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Lexical Leavings

by Tom Gally



According to the newspapers, Japan is now in the midst of a マニフェスト選挙, with マニフェスト explained as meaning a 政権公約 issued by a political party. The word マニフェスト does not seem to have been widely used in this meaning before this year, raising the question of how it should be translated in new editions of Japanese-English dictionaries.
"Manifesto" pamphlet of political party
My first reaction was to translate マニフェスト as "platform" and not "manifesto" (as it was on the political flier that arrived in my mailbox recently). To me, "manifesto" seemed more appropriate for a statement issued by, say, a terrorist group than a well-established political party. But a little checking found that "manifesto" is used in this 政権公約 meaning in the United Kingdom. Note the following Google search results:
Tories Parliament "the party manifesto":  166 hits
Tories Parliament "the party platform": 123 hits

Democrats Senate "the party manifesto":  39 hits
Democrats Senate "the party platform":  1,800 hits
No dictionaries I checked mentioned this difference in usage between the U.S. and U.K., though an attentive dictionary reader might infer it from the slightly different definitions that appear in the British and American editions of the Longman learners' dictionary:
Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (British English):
manifesto  a written statement by an organized group, especially a political party, saying what they believe in and what they intend to do

Longman Advanced American Dictionary (American English)
manifesto  a written statement by a group, especially a political group, saying what they believe in and what they intend to do: the Communist manifesto
(October 25, 2003)