Japanese buzzwords

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The buzzwords of the year (Shingo/Ryūkōgo Taishō 新語・流行語大賞) have been announced.  As Nathan Hopson, who called the results to my attention, puts it:

With the caveat that this is a contest run by a private company that publishes an annual collection of new and important words, and that there's a lot of peripheral annoyance around the biases this seems to create, there are always a few interesting terms.

This year's winner was "sodane〜 そだね〜" ("that's right〜" ), the kawaii (the culture of cuteness) shortened form of sōdesune そうですね ("I agree; that's right; that's so, isn't it; hmm"), one of my favorite Japanese expressions, popularized during the Pyeongchang Olympics broadcasts of the Japanese women's curling team.

The women's curlers became very popular for being more like a joshikai 女子会 ("women's club", or maybe a "girl's night out" in the vernacular) than like a sports team.  They made cute bento, took snack breaks, had little girl talk sessions on camera, and generally performed their gender at least as well as their sport. The "sodane〜 そだね〜" ("that's right〜" ) was representative of this in the sense that it's very casual, very upbeat, and a bit girly.  It was also a sign of their excellent and open communication, since it was used to affirm each other's judgment, strategy, shot selection, etc. They even earned the nickname "Sodane 〜 Japan そだね〜ジャパン" ("That's right 〜 Japan").  Men's soccer is "Samurai Japan サムライジャパン" ("Samurai Japan"), women's soccer is "Nadeshiko* Japan なでしこジャパン" ("Pink Japan"), etc., so a team nickname in itself is nothing new.

*pink (any flower of genus Dianthus, esp. the fringed pink, Dianthus superbus; lovable, caressable girl)


There are mashups of "sodane〜 そだね〜" ("that's right〜" ) in action on YouTube (ripped from TV), for example, this one:

Nathan opines:

But for my money, the most interesting buzzword this year was "gohan ronpō ご飯論法" ("meal / cooked rice argumenta[tion]"), which is used to describe the way politicians selectively misinterpret questions in order to obfuscate or mislead. To a question about whether he had gohan with an associate, a politician might answer "no" even if they had enjoyed a meal together because he hadn't eaten rice, since gohan means both "rice" and "meal".

That's a lot more colorful than to say that he prevaricated.



  1. NOEL HUNT said,

    December 7, 2018 @ 2:10 pm

    I think it would be more accurate to say that "sodane" "そだね〜" ("that's right" ) is not a reduced form of そうですね〜 (sou desu ne~) but a reduced form of そうだね~ (sou da ne~) where 'da' is the plain form of the copula, 'desu' being the polite form.

  2. Michael Watts said,

    December 9, 2018 @ 3:44 am

    I've been wondering for a while now about the switch in romanization from "sō" to "sou". The Japanese write "sou", そう. Are they right? Is there a minimal pair that distinguishes おう "ou" from おー "oo"?

    I think 大 is generally thought of as being pronounced oo. Does it ever rhyme with sou or some other syllable conventionally rendered ou?

  3. David Littleboy said,

    December 9, 2018 @ 9:47 am

    I can persuade myself that I hear a slight difference between the pronunciation of words starting in Oo and those starting in Ou in the sample pronunciations on the WWWJDIC site*. But it's pretty subtle if it's actually there. Dunno what native Japanese speakers would say.

    You have to type ou or oo correctly to get the kanji you want in the Japanese input methods, so native speakers are aware of and use the distinction.

    FWIW, the sodane bit is as much about the intonation used by the curlers as about shortening the vowel.

    *: http://www.edrdg.org/cgi-bin/wwwjdic/wwwjdic?1C

  4. Michael Watts said,

    December 9, 2018 @ 4:35 pm

    You have to type ou or oo correctly to get the kanji you want in the Japanese input methods, so native speakers are aware of and use the distinction.

    This isn't evidence that the distinction exists, though. You have to spell "night" and "knight" correctly in English too, but the k is spurious.

  5. AJJ said,

    December 10, 2018 @ 5:17 pm

    The おう/おお distinction is an entirely written convention that was kept after modernizing kana spellings. They are pronounced exactly the same in regular speech, though may be enunciated in careful speech. This was a comprimise between progressive and conservative reformers that also included keeping the traditional spelling of particles such as は 'wa', へ 'e', and を 'o'.

  6. NOEL HUNT said,

    December 11, 2018 @ 5:12 pm

    Timothy Vance (An Introduction to Japanese Phonology) writes 'Long [o:] is also spelled two different ways, ou and oo, but there is no contrast in pronunciation. Kawakami (1977:79) claims that no one would ever pronounce ou as [ou], and I know of no reason to doubt this.' The reference to Kawakami is 'Nihongo Onsei Gaisetsu' (An Overview of Japanese Sounds).

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