"No word for looting"?

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Some of Andrew Sullivan's readers debunk the notion that "Japanese has no word for looting", as well as the claim that no looting has taken place following the recent disaster ("Why no looting in Japan? Ctd.", The Daily Dish, 3/17/2011).

The "no word for looting" meme was seeded in a somewhat tentative way on CNN:

“Looting simply does not take place in Japan. I’m not even sure if there’s a word for it that is as clear in its implications as when we hear ‘looting,’" said Gregory Pflugfelder, director of the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture at Columbia University.

One of Sullivan's readers offers:

There is a word for this, and it's 火事場泥棒 (kajibadorobou). It literally means "thief at a fire," but it extends more broadly in a metaphorical sense to people who take advantage of a crisis to commit a crime.

Another suggests:

As for the claim by Gregory Pflugfelder, I can think of a few words that come close to looting: 泥棒 dorobō "robber", 強盗 gōtō "robbery", 略奪 ryakudatsu "looting".

Jim Breen's EDICT echoes the choice of ryakudatsu:

略奪(P); 掠奪 【りゃくだつ】 (n,vs) pillage; plunder; looting; robbery;

And also gives at least the literal meaning of kajibadorobou:

火事場泥棒 【かじばどろぼう】 (n) looter at the scene of a fire

This is not in any way to denigrate the admirable response of the Japanese people in the aftermath of the recent earthquake. But as usual, the attempt to diagnose and explain culture cheaply in lexical terms is empirically as well as conceptually weak.


  1. Björn Lindström said,

    March 17, 2011 @ 1:01 pm

    One might add that you need only be fleetingly familiar with Japanese history to know that there has been looting going on frequently up to and during the Second World War.

    [(myl) Yes, e.g. this — but I didn't mention such things because one might think that looting in foreign countries is a different sort of thing, perhaps even linguistically. Thus Latin praeda is specifically "property taken in war"; and English booty was (I think) originally the same. ]

  2. David said,

    March 17, 2011 @ 1:14 pm

    Well said.

  3. Spell Me Jeff said,

    March 17, 2011 @ 1:18 pm

    A bit short-sighted, perhaps. I was more impressed by his attempt to qualify the claim:

    "I’m not even sure if there’s a word for it that is as clear in its implications as when we hear ‘looting’" (my emphasis).

    Again, he gets no points for (apparently) being wrong. But I think the qualification is probably appropriate in other situations, which is one of the reasons we adopt loan words (or invent words, or re-purpose words) in the first place. E.g., paparazzi, yuppie, refudiate.

  4. richard howland-bolton said,

    March 17, 2011 @ 1:40 pm

    It's all a misunderstanding: the Japanese have no word for Luton (and having spent some time there, and in Dunstable, I can only think that must be a source of joy to them).

  5. Toma said,

    March 17, 2011 @ 1:58 pm

    Yeah, "thief at a fire" is pretty clear in its implications, isn't it?

  6. Aelfric said,

    March 17, 2011 @ 2:01 pm

    Of course my heart goes out to the entire country, but what has fascinated me linguistically in this crisis is the fact that, according to reports, average Japanese people are unable to understand the 'court Japanese' spoken by the Emperor. I knew such a thing existed, but I didn't realize it was so different…if indeed it is. Thank you.

  7. JMM said,

    March 17, 2011 @ 2:11 pm

    @richard howland-bolton

    And the real surprise (I guess) is that the English have no word for Milton Keynes

  8. Xmun said,

    March 17, 2011 @ 2:39 pm

    @richard howland-bolton

    Speak for yourself. I have some very fond memories of the Luton bus station.

  9. James said,

    March 17, 2011 @ 2:52 pm

    My (Japanese) wife was watching the scenes of people lining up for gasoline, sleeping in rec halls, and so on, and immediately said: "Why do you think there's no 掠奪 in Japan?"

    And no, she doesn't read Language Log or Andrew Sullivan.

