Topless meeting

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From Nathan Hopson:

Can't believe I had never heard this marvelous Japanglish until now:

トップレス‐ミーティング(toppuresu mītingu = "topless meeting")or トップレス会議 (kaigi = meeting)

Perhaps it will come as a disappointment to some, but "topless" here is a contraction of "laptop-less." The term means a meeting without computers and, by extension, other electronics such as smartphones.

Parenthetically, I must add that at least here in Japanese academia, where meetings are frequent and long, I am glad we have not gone "topless." My main criterion for evaluating a meeting is in fact that it shouldn't last longer than my laptop battery….

Two of my favorite Japanese portmanteau words have to do with computers:

wāpuro ワープロ, short for wādopurosessa ワードプロセッサ ("word processor")

pasokon パソ コン (contracted from pāsonaru パーソナル ("personal") + konpyutā コンピューター ("computer"), i.e., PC

The Japanese seem to take sheer delight in this type of bilingual word play.


Selected readings


  1. Frank L Chance said,

    February 9, 2020 @ 10:22 am

    It may be a little picky, and harder to understand in English, but systematic romanization should rend

    pasocon パソ コン as pasokon

    and conpyutā コンピューター ("computer") as konpyutā.

    "con" does not map onto any set of kana.

  2. Krogerfoot said,

    February 9, 2020 @ 10:30 am

    I was befuddled to be asked to participate in a ブレストミーティング buresuto mītingu "breast meeting" a few years ago. My Japanese colleagues were just as surprised that I didn't recognize buresuto as a shortening of "brainstorming."

    トップレス toppuresu is widely understood to mean exactly what it means in English, "without a shirt/exposing breasts," as in トップレス水着 "topless swimsuit." Not everyone knows what a "laptop" computer is, since they're called ノートパソコン "note PC" here. Judging from the amount of explanation devoted to the term in the relatively few online citations of it, it seems that not many Japanese speakers are aware of this particular marvelous bit of Japanglish.

  3. Victor Mair said,

    February 9, 2020 @ 11:20 am

    Good catch, Frank. Fixed now in the o.p.

  4. Victor Mair said,

    February 9, 2020 @ 12:19 pm

    From Jay Rubin:

    I’m obviously behind the times, am still in the sekuhara* era.

    [*VHM: shortened form of "sekusharu harasumento セクシャルハラスメント (sexual harassment)"]

  5. Julie Davis said,

    February 9, 2020 @ 2:41 pm

    The term "topless meeting" originated in Silicon Valley and was nominated for one of the top ten buzzwords of 2008:,28804,1855948_1864100_1864110,00.html

  6. jin defang said,

    February 9, 2020 @ 2:50 pm

    on first arriving in Japan as a student in the '60s, I was puzzled when someone complained that what I heard as "Reischauer," a previous American ambassador to Tokyo, was terrible, since I'd heard he'd been very popular. Only later did I discover that the word meant "rush hour."

  7. Peter Grubtal said,

    February 10, 2020 @ 3:00 am

    When I was learning Japanese I found it intriguing that they tend to form abbreviations the same way as German does, by taking the first syllable of the each word.

    I couldn't see any way to find any significance in it, in such unrelated languages. It's perhaps a purely cultural thing, and says nothing about the phonology or morphology of those languages.

    In Japanese, it might be related to the fact that it pretty much all CV and CC scarcely exists, but that doesn't apply to German, of course.

  8. ajay said,

    February 10, 2020 @ 12:09 pm

    "When I was learning Japanese I found it intriguing that they tend to form abbreviations the same way as German does, by taking the first syllable of the each word. "

    Russian too. All those Sovnarkoms and Izhmashes and Gosplans.

    The US Navy has ventured into these waters as well: the Bureau of Personnel and the Bureau of Ships were known as BuPers and BuShips respectively.

    And this spread to NATO: STANAVFORLANT would, as no doubt you remember, have renamed itself LANTFLEET in time of war, and come under the command of SACLANT (Standing Naval Force Atlantic, Atlantic Fleet, Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic; an oddity in that the second syllable was used) and similar arrangements were in place for STANAVFORCHAN and STANAVFORMED.

  9. John Swindle said,

    February 10, 2020 @ 4:40 pm

    Caltrans, the California Department of Transportation. But compare caltrop.

  10. Phillip Helbig said,

    February 11, 2020 @ 8:28 am

    "topless swimsuit"

    When the Beatles were asked by a reporter what "you boys think of topless swimsuits", without missing a beat, Ringo quipped we've been wearing them for years.

  11. ajay said,

    February 11, 2020 @ 12:32 pm

    Caltrans, and also Caltech and Calpers (California Public Employees Retirement System).

    We had a bit of a lunge in that direction in the 60s with Tony Benn's Ministry for Technology (known as Mintech) but I don't think any other ministries followed suit.

  12. Krogerfoot said,

    February 12, 2020 @ 12:17 am

    As Julie Davis says above, "topless meeting" appears to have been coined in the US. The term is not known to any of the Japanese people I've asked (IT, design, and media people from 20s to 50s in Tokyo), and when asked to guess its meaning, most venture that it might mean "a meeting without a manager present" or, more absurdly, "a meeting with everyone not wearing a shirt." I'm curious where Nathan Hopson might have picked it up.

  13. ajay said,

    February 12, 2020 @ 4:55 am

    The comedian Billy Connolly recalls, during his time working in West Africa, visiting an establishment described on its advertising as "NIGERIA'S FINEST TOPLESS BAR" and discovering on entering that it didn't have a roof.

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