Thursday, December 10, 2009
The Japanese language has nothing equal to good old-fashioned Anglo-Saxon profanity.
Insults are more often the result of using impolite verb forms, rolling your Rs in a bad imitation of a mobster, or saying to someone that s/he has for example "short legs."
However, Japanese can hold their own when it comes to subtle put-downs. Hyper aware of status and position, Japanese can be casually cutting with the best of them.
One is the infamous "sympathy budget."
Usually, this is rendered in quotation marks or as the "so-called sympathy budget" in the Japanese media.
What it refers to is the portion of the budget that is devoted to supporting US troops stationed at one of the many bases in Japan. According to politicalaffairs.net, "the total amount of Japan’s payment for the stationing of U.S. forces in the FY 2008 will be 620 billion yen (about 6 billion dollars)." (Note the lack of quotation marks.)
The term is said to originate with the late Shin Kanemaru, who in 1978 defended the payments by saying they are done "out of sympathy." He was at the time the Director-General of the Japan Defense Agency.
The money spent is a source of irritation for many Japanese, particularly in base-heavy Okinawa. Thus, the popularity of the put down.
Needless to say, the term is not popular in the US Embassy.
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