The National Institute for Japanese Language (NIJL) is on the warpath. After its third meeting in an ongoing campaign, the organization is seeking to eliminate another 32 English words or phrases that have been deemed a standard part of daily Japanese. Providing this latest grouping is accepted, it will bring the total number of purged words to 141.
Now personally (and for obvious reasons) I’m more than happy to have English words used in everyday conversation. The more the merrier is my motto. But at the same time I can understand the NIJL’s concerns, especially as many of the words could presumably be just as easily said in Japanese. A few from the latest batch are, solution, mission, literacy, and initiative. I certainly couldn’t imagine imported Japanese words being used for similar examples in English.
But in its quest to limit the number of borrowed words, the NIJL is in danger of going a little too far. Some other examples up for elimination — and that are said to be a part of daily Japanese — are hazard map, road pricing, and my personal favourite, bottleneck manpower. Yes, bottleneck manpower! Is that a real word (or phrase) in any language, let alone one used in everyday conversation?
Perhaps of greater concern however is the NIJL’s process for selecting these words and phrases. It is rather worryingly based upon the comprehension of those aged 60 and over. If a word is misunderstood by at least a third of those canvassed, it is deemed worthy of inclusion. That’s it.
My fear concerning this it-has-to-be-understood-by-seniors approach is that other groups may latch on to the process, and before we know it, VCR’s, text messages, and video games could all become a thing of the past. Heck, if my father is a good indicator of his generation, then the internet, DVD’s, and even washing machines could also become purging potential.