝ｳ繧ｻ繧ｰ (wansegu, “1SEG,” terrestrial digital broadcasting service for mobile devices), 繧ｵ繧､繝舌・繝｢繝ｼ繝ｫ (saibāmōru, cybermall), IC繧ｿ繝・げ (IC tag), MP3 and ADSL.
Some newbies are katakana-kanji combos: 繝｡繧ｿ繝懊Μ繝・け逞・咏ｾ､ (metaborikku shōkōgun, metabolic syndrome) is often abbreviated to 繝｡繧ｿ繝・to mean “obese,” and 逹繝｡繝ｭ (chakumero, phone ringtone) is comprised of 逹 (“arrive,” the first kanji in 逹菫｡, chakushin, “incoming call”) plus 繝｡繝ｭ (short for “melody”).
New kanji compounds in Kojien from the medical field include gender-neutral 逵玖ｭｷ蟶ｫ (kangoshi, nursing-professional, “nurse”), which will likely overtake use of 逵玖ｭｷ蟀ｦ (kangofu, female nurse) and 逵玖ｭｷ螢ｫ (kangoshi, male nurse), and 閼ｳ豁ｻ遘ｻ讀・(nōshiishoku, brain-dead-transfer-plant-organ transplant from a brain-dead donor”). 諤ｧ蜷御ｸ諤ｧ髫懷ｮｳ (seidōitsuseishōgai, gender-identity-gender-disorder, “gender identity- disorder”) is a new entry, as is 隱咲衍逞・(ninchishō, recognize-know-symptoms, “senility”), a welcome synonym for the pejorative term 逞ｴ蜻・(chihō, fool-amazed).
From the world of business come 謨ｵ蟇ｾ逧・ｼ∵･ｭ雋ｷ蜿・(tekitaitekikigyōbaishū, oppositional-enterprise-buy up, “hostile takeover”) and 鬚ｨ隧戊｢ｫ螳ｳ (fūhyōhigai, rumor-damage, “financial damage caused by rumors”). 蜀・Κ蜻顔匱 (naibukokuhatsu, inside-division-
accusation, “whistleblowing”) is increasingly occurring not only in Japanese businesses but in academic and governmental organizations as well.
In the face of global warming, 迪帶囁譌･ (mōshobi, fierce-hot-day), a new entry, refers to a summer day when the thermometer tops 35 C. Kojien surprisingly failed to induct 繧ｯ繝ｼ繝ｫ繝薙ぜ (kūrubizu, “Cool Biz”), the summer energy-saving campaign in which business and government employees wear light clothing sans ties and jackets in order to keep from having to turn down the thermostat at work.
Inclusion of 謔｣逡・( kanchiku, patient-domestic animal, “pet patient”) reflects increased willingness on the part of the Japanese to fork over big bucks to vets as they elect to have fewer children. Sadly, persistent social problems 蠑慕ｱ繧・(hikikomori, withdraw-coop, “shut-ins withdrawn from society”) and 謠ｴ蜉ｩ莠､髫・(enjokōsai, financial support-association, “schoolgirls ‘dating’ older men for money”) are also new additions to Kojien.
Kojien’s basic policy of not eliminating any words from past editions reflects the confidence it has in its vetting process. These 10,000 Nihongo newcomers are here to stay. If you aren’t the old-fashioned paper dictionary type, check them out in your electronic dictionary or on your cell phone, where Kojien is a standard feature.