  10. Steve said,

    March 17, 2011 @ 3:09 pm

    I was also satisfied by the hedging of 'word that is as clear in its implications as' statement. I understand this might seem similar to the 'no word for X in Y' fool-trap, but it is not. The writer puts his/her point in terms that are hard to argue with. How can you prove that 'ryakudatsu' implies exactly the same set of actions and circumstances as 'looting'?

    [(myl) The trouble is that a statement of the form "I’m not even sure if there’s a word in language X that is as clear in its implications as when we hear "Y" in English" is usually (or on W.V.O. Quine's account, always) true for any X and Y. So either Prof. Pflugfelder's statement is (almost) completely empty, or else we strengthen it on Gricean grounds in the "no word for X" direction.]


    Being a native of that glorious town, I understand the English word for Milton Keynes is usually 'why?'.

  11. Rube said,

    March 17, 2011 @ 3:29 pm

    The initial statement is indeed quite tentative and modest. What will be interesting will be to see if this morphs into a meme of the type: "Japanese has no word for 'looting' but 12 for 'dying in the service of your country' ".

  12. Chris Kern said,

    March 17, 2011 @ 4:04 pm

    Looking at Japanese news articles on the disasters is the easiest way to disprove this. There's one article that discusses the American news media's wonder over the lack of looting with the following headline:
    "ryakudatsu" is used as the translation of "looting" there.

    But there are other articles that talk about looting that actually has been occurring in Japan in the wake of the disasters, and they use "ryakudatsu" and "goudatsu", for instance:
    東日本大震災で大きな被害を受けた宮城県石巻市内で、強奪や無人になった店舗の金品や貴金属類を持ち去る事件が増えている。 ("In Ishimaki City in Miyagi-ken, a place that has suffered great damage from the earthquake, incidents of looting and people taking money and goods from unmanned shops are increasing.")

    "ryakudatsu" and "goudatsu" were also used in articles a month ago talking about the Christchurch earthquake.

  13. Chris Kern said,

    March 17, 2011 @ 4:21 pm

    according to reports, average Japanese people are unable to understand the 'court Japanese' spoken by the Emperor. I knew such a thing existed, but I didn't realize it was so different…if indeed it is. Thank you.

    I haven't seen anything about this; that may have been true back in WW2 when Hirohito delivered the surrender address, but it shouldn't be true now. I just watched the first few minutes of Akihito's address and he spoke in standard formal Japanese. If anyone had trouble understanding it, it wouldn't be because it was some special "court Japanese".

  14. LDavidH said,

    March 17, 2011 @ 4:22 pm

    Here's the worst example of the "no word for X" fallacy: Swedish (my mother tongue) has no word for "grandmother". Now it's absolutely true, and causes great trouble for translators. So what about ancestry in Sweden – don't we have grandparents? Of course we do! But we distinguish between paternal grandmother ("farmor") and maternal grandmother ("mormor"), and there is no generic term (the same is true for grandfathers). Every time a book talks about somebody's grandmother, the translator has to decide whether she is maternal or paternal – not always easy if it's not integral to the plot!

  15. Mr Fnortner said,

    March 17, 2011 @ 5:06 pm

    Ruutingu suru. It might work, if they want to use "our" word to ensure they have "our" meaning.

  16. a George said,

    March 17, 2011 @ 6:12 pm

    @LDavidH: well, there is no uncle available, either, only mother's or father's brother, and "aunt" is how you may adress any woman older than you. And, incidentally, "father's brother" is how you address any man older than you, if you wish to address them in the street. At least this is how it was in the 1950s.

  17. Bill Walderman said,

    March 17, 2011 @ 6:16 pm

    English has no word for "gavagai" that is as clear in its implications.

  18. Ken Brown said,

    March 17, 2011 @ 6:21 pm

    When I was a kid in England we called unrelated female neighbours of our mother's age or older "auntie". And our Dad called some elderly cousins "aunt". I have Nigerian friends who use the word to refer to older women – I suspect a loan translation from Yoruba.

  19. J Lee said,

    March 17, 2011 @ 6:43 pm

    does it not stand reason to assume this fellow's Japanese is at least as good as that of the commenters who have suggested terms?

