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The younger people are, the more likely they are to misinterpret proverbs, the Cultural Affairs Agency said in connection with a survey carried out on the Japanese language.

The nationwide survey was conducted in January on about 2,200 people 16 or older, the agency said earlier this week. According to the poll, 49 percent of the respondents misunderstood the meaning of “nasake wa hito no tame narazu” (sympathy is not merely for others’ sake).

They interpreted the maxim as meaning “giving sympathy to others is not good for them,” while 47 percent correctly interpreted it as “sympathy for others will eventually return to yourself.”

Of the respondents who gave the correct answer, 32 percent to 36 percent were in their teens to their 30s, 41 percent were in their 40s and 47 percent in their 50s, the survey showed, adding that 65 percent of pollees in their 60s gave correct replies.

Regarding the old saying “ichi hime ni taro” (it is good to have a daughter for one’s firstborn and a boy for the second) — 61 percent of all pollees interpreted it correctly, but 34 percent misinterpreted it as “It is ideal to have one daughter and two sons.”

Some 60 percent of teenage girls interpreted the saying correctly, while only 38 percent of teenage boys chose the right answer. Among women in their 20s, 70 percent were correct, against 39 percent of men in the same age bracket.

Of all those surveyed, 89 percent said the Japanese language has been getting vulgar, with 54 percent saying such vulgarity is especially conspicuous in junior high and high school students.

Asked when they feel the language sounds vulgar, 50 percent said they feel so when people talk violently, 48 percent said when people do not greet each other politely and 45 percent said when someone makes derogatory comments, the survey shows.

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