Writings > Lexical Leavings


A recent book that has been an eye-opener for me is 『ヴァーチャル日本語 役割語の謎』 by 金水敏, the last in the もっと知りたい! 日本語 series from 岩波書店. The author examines stereotyped language in popular culture, such as the 「わしが博士じゃ」 speaking style of professors and other old people in comics and popular fiction (but not in real life). He traces this particular style, which he calls 博士語 or 老人語, back to the Edo period, when the upper classes in Edo still spoke in a Kansai-influenced style but the lower-class Eastern dialect was increasingly becoming the standard. Playwrights would use the older style to indicate the higher status of doctors and other upper-class characters.

His use of the term 老人語 reminded me of 新明解国語辞典, which identifies many words by that label. Here are a few of those entries:

ソップ〔オ sop〕「スープ」の老人語。


とど(副)「結局」の意の老人語。→ とどのつまり 




Here is how the dictionary defines 老人語:
It is not clear to me how many of 新明解's 老人語 are actually used by older people and how many are pop-culture stereotypes.

(March 1, 2003)