    [(myl) One possibility, of course, is that Prof. Pflugfelder was misquoted or misleadingly quoted. Another possibility was suggested by one of Andrew Sullivan's readers:

    [W]hile Pflugfelder is a great scholar who I really admire, his work is really on the history of sexuality in Japan. His book "Cartographies of Desire: Male-Male Sexuality in Japanese Discourse, 1600-1950" is fascinating and is probably the best source in English about the history of homosexuality in Japan, but he's not exactly the person I would go to about this kind of a question. Going to him because he's an "expert on Japanese culture" would be like asking Judith Butler or Michel Foucault about looting in a western country because they're "experts on western culture."

    And there are other possible explanations as well. The one thing that seems clear is that there are words in Japanese for "looting" that are roughly as close to the English word as French "pillage" or Spanish "saqueo" or etc.]

  20. Valentine said,

    March 17, 2011 @ 7:34 pm

    @a George & @Ken Brown

    Incidentally, in Japanese you can refer to men and women about a generation older with the words for "uncle" and "aunt", respectively.

  21. Chris Kern said,

    March 17, 2011 @ 8:20 pm

    @J Lee: You can know a language and still fall victim to the "X has no word for Y". Both ryakudatsu and goudatsu are fairly low-frequency words so it's not surprising that even someone living in Japan would be unable to call those words up on quick notice. I didn't know them offhand until I looked at the news articles. In any case, his statement was very cautious and tentative so it's not that bad.

  22. Outis said,

    March 17, 2011 @ 8:28 pm

    I've read an article recently on the situation in Japan. It was written by a (probably) Englishman living in Japan, who clearly has a pretty good knowledge of the language and the culture. In the article, he said something like "there is no word for over-preparation in Japanese". But clearly the writer must know that there are plenty of ways to easily translate/express "over-preparation".

    It lead me to realize that the "no word for x" snowclone is now being used not as a factual statement, but simply a figure of speech; a set expression of emphasis/exageration. I suspect that this is going the way of "literally" as an intensifier: the reader/listener is not expected to take the statement at its face value.

  23. jc said,

    March 17, 2011 @ 8:36 pm

    LDavidH's example of "Swedish has no word for grandmother" is, IMO, the interesting sort of case. Namely, it would be interesting to read a discussion of the ways that languages get around this situation. There is always "… or …", of course, but are there other interesting schemes.

    Something I've had fun with is reminding people of Ronald Reagan's claim that "the Russian language has no word for freedom". My reaction when I heard this was the obvious "Huh? What about 'svoboda'?" But I also like to follow this up with a true claim: Russian has no word for 'blue'. This is the same situation as with Swedish grandmothers: The Slavic languages, including Russian, divide that part of the spectrum into two colors, and has no single morpheme that ambiguously refers to both of them. Slavic languages can join those two colors with any of several conjunctions, of course, but the result sounds as clumsy as "blue or green" does in English. ("So which color is it?")

    It is curious that people tend to misunderstand the "no word for X" trope as meaning "no word that means exactly X", but they miss the interesting case of "no word as vague and general as X".

  24. Michael Roberts said,

    March 17, 2011 @ 8:51 pm

    Outis, you're thinking of Patrick McKenzie (who I know as patio11 on Hacker News Network), and that was a joke on his part.

    I must say it's been really weird seeing Patrick suddenly known to more people than just HNN – he even had an editorial in the New York Times.

  25. xxs said,

    March 17, 2011 @ 9:41 pm

    jc: Native Slovenian here – we have a general word for blue (modra). So we commonly say dark or light blue (temno modra, svetlo modra). We have a distinct word for cyan (sinja), which is also often called literally "blueish green" (modro zelena). I think "blueish green" is especially used for dark cyan / teal. I'm pretty sure other Slavic people in this part of Europe also have a word for blue.

  26. Chris said,

    March 17, 2011 @ 11:13 pm

    Also, it is not factually true. I remember seeing a newspaper article in a Japanese news outlet that within three days the Miyagi Prefecture Police had counted 40 instances of theft. Some were involving convenience stores and presumably involving situation where people in the disaster areas were out of food. But some cases apparently were burglaries in private homes and senior citizen facilities.

