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  • Quick commentary on Oct 1-10 08 Debito.org poll on discriminatory language

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on October 12th, 2008

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

    Terms describing people in any language can be controversial. In your opinion, which ones, if any, of these words still in common use do you think are offensive and should be obsolesced over time?

    • Gaijin (62%, 143 Votes)
    • Haafu (44%, 101 Votes)
    • Sangokukjin (34%, 78 Votes)
    • Gaikokujin (25%, 58 Votes)
    • Shina (24%, 56 Votes)
    • I don't find any of the above words offensive. (18%, 42 Votes)
    • Shintai shougaisha (13%, 31 Votes)
    • Can't answer. (5%, 11 Votes)

    Total Voters: 230

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    BRIEF COMMENT:  I caution readers not to read too much into this poll.  It’s a select group of words to a (pretty) select readership.  But a point of clarification:

    People were allowed multiple entries, and the total number of voters was at poll closing 230 people.  This means that one person voting for, say, four responses, would give you four responses but still one voter.  (I tested it myself:  I put in four votes, and all four responses read 100%, but the total voters were only one.)  Which means that any percent you see by a response means total number of responses divided by the total number of voters.  This means, for example, 62% of all people who voted in this poll at all voted that they thought “gaijin” was an offensive word.

    With that in mind, a couple of possible interpretations:  

    Only one word was found by an absolute majority to be offensive, and that was “gaijin”.  The far second was “haafu” and then “sangokujin”.  More people thought “gaikokujin” was worse than “shina”, it seems.  

    There may have been some shortage of responses due to confusion over whether people could have voted for multiple options (I tried to put in “you can vote for more than one choice”, but it wouldn’t fit in the question’s word limit.)  But one response wouldn’t have that problem — people choosing “none of the above” (i.e. “I don’t find any of the above words offensive.”).  Surprisingly (given the very vocal protest over the arguments regarding my recent Japan Times essays on “gaijin”), a very small number (barely a fifth of the voters) chose that.

    Anyway, I will try to make it clear when you can vote for more than one option (please feel free to suggest improvements in the polling — that’s why this is a separate blog entry commentary), but do understand that the percents being represented take into account individual responses as a proportion of total voters, in any case.  FYI.  Thanks for participating.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    3 Responses to “Quick commentary on Oct 1-10 08 Debito.org poll on discriminatory language”

    1. jim Says:

      i hope that next time you do this survey that you include the new trend word that the magazines now use to desribe the word halfu, there now called (mix), im not jokeing..my wife showed me this in several of her fashion magazines..they call the halfu models in the magazine (MIX)!

      –I didn’t use it because “mix” is arguably not “in common use” yet — it’s a word the media seems (by your citation) to be trying to popularize. But it’s not there yet. Right now “mix” is just “mazeru” at best, used if at all in cooking. I’d have to give the context you cite, so ima wa pin to konai. The closest similar word in Japanese use is “konketsuji”, but it’s long been obsolesced.

    2. Alex Says:

      Not that I approve of the use of the word `Gaijin` (although when it is used towards me I just think to myself sha-nai na)but I feel that this pole stinks a bit of `hakujin ga guchiguchi yuutoru`.

      Gaijin, even `Gaikokujin` worse than Sangokujin? give me a break people! If you people really felt the way you say you do about foreign rights you would feel just as offended to hear words that apply to foreigners other than yourself.

      I will include some thoughts pertaining to a collection of posts here.

      Anyone ever notice that eigoken no hito ha always say at the end of a post which outlines an episode they had with the following sentence.

      `the conversation entirely took place in japanese`.

      I really feel it is these kind of people expecially that find the slightest allusion to perceptions pertaining to their idenditiy offensive.

      相手との会話が殆ど日本語やったんか?!?日本語は主流やからそら当たり前やんか!白人よ、もうちょい頑張りましょうや。ほんまに。

      I am not out of line, am I?

      alex

    3. Colin Says:

      The person on the receiving end of these “LAZY WORDS” should be the one determining if they are racist/prejudice/rude etc. If the speaker thought they were they wouldn`t be saying them in the first place…When the “N” word is used do you think that the individual saying it really cares about offending another? No. It`s the person who it is directed at that takes offense.
      The word “GAIJIN” is just laziness on the speakers behalf… And another thing, why is it that when I walk by Japanese people I always hear them whisper out “Gaijin?” Why do they even need to say it in the first place? They should be teaching the correct terminology to students in their morals class at school about the accepted distinguished names for individuals who are not Japanese…

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