Japanese "Yankee" ("juvenile delinquent")

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"Japanese start-up helping ‘delinquents’ compete against college graduates for city jobs with new internship:  The company Hassyadai has so far helped 100 youth from outside Tokyo to land employment", SCMP (12/2/17):

Dubbed the “Yankee internship”, the programme, whose participants range in age from 16 to 22, is unique in that it includes the category of Yankee – Japanese slang for delinquent youth.

How did English "Yankee" come to mean "delinquent youth" in Japanese?

This Japanese Wikipedia article on Yankī ヤンキー explains the shifting signification and application of the term, but doesn't really tell us how it came about.

Nathan Hopson's explanation makes better sense:

The explanation I've read and heard is that the term came out of Osaka in the mid- to late 1970s. Young rebels and delinquents, etc. — then referred to as tsuppari ツッパリ (also and from tsuppari 突っ張り)* for their rebellious attitudes — were purchasing aloha shirts and other garish fashion items in an area of the city's shopping and entertainment district (Nanba, 難波) that was called アメリカ村 (Amerika mura)**。According to the shopping district's website:

*[VHM:  "prop; strut; support; bar​; becoming taut; bracing​; thrust; slapping attacks​ (Sumo term); (juvenile) delinquent; punk"]
**[VHM:  "America village"]

During the 70s, warehouses in Amerikamura were renovated to sell imported goods including vintage clothes, jeans, second-hand records and many other items from the West Coast of the United States. Because of the uniqueness of the area, TV and media introduced the place nationwide and "Amemura" (Amerikamura) became a birthplace of the latest fashion trends.

(Interestingly, Amemura's own website can't decide whether it's "Americamura" or "Amerikamura," but that's another problem…)

In any case, the association between these fashion and lifestyle choices appears to have been the roots of the term Yankī ヤンキー, which caught on in the 1980s nationally.

Never mind that the etymology of English "Yankee" itself is hotly contested, though I favor a Dutch origin from Janke ("Little John").

[h.t. Mark Metcalf; thanks to France Chance]

1 Comment

  1. Bathrobe said,

    December 3, 2017 @ 3:53 am

    Nathan Hopson's explanation matches the rough understanding that I had of the origins of the name.

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