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October 13, 2004

The English Purge

Words such as "stereotype," "safeguard" and "skill" should be purged from the Japanese language, according to the country's most prominent protector of native words. The National Institute for Japanese Language is seeking to eliminate the use of 32 English words or phrases that have become a standard part of the daily Japanese language.

In its third meeting on alternative words, the institute brought its list of purged English to 141, with future meetings still in store. "We plan to create a booklet listing all the words we have produced in our three meetings so far and hand this out to municipal governments across the country," a spokesman for the institute said.

Those words or phrases no longer given official status in Japanese are: accountability, initiative, counterpart, governance, conference, compliance, supply side, skill, stance, stereotype, safeguard, setback, solution, tool, digital divide, default, doctrine, hazard map, public involvement, public comment, priority, breakthrough, presence, frontier, portfolio, bottleneck, manpower, mission, mobility, universal design, literacy and road pricing.

Institute officials decide which borrowed words to eliminate based on the degree of understanding they have among Japanese speakers 60 or older. Each of the purged words was misunderstood by at least one third of the unspecified number of 60-somethings the institute canvassed. (Mainichi Shimbun)

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