This Year in Japanese

A Hot Year in Japan: Dictionary Publisher Sanseidō Picks “Global Boiling” as Word of 2023

Language Culture

Record temperatures and heavy rain prompted dictionary publisher Sanseidō to choose chikyū futtōka, or “global boiling,” as its word of the year for 2023.

A Keyword for Our Era

Dictionary publisher Sanseidō picked chikyū futtōka, the Japanese translation of “global boiling,” as its word of the year for 2023. Its awards for the last few years all emerged and spread on social media and other internet spaces: pien (representing the sound of crying) in 2020, chirui (an adjective based on “chill out”) in 2021, and taipa (“time performance” for efficient use of time) in 2022. By contrast, the origin of chikyū futtōka can be pinned down exactly to a speech by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on July 27, in which he stated that “The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived.”

The world saw major flooding, droughts, and forest fires during the summer of 2023, and Japan too experienced record temperatures and heavy rain.

The dictionary editor judges said that chikyū futtōka was a major keyword marking our current era. While they expected words like chikyū ondanka (global warming) and kikō hendō (climate change) to remain in use, they thought “global boiling” would also enter common usage.

Shōgakukan, another Japanese publisher, selected seisei AI (generative AI) as its word of the year, as the buzz surrounding creative tools based on learning from models spread across Japan, just as in the rest of the world.

Sanseidō’s Top 10 New Words of the Year for 2023

  1. 地球沸騰化Chikyū futtōka. The Japanese translation for “global boiling” comes from a July speech by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who felt that “global warming” was not sufficient to express the sense of crisis.
  2. ハルシネーションHarushinēshon. Generative AI can produce smooth and plausible written texts, but also shows a tendency toward “hallucinations,” a word adopted to describe incorrect or misleading information mixed in.
  3. かわちいKawachii. A playful variation on kawaii or “cute,” based on the childish pronunciation seen in urechii for ureshii (happy), that further ups the cute factor.
  4. 性加害・性被害Sei kagai/sei higai. Words meaning “sexual abuse,” referring to a wide range of behavior, saw common use following major coverage of a scandal involving talent agency boss Johnny Kitagawa.
  5. 〇〇ウォッシュ — __uosshu. The suffix “wash” has been adopted into Japanese, with the phrase gurīn-uosshu (greenwashing) for feigning environmental responsibility increasingly used in 2023. The Japanese variant SDGs-uosshu (SDG-washing) describes companies and others who put on false fronts about their efforts to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
  6. アクスタAkusuta. An abbreviation for the “acrylic standees” (akuriru sutando) often made by fans by printing their favorite idols or anime characters onto acrylic bases.
  7. トーンポリシングTōn porishingu. “Tone policing,” or a focus on perceived problems with critics’ attitudes rather than the substance of their words, was said to be a feature of press conferences by the talent management agency Johnny and Associates, which was lambasted for complicity in the sexual abuse by its founder Johnny Kitagawa.
  8. リポストRiposuto. The rebranding of Twitter as X in July 2023 saw the word “repost” replace “retweet,” causing much discussion in Japan, where the service has many users.
  9. 人道回廊Jindō kairō. The Japanese translation of “humanitarian corridors,” described by the International Committee of the Red Cross as “agreements between parties to the armed conflict to allow for safe passage for a limited time in a specific geographic area” was seen last year during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and commonly this year in relation to the Israel-Hamas war.
  10. 闇バイトYami baito. Criminals may sign people up to perform “dark part-time jobs” via social media or other means, threaten them so they cannot quit, and get them involved in crimes like fraud and robbery.

Shōgakukan’s Top New Words of the Year for 2022

生成AISeisei AI [Winner]. Promises of a “generative AI” revolution, as well as concerns and skepticism, made such tools a hot topic in 2023.

闇バイトYami baito [Runner-up]. Like Sanseidō, Shōgakukan picked “dark part-time jobs” among its words of the year.

蛙化現象Kaeruka genshō [Runner-up]. In the “turning into a frog phenomenon,” a romantic crush cools off the moment the other shows an interest, in a form of anxious self-defense.

(Originally published in Japanese on December 1, 2023. Banner photo: Representatives from the dictionary publisher Sanseidō announce its words of the year on November 30, 2023. © Sanseidō.)

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