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New Words 2018 – How Long Will They Stay NEW?


The New Word of the Year 2018 was announced on 1st December.  The selection was made from words which appeared repeatedly in a variety of media outlets.  As this was the Olympic and Football World Cup year, there are many words related to these events.

 “Sodanee” – Word that Healed the Nation

 “Sodanee” is a modern dialect from Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan.  It means, “yeah, that’s right”, or “I agree”.  The Japanese Women’s Curling team frequently used this phrase during the 2018 Winter Olympics.  The contrast between the tense atmosphere during play and the relaxed faces during the timeout huddle grabbed the attention of viewers.  These top athletes looked as if they were at a picnic, munching on their favourite strawberries while discussing strategies for the next round of the game.

They all look like ordinary young women, yet they achieved the extraordinary result of Bronze Medal (unexpected).  By being themselves, working together, and respecting teammates throughout the competition, they struck a chord with all generations.  It was an example of a new generation growing up in line with an old Japanese value.

E-Sports, Football, and Other Topics

Another sports event was the E-sports Asia Championship.  A Japanese player won a gold medal, and for the first time, it was recognised as a major event by the public.  For Japan’s gaming industry, it is a critical and significant step.

Football’s World Cup also gave one phrase which is “(Osako) Hampanaitte”.  This phrase was already recorded in 2009 when Japan’s top footballer, Osako, outplayed everyone on the pitch.  “Hampanai” means “incredible”, but some English media had to use the Japanese word to convey the extraordinary feeling of awe when witnessing a remarkable individual.

The other words and phrases are all related to the new areas of interest, such as LGBT, extreme heat as a natural disaster, question dodging by politicians, Super Volunteer in the time of crisis, #MeToo, and so on.

The variety of the words on the list shows a fast-changing society, maybe except for politicians dodging questions.  It is notable that the consumption period of the words and phrases has shortened.  There are not many people who could instantly remember the word of 2017, which was Sontaku and Insta-bae.

Alternative List started by the Dictionary

Since 2013, based on the widely held view that many of these “New Words of the Year” disappear very quickly, the dictionary Daijisen has been asking the public to pick words worthy of formally inclusion in its publications. 

Daijisen, with a database over 300,000 words of classic and modern Japanese words, updates its contents three times a year.  At the same time, it acknowledges that the lives of many words and phrases can be extremely short. 

It selects words of the months from May to November every year.  They are always suggested and voted by dictionary users.  The short list of new words of the year is drawn up from the monthly selection, which endured at least a few months on the written media, online and offline.  Some of the words listed in May of the same year could seem already obsolete by the year-end, and it is telling that it is imperative to pass the test of time to be officially registered in the digital dictionary.

At the same time, the words that did not make it to the last list could still become dictionary-worthy.  In 2016, a new word Brexit was on the list of the monthly selection in June, but it did not get on the final shortlist.  The other words on this shortlist have not made it on the digital dictionary, but Brexit has.  It shows how some things outlive many others that seemed much more impactful at the time.

Troubles of 2018

The Kanji (Chinese letter) that signifies 2018 was chosen to be “Wazawai”, which means troubles, because of the many natural disasters that hit Japan throughout the year.  The reaction to this selection is understandably very mixed. 

The end of the year consolidates what has happened, and people see it as the approach of the New Year.  The negatives of the past are not what some people want to tremember.  But many will now look to 2019 with fresh minds, with prospects of the Rugby World Cup in Japan, the coronation of a new Emperor, and many more yet to be seen opportunities. 

Many new opportunities and trends will be set in the coming year, though the troubles people had to endure in 2018 will not be forgotten, as they constitute a learning process for a country and for individuals, to be prepared for the better new year ahead.


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