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“Revenge,” “buchi-phone” and “zasso damashii” were selected as this year’s best hip phrases by a Tokyo-based publishing company at a ceremony this week. Two superstar rookie pitchers and Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi won this year’s grand prize for contributing to the coining of phrases that caught on in Japan. “Zasso damashii,” attributed to Yomiuri Giants pitcher Koji Uehara, translates as “the weed spirit” and indicates humble doggedness. The term stuck after the media noted that the pitching genius grew up in a very modest home and was not given elite treatment. “I was not expecting to win a prize other than in baseball,” said Uehara, who led the Central League in wins during the 1999 season. Meanwhile, “revenge” became an oft-used word after Seibu Lions hurler Daisuke Matsuzaka used it after successfully redeeming himself against the Chiba Lotte Marines in a game in April. He had suffered a humiliating defeat against the same team in his previous showing. “Buchi-phone,” the other prize winning phrase, is a mutation of “push phone,” the Japanese description of a push-button phone, and was honored for vividly describing Obuchi’s passion for using the telephone. He reportedly rings people who do not expect to hear from him and opens the conversation with such lines as “Hello, this is Obuchi, it’s Keizo, I mean the prime minister.” “Almost no one (at the other end of the line) believes I am the real guy. Some even think I am someone begging for money,” Obuchi joked at the ceremony. The prime minister seemed to think being the topic of people’s talk — whether derogatory or not — is a good barometer of his popularity. He was apparently in a good mood during his appearance at Wednesday’s ceremony, boasting that his home page has seen millions of hits and that he receives 200 to 300 e-mail messages a week. The Jiyu Kokumin-sha publishing house gave seven other phrases honorable mention, including, “iyashi” (healing), “gakkyu-hokai” (classroom collapse) and “Dango-san Kyodai” (“The Three Dumpling Brothers”), the title of a hit song from an NHK children’s program.

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