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These English words are blamed for ruining TV in Japan
An elderly viewer got fed up with Anglicized words he doesn't understand, and decided to do something about it
English keeps affecting Japanese language and entertainment — and some people have had quite enough.
English keeps affecting Japanese language and entertainment — and some people have had quite enough. Tomoyuki Kaya/Aflo/Nippon News/Corbis
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lderly viewers in Japan say they're confused by all of the Anglicized terms being used on TV, and one is trying to put a stop to it by suing the country's public broadcaster, NHK. Hoji Takahashi, 71, is demanding 1.41 million yen ($14,000) as compensation for the "mental stress" he says he has suffered because of the excessive use of words borrowed from English.

"The basis of his concern is that Japan is being too Americanized," Takahashi's lawyer, Mutsuo Miyata says. "Takahashi believes that NHK, as Japan's national broadcaster, shouldn't go with the trend, but remain determined to prioritize the use of Japanese, which he thinks would go a long way toward protecting Japanese culture."

What are the offending words invading Japanese airwaves? Takahashi, who belongs to a group dedicated to supporting the Japanese language, highlighted a few that ticked him off: "Toraburu" (trouble), "risuku" (risk), and "shisutemu" (system). He also noted that Americanisms had crept into the names of some programs, such as BS Kosheruju (BS Concierge) and Sutajio Paaku Kara Konnichiwa (Hello from Studio Park).

BBC News rounded up a list of several other English words commonly used in Japanese, including terebi (TV), rajio (radio), konpuraiansu (compliance), koraboreeshon (collaboration), dejitaru (digital), and taoru (towel). Takahashi says it's irresponsible for the nation's public broadcaster to abandon the Japanese equivalents to the words. NHK declined to comment until executives could study the lawsuit.

Language experts don't seem to think Takahashi will get far in court, although they understand where he is coming from. "Personally, I think the lawsuit is ridiculous, but it does at least draw attention to a problem," Makoto Yamazaki, an associate professor at the National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics, tells Britain's Guardian. "There has been pressure on the Japanese government and media to rein in the use of loanwords since the early 2000s."

Commentators note that words from other tongues have also been absorbed into Japanese — the German "arbeit" becomes "arubaito" (work), for example. English, however, apparently has outpaced other languages recently. "Even one of the most famous of Japanese exports, Pokémon, is a contraction of the English words 'pocket' and 'monster,'" notes Sam Brounstein at Policy Mic.

And linguistic purists in Japan aren't the only ones feeling overrun. France's 1994 Toubon laws made French the only language permissible in everything from government publications to road signs. There are limits, however. "When the government tried to ban common terms like 'le weekend' and 'le babysitter,'" Brounstein says, "protesters took the streets with signs that said, 'Relaxez-vous!'"

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami HeraldFox News, and ABC News.

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