Japan/ese-ophiles: Help me find out more about this WWII-era phenomenon in propaganda in Japan.
March 14, 2007 3:14 PM   Subscribe

Japan/ese-ophiles: Help me find out more about this WWII-era phenomenon in propaganda in Japan.

I was told by a friend a while ago that during WWII, the Japanese government would often publish propaganda with combinations of kanji that didn't necessarily "mean" anything specifically, but intrinsically, logographically "felt" good.

Can anyone confirm this, and if so, can they expand upon the idea?
posted by Lockeownzj00 to Society & Culture (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Kyle Goetz may be able to help you.

I don't know if the Japanese authorities employed a particular methodology when creating new words (sounds vaguely like Orwell's Ingsoc), but I can say (and you probably already know this) that it is relatively easy to coin new words in Japanese just buy combing two Japanese characters. However, it would be really difficult to create a vague word like you mention, because the more abstract a term, the more difficult it is to understand and the more difficult it is to adopt.

Maybe what you friend is referring to was the Japanese wartime effort to stamp out foreign loan words - words borrowed from English.

Anyway, let us know how it goes with Kyle.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:02 AM on March 15, 2007

I don't have a knowledgeable answer to this question, but it made me think of this: If Fox News began scrolling messages like this at the bottom of the screen: "PRESIDENT BUSH REPUBNIFIED NOBERO TO DIGNICRATE," you'd probably start laughing rather than feel patriotic fervor.

I can believe, like KokuRyu says, that they constructed neologisms liberally (we do so in English, although the rules are different), and especially to eliminate loan words. But words without the ability to communicate or contribute to meaning -- either by the meaning being known or easily assumed through context -- are distractions rather than tools.
posted by ardgedee at 5:39 AM on March 15, 2007

As an aside, please follow up with an answer if you find one. I'd like to know if this was true -- or where the story came from -- and judging from the number of favorites your post got others would like to know as well.
posted by ardgedee at 5:41 AM on March 15, 2007

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