    If you plug 地震 "earthquake" and 窃盗 "theft" into Google News, you'll come up with plenty of articles:

    パチンコ店で募金箱窃盗未遂、容疑の男逮捕 Men arrested, suspected of stealing money from a pachinko store

    コンビニなどで窃盗相次ぐ 地震発生後の宮城県各地で in Miyagi Prefecture and other earthquake stricken areas, thefts continue to occur in convenience stores and others

    【東日本大震災】 ガソリン窃盗容疑で男逮捕 供給不足の仙台で In supply-derived Sendai, man is arrested for petrol theft

    and I could go on and on. So Andrew Sullivan's claim also seems to be factually false. Unless you'd want to argue that the rate of theft/lootings is lower than in other countries, but that I couldn't say. (Though 40 thefts in one prefecture over three days did seem low to me)

  27. Chris said,

    March 17, 2011 @ 11:19 pm

    パチンコ店で募金箱窃盗未遂、容疑の男逮捕 Man arrested, suspected of stealing money from a pachinko store

    コンビニなどで窃盗相次ぐ 地震発生後の宮城県各地で in Miyagi Prefecture's various earthquake stricken areas, thefts continue to occur in convenience stores and others

    【東日本大震災】 ガソリン窃盗容疑で男逮捕 供給不足の仙台で In supply-derived Sendai, man is arrested for petrol theft

    Sorry I had to fix some mistakes..

    So I decided to add some more:

    「卑劣」…宮城で震災に便乗した窃盗40件 "despicable" . 40 cases of theft in Miyagi taking advantage of the earthquake

    物資不足で被災地の盗難増加 ガソリンや食品など被害 increase of theft due to lack of supplies in the disaster areas – mainly petrol and food items

    被災地で万引きや窃盗相次ぐ Shoplifting and theft continue to occur in disaster areas

    and another type of crime taking advantage of the disaster:

    県内で義援金装う不審電話 注意呼び掛け suspicious phone calls purported to solicit disaster relief money within the prefecture – caution urged

  28. Chris said,

    March 17, 2011 @ 11:24 pm

    Sorry I really need a preview function. So the last phone should have read:

    県内で義援金装う不審電話 注意呼び掛け suspicious phone calls pretending to solicit disaster relief money within the prefecture – caution urged

  29. Antigone said,

    March 18, 2011 @ 12:25 am

    @Chris Kern and Aelfric

    It's my understanding that besides the fact that there's a whole other level of elevated speech used when addressing the emperor (and reasonable to assume, used "in court"), when the emperor addressed the nation following defeat in WWII, he spoke in classical Japanese (called "bungo" (literary Japanese)). It bears a resemblance to modern vernacular Japanese, but would be about the same as a native English speaker trying to understand someone speaking Middle English. I believe this is not the case now for the speeches the emperor now makes at New Year's and his birthday. But if any of my information is wrong I welcome corrections.

  30. Seifrietti said,

    March 18, 2011 @ 3:14 am

    @Mr Fnortner (kinda)

    the problem with gairaigo is that there usually IS some sort of semantic difference from the language from which it is borrowed. For instance, "sumaato" (smart) means thin, and maybe handsome depending on the context. "ruutingu" could be borrowed short term, but until it enters into mass consciousness, there are still plenty of native words to use that easily approximate the concept, if not nail it on the head

  31. Dierk said,

    March 18, 2011 @ 3:46 am

    I never quite got the 'now ord for' meme. What exactly are they asking for, a morpheme, a monosyllabic lexeme, any lexeme, a phrase? Let's assume they think of any lexeme, including those containing more than one other lexeme but not phrases. What would that mean for language?

    So, there is no lexical entry for 'geezer' in a given language, what does it mean for this language or the culture it is part of? That there are no geezers? And if Longman, OUP, Webster, CUP etc. all decide to not carry 'geezer' does it follow that there are no men [BE] or old men [AE] anymore in English-speaking countries? In the case of AE it would at least follow that there is no word for geezer – unless the phrase 'old man' becomes a lexical item.

