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Today’s Word


Today’s (Japanese) phrase is SHIKATA GA NAI, which roughly translates to “it cannot be helped” or “nothing can be done about it.”  The phrase has frequently been used by Western writers to describe the ability of the Japanese people to maintain dignity in the face of  hardship, adversity or injustice.  The phrase also can have negative connotations, as some may perceive the lack of reaction to adversity as complacence, both to social and political forces.

Many Japanese-Americans may be familiar with the use of the phrase “shikata ga nai” in the context of the forcible relocation and internment of roughly 110,000 Japanese nationals and Japanese Americans to “War Relocation Camps,” following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941.  Over 60-percent of those interned under Executive Order 9066 were USA citizens.  Some of those who were forcibly relocated to camps (located in California, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and Arkansas) reportedly remarked “shikata ga nai” (or “it can’t be helped”) as their businesses were sold, possessions confiscated, and physically relocated to camps by the U.S. government.

In 1988, Congress passed and President Ronald Reagan signed legislation which apologized for the internment on behalf of the U.S. government.  The legislation stated that government actions were based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”



To go to previous entries in the “Today’s Word” series, click here.

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2008 Top 10 Words

“Change” is the Top Word of 2008 according to the annual global survey of the English language by Global Language Monitor.  Meanwhile, the estimated number of words in the English language has increased to 998,751, just 1,249 from the million-word mark.


According to Paul JJ Payack, President of The Global Language Monitor, “Global English has been driven by three notable events during the course of 2008: The US Presidential Election, the Financial Tsunami, and the Beijing Olympics.”  He added, “For 2008 our words were culled from throughout the English-speaking world which now numbers some 1.58 billion speakers and includes such diverse cultures as India, China, Philippines, and the EuroZone.”


The analysis was completed using GLM’s Predictive Quantities Indicator (PQI), a proprietary algorithm that tracks words and phrases in the media and on the Internet. The words are tracked in relation to frequency, contextual usage and appearance in global media outlets, factoring in long-term trends, short-term changes, momentum and velocity.


TOP 10 WORDS OF 2008


1.  Change – The top political buzzword of the 2008 US Presidential campaign.
2.  B
ailout – Would have been higher but was not in the media until Mid-September.
3.  O
bamamania – Describing the worldwide reaction to Barack Obama’s campaign and subsequent victory in the US presidential race.
Greenwashing – Repositioning a product to stress its Earth-friendly attributes.
Surge – Military and political strategy often cited as reducing violence in Iraq.
Derivative – Exotic financial instruments used to cleverly package junk-grade debt.
Subprime – Mortgages that were packaged as derivatives.
Foreclosure – The end-result of the sub-prime mess.
Phelpsian:  New word coined to describe the Phelpsian Pheat of winning eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics.
Chinglish – The often amusing Chinese/English language hybrid that Beijing tried to stamp out before the Olympics began.


Source: Global Language Monitor


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Top 10 Irritating Phrases

Researchers at University of Oxford have announced their list of TEN MOST IRRITATING WORDS AND PHRASES FOR 2008.  According to Jeremy Butterfield, lexicographer and author of Oxford A to Z of English Usage, the ten words and phrases were identified based on results from the Oxford University Corpus, an extensive and dynamic database that compiles texts—both written and spoken—in electronic form. Containing over 200 billion words of 21st century English, the Oxford University Corpus provides evidence of actual and contextual language usage worldwide. The database documents various forms of the English language ranging from literary novels, specialist journals, magazines and newspapers to blogs, chatrooms and emails.

The database alerts them to new words and phrases and can tell them which expressions are disappearing. It also shows how words are being misused.

In an interview, Butterfield said “We grow tired of anything that is repeated too often – an anecdote, a joke, a mannerism – and the same seems to happen with some language.”


1 - At the end of the day
2 - Fairly unique
3 - I personally
4 - At this moment in time
5 - With all due respect
6 - Absolutely
7 - It’s a nightmare
8 - Shouldn’t of
9 - 24/7
10 - It’s not rocket science


What do you consider the most irritating word or phrase for 2008?

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Today’s Word

Today’s (Japanese) word is KORAERU.  Koraeru roughly means “to endure” or to “withstand hardship or adversity.”  I particularly like this word.

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Today’s Word

Today’s (Thai) word/phrase is MAI PEN RAI.  Mai pen rai roughly means “It’s nothing” and also “Never mind,” “No worries,” or ”Don’t worry about it.”  I think it also represents a Thai way of thinking– “Bend with the wind; like a bamboo tree.”

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