The Most Important Japanese Buzzwords of 2012

At the end of the year, lots of different organizations give their picks for words of the year. These words of the year are based on events and trends throughout the year, so in past years words like “metrosexual,” “bailout,” and “occupy” have made the list.

This happens in Japanese, too. Every year, Japanese publisher Jiyu Kokuminsha compiles its list of the top buzzwords and phrases in Japanese.

And fortunately for us, the past couple of years the venerable Gakuranman has given us a rundown of Jiyu Kikuminsha’s lists. On Monday, the Gakuranman posted this year’s list of the top 50 Japanese buzzwords.

I love these lists because they give you a snapshot of a year of Japanese culture. Let’s dive into the most important Japanese words of 2012 and what they mean:

Japanese Fads

A lot of these words are specific to fads and trends exclusive to Japan. You might not recognize them, but at some point in 2012, they were huge in Japan.

Japan has a ton of “one-joke wonder” comedians, and this year the comedian “Wild Sugi-chan” joined their ranks.

Wild Sugi-chan’s whole schtick is that he brags about “wild” he is (he’s so wild he threw away the cap to a 2-liter soda before he even drank it!) and mixes masculine and feminine language. It’s probably a lot funnier if you’re a native Japanese speaker.

Oh, and he rocks the double denim look with a vest and shorts. Just see for yourself:

His catch phrase, ワイルドだろぉ? (“wild, right?”) has entered the Japanese lexicon and will probably be completely forgotten by this time next year.

No shame in joining the likes of Kojima Yoshio and Dandy Sakano, Wild Sugi-chan. Enjoy the fame while it lasts.

Other Buzzwords

  • ワイルドだろぉ? (wild, right?)
  • キラキラネーム (Sparkling names)
  • 奇跡の一本松 (miracle pine tree)

Worldwide Trends

Not every word is about something exclusively Japanese. A lot of buzzwords and phrases are about things that people around the world experience.

There were a few words on the list that were specific to athletes at the 2012 Summer Olypmics in London, and at least a couple that were about social media; but my personal favorite is この人を見よ, or “look at this guy.”

“This guy” is none other than Jesus Christ, who was depicted in the painting Ecce Homo (“Behold the Man”), which was earnestly but poorly restored by a well-meaning Spanish woman.

It was a huge meme here in the West and I guess it made it big enough in Japan to make the list of Japan’s top 50 buzzwords of 2012. So hats off to you, Cecilia Giménez, 80-year-old Spanish artist; you’ve made it big in Japan.

Other Buzzwords

  • この人を見よ (look at this guy)
  • いいね! (Facebook “Like”)
  • 金メダルに負けない人生 (a life worthy of an Olympic gold medal)

There are plenty of other weird, interesting, and cool buzzwords that made the top 50. For the whole list, check out the Gakuranman’s roundup!

  • ZXNova

    The Gakuranman link does not work.

  • ZXNova

    The link at the beginning of the paragraph, that is.

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    My mistake, fixed it!

  • http://gakuranman.com Gakuranman

    Glad you enjoyed the list. I wonder what will be selected as the top 10 this year? My money is on Lola and Sugi-chan, at the very least :p.

  • Hannah

    I know he’s not the best comedian, but I love Sugi-chan! Cracks me up when I catch random people at work quoting him. XD

  • http://www.teachingengrish.blogspot.com/ Judith

    I don’t know if this counts as a buzzword, but my coworkers and I were recently talking about a trend with JHS/HS girls to say “yabai” for anything. So that ramen was so “yabai” or that dress is so “yabai”.

  • 古戸ヱリカ

    But is it Super Ultra Great Delicious Wonderful Yabai?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNKo4TPAqxw&feature=related

  • http://gakuranman.com Gakuranman

    Yabai is standard youth slang for ‘really/amazing/great/crazy’ or ‘oh damn!’

    For example: ‘I’m late for work! Yabai!’

    Yabai ramen would be amazingly good noodles, or perhaps incredibly bad!

  • CelestialSushi

    Sounds like when American teenagers would say stuff was “bad” to describe how wonderful it was.