    As for looting in Japan, if I understand the history of the country well enough – and I am very far from knowing it well – looting was quite popular within the borders of current Japan during the civil wars often used as a backdrop for samurai films [like Kurosawa's].

  32. Vireya said,

    March 18, 2011 @ 4:21 am

    I guess English had no word for looting either, until they borrowed it from Hindi.

  33. LDavidH said,

    March 18, 2011 @ 5:28 am

    It would be interesting (if a bit wearing) to list all the words in foreign languages that English "doesn't have a word for", or at least one which has the same connotations. Albanian has the adjective "i mërzitur" which expresses a negative feeling, and can be translated "sad, upset, cross, bored" depending on context. Now English clearly has no word for "i mërzitur", so the English must be a really happy lot, right?

  34. Jarek Weckwerth said,

    March 18, 2011 @ 6:28 am

    @xxs: True. Polish, too, has a general word for 'blue' in niebieski.

  35. Mr Fnortner said,

    March 18, 2011 @ 7:59 am

    @Seifrietti, I should have winked with my suggestion. Many, many loan words from English into Japanese are false friends. There is no telling how the (imaginary) word ruutingu would be employed in the Japanese culture. Thanks for your comment.

  36. David Marjanović said,

    March 18, 2011 @ 8:21 am

    I'm pretty sure other Slavic people in this part of Europe also have a word for blue.

    Serbocroatian plavi, interestingly enough — too close to German blau for coincidence.

    Russian синий [ˈsʲinʲij] is "dark blue", without greenish connotations. "Light blue" is голубой [gʌluˈboj], the adjective to голуб [gʌˈlub] "dove/pigeon", so it's probably a pretty recent innovation.

    I guess English had no word for looting either, until they borrowed it from Hindi.

    German uses plündern, noun Plünderung

  37. David Marjanović said,

    March 18, 2011 @ 8:23 am


    Adjective to "sky", so probably yet another unique innovation.

  38. Mark Dunan said,

    March 18, 2011 @ 9:18 am

    Ruutingu suru. It might work, if they want to use "our" word to ensure they have "our" meaning.

    I sincerely hope this doesn't happen. It might create the subtle implication that "looting" is something that foreigners brought to the Japanese, who never engaged in this despicable behavior before.

    Other examples of Japanese adopting English words for unpleasant concepts:


  39. Daniel Johnson said,

    March 18, 2011 @ 9:44 am

    There was a study published in Science Magazine (my home computer is dead, so I can't look up the exact reference) which analyzed color word distributions in world languages and classified them into less than a dozen broad families. Languages that conflate the English "blue" and "green" into a single color are quite common. Surely someone here can find a more exact reference or I'll just have to wait until HP ships me my new power supply.

    –Daniel Johnson

  40. Mark Dunan said,

    March 18, 2011 @ 9:55 am

    Daniel, I think I read that story. Just about every language has words for "black" and "white" (or "dark" and "light"), and then if there's a third color word, "red" is most common. Then there's a hierarchy downwards in which certain color words are more common than others regardless of language.

    What I noticed about that is that English has a huge number of color words, but to express "becoming a certain color", only the top three — blacken, whiten, and redden — are in common use. Do any forms of English make use of ?bluen or ?orangen? I've heard "green" and "yellow" as verbs (used with "-ing"), but no others.

  41. Roy S said,

    March 18, 2011 @ 10:39 am

    @Mark Duncan

    There's also "tan"; "brown" (as what one does to toast, or to meat on a grill); and perhaps "gray(ing)", what my hair is doing, though the latter verb doesn't seem as common.

  42. Chris Kern said,

    March 18, 2011 @ 11:09 am

    @Antigone: That's basically right. I don't believe there's ever been an entire mode of speech devoted specifically to the Emperor or addressing the Emperor, although there are certain phrases and constructions that were mostly used in that circumstance. But even in something like the Tale of Genji, the Emperor's speech is largely the same as other characters (however, the Genji does not record any official government speeches by the Emperor).

