The Nagoya District Court has ruled against a 72-year-old man who filed a damages suit against public broadcaster, claiming that its overuse of foreign loan words rendered many of its programs unintelligible, thus causing him emotional stress.
Hoji Takahashi, who heads the "Nihongo wo taisetsu ni suru kai" (Treat Japanese as Important Association), brought the suit because repeated entreaties to NHK had been ignored, his lawyer said. He had been seeking 1.41 million yen in damages.
In handing down the ruling on Thursday, Presiding Judge Kiyofumi Saito said the use of foreign words cannot be proven to cause emotional distress.
In the suit, Takahashi said NHK was relying too heavily on words borrowed from English, instead of their traditional Japanese counterparts. He gave as examples words such as "risuku" (risk), "korabo" (collaboration) and "toraburu" (trouble).
Japanese has a tradition of borrowing words from other languages, often quite inventively and sometimes changing their meaning in the process.
Although English provides the bulk of loanwords -- an inheritance of the post World War II U.S. occupation and subsequent fascination with American culture -- words borrowed from many other languages are also in use.
Thus, the word for part-time work is a Japanized version of the German "arbeit", "concierge" comes from the French and the Spanish "pan" is understood as bread.
However, Japan's phonic structure, in which sounds are usually made of a consonant and a vowel, renders many of these borrowed words unintelligible to speakers of the language from which they came.
“Young people can probably understand a lot of this stuff, but for older people like myself, when I hear 'asurito' (athlete) and 'konpuraiansu' (compliance), I don’t know what it means," Takahashi was quoted as saying.© Japan Today/AFP