    Hirohito's surrender address was delivered in the classical (bungo) style, but other than the personal pronoun 朕 ("chin"), it doesn't really use anything that would be specific only to the "court" or the speech of the Emperor.

    And yes, Akihito's speeches nowadays are standard formal Japanese and do not use any court or emperor-specific features.

  43. Matt said,

    March 18, 2011 @ 12:24 pm

    If Fox News' coverage of Katrina taught us anything, maybe the Japanese words are better translated as "foraging" than "looting"?

  44. Spell Me Jeff said,

    March 18, 2011 @ 1:01 pm


    I think the 'no word for' meme is generally intended to be taken literally, which is one reason it has been received so badly on this blog. The people who use it seem to be surprised (or appalled at) the absence of a 1-for-1 correspondence. A moment's thought usually turns up a suitable phrase that is Language B's equivalent to Language A's single word. The absurdity of the meme is especially evident when you say things like "Language B has no word for 'chicken salad!'" (English doesn't either.)

  45. komfo,amonan said,

    March 18, 2011 @ 1:55 pm

    @ Spell Me Jeff

    I'm gonna agree with you here & wonder whether the meme is limited to English. Does anyone have any examples of the meme occurring in other languages?

    [(myl) The earliest "no word for X" discussion that I've found is by Michel de Montaigne (see here for a discussion, and here for the original in French).

  46. Michael Roberts said,

    March 18, 2011 @ 3:44 pm

    Come to think of it, there's no English word for German "unterschreiten" – apparently values never fall below limits outside Germany. (This game is fun.)

  47. Mr Fnortner said,

    March 18, 2011 @ 6:40 pm

    I believe Spell Me Jeff has surfaced the assumption that makes this game work (or fail as the case may be). On what basis do we expect any language to map word for word to another? And therefore why could we not say that language Y has no phrase for X; or sentence expressing X, and so forth? I think that only someone who has not learned at least one other language would be the sort to make the "no word for X" assertion. Of course if the language expresses concepts outside the human experience, such as Klingon, or Elvish, then we could expect no human words for X, but this is unlikely to be encountered in the lives of most people.

  48. Matt McIrvin said,

    March 18, 2011 @ 11:26 pm

    In an article about Japanese disaster preparation efforts: "The city’s disaster preparedness plan lists exactly how many come from English-speaking countries. It is less than two dozen. Why have a maintained list of English translators at the ready? Because Japanese does not have a word for excessive preparation."

    I'm pretty sure he's just speaking metaphorically, and turning a statement about culture into a fanciful statement about language, the way people do.

    The first time I read the passage, though, I misinterpreted it to mean that they needed English translators in case they needed to use English to express the concept of excessive preparation.

  49. Matt McIrvin said,

    March 18, 2011 @ 11:33 pm

    @Mark Dunan: There's "bluing", the blue dye used on laundry, which at least sounds like it was derived from a verb, whether or not it was.

  50. David J. Littleboy said,

    March 19, 2011 @ 5:04 am

    Like the Swedish with grandmothers, the Japanese have problems with brothers and sisters. That's because brotherhood and sisterhood are _equality_ relationships in English and _inequality_ relationships in Japanese. The older sibling has more responsibilities and gets more grief for not meeting said responsibilities (among other things, of course). So there's no _unmarked_ way to say "This is John, he's my brother." You could say "This is John, our relationship is that of being siblings". But it'd be even weirder than that.

    US academics in Japanese studies fields are largely pretty amazing at reading Japanese but don't speak all that well. So when a Japanese grad student shows up at, say, a US history department, and a professor gleefully pulls out his/her rusty formal Japanese, the grad student, after recovering from the heart attack, is left wondering why s/he's been kicked out of the program on the first day. Which is to say, a professor speaks in informal Japanese to students in good standing and in formal Japanese to students about to be kicked out.

    Oops. It's doing earthquake things here. Gotta go.

  51. Jack Collins said,

    March 19, 2011 @ 7:57 am

    I bet the Japanese spend a lot of time musing about how Americans have no words for giri or tatemae.

  52. Chris Kern said,

    March 19, 2011 @ 11:32 am

    I've heard many Japanese people say that English has no word for X. One big one is もったいない (mottainai), which basically means "it's a waste" — it can be used for things like throwing away uneaten food or wasting time, but it can also be used in situations like a really hot girl going out with a geeky guy. Of course, they make the usual leap from "English does not have a single word that covers the same range of meaning as mottainai" to "English has no concept of mottainai".

  53. Mark Dunan said,

    March 19, 2011 @ 1:26 pm

    @David Littleboy — I've noticed the same thing in my grad program. When professors call you "-kun" it feels pleasant, whereas they use "-san" for people who are on the outside.

    Speaking for words for siblings, has anyone been to Yonaguni island, Japan's westernmost point? They have 21 words for "older sibling" (eat your heart out, imaginary Eskimos!) in three series of seven: younger brothers talking to older brothers, one for younger sisters talking to older brothers, and one for younger siblings of either gender talking to older sisters. I had the pleasure of doing fieldwork with a woman who was the 11th of 12 and used the last two series of words perfectly naturally. There can't be too many people who use them all nowadays!

  54. Mark Dunan said,

    March 19, 2011 @ 1:27 pm

    @Roy and Matt — I forgot about "tanning" and "browning" but had no idea that there was a word "bluing"!

  55. Matt McIrvin said,

    March 19, 2011 @ 9:41 pm

    Bluing is not as commonly used (at least in the US) as it used to be; bleach and similar substances have largely replaced it, so the word may have become unfamiliar.

  56. Graeme said,

    March 20, 2011 @ 7:17 am

    The term looting itself is overused. Brisbane recently suffered a large flood. The media attributed any act of theft in flood affected areas to 'looters'. Crime stats showed no spike from the usual assortment of teen kleptos, opportunists and necessitous thefts. If anything, you'd expect thefts to rise after dislocation.

  57. Matt McIrvin said,

    March 20, 2011 @ 9:43 pm

    In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it was widely claimed that whether news media identified a given act as "looting" or "salvage" had to do with the race of the person who was committing it. There was some anecdotal evidence for this, though I don't think anyone compiled detailed statistics.

  58. baylink said,

    March 21, 2011 @ 12:20 am

    Legally, at least in the US, 'necessity' would be a defense to theft in this sort of circumstance.

    Would that make it not be looting? In either language?

  59. Alex Fink said,

    March 21, 2011 @ 1:10 pm

    @Mark Dunan, 9:55: for what it's worth, the English suffix -en 'become Adj' only combines with obstruent-final bases, so it's no surprise that there shouldn't be such words as *yellowen greenen bluen brownen grayen purplen.

  60. » Sendai, SXSW, and “The Cove”: Individuality in the face of crisis | Rachel the Great said,

    March 26, 2011 @ 6:16 pm

    […] heard a person on the television say that there is no word for "looter" in Japanese. This is not true; there totally is. It's only one step above "pedophile," though. I can't help but feel such […]

  61. Dictators with dialects, finger spelling, and universal Inuit | the world in words said,

    March 31, 2011 @ 11:56 am

    […] take a stab at the following questions (with much help from the linked sources): Does Japanese have a word for looting? Is finger spelling a language, or perhaps a dialect of sorts of British sign language? Is the […]

  62. James Moughan said,

    April 9, 2011 @ 9:46 am

    'Looting' strongly implies theft during some kind of civil disturbance. Do any of the Japanese words mentioned carry the same implication?

  63. Ailene Janner said,

    January 22, 2012 @ 10:59 am

    I cherished as much as you'll obtain carried out right here. The caricature is attractive, your authored material stylish. however, you command get bought an nervousness over that you would like be delivering the following. ill indubitably come further formerly again as exactly the similar nearly very steadily inside of case you defend this hike.

  64. Baixar Sertanejo said,

    November 21, 2013 @ 8:59 am

    Legally, at least in the US, 'necessity' would be a defense to theft in this sort of circumstance.

    Would that make it not be looting? In either language?

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