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Kotobagari (言葉狩り, lit. "word hunting") refers to the censorship of words considered politically incorrect in the Japanese language. It often conveys negative connotations that sarcastically criticize the excess persistence in political correctness. Words such as gaijin (外人 "foreigner"), rai (癩 "leper"), mekura (盲 "blind"), tsunbo (聾 "deaf"), oshi (唖 "deaf-mute"), kichigai (気違い or 気狂い "crazy"), tosatsujō (屠殺場 "slaughter house"), and hakuchi (白痴 "moron/retard") are currently not used by the majority of Japanese publishing houses; the publishers often refuse to publish writing which includes these words.

Critics of kotobagari point out that the activity often does not serve the purpose of correcting the underlying cause of discrimination. For example, a school janitor in Japan used to be called a kozukai-san (小使いさん "chore person"). Some felt that the word had a derogatory meaning, so it was changed to yōmuin (用務員 "task person"). Now yōmuin is considered demeaning, so there is shift to use kōmuin (校務員 "school task member") or kanrisagyōin (管理作業員 "maintenance member") instead. Linguist Stephen Pinker calls this shift the euphemism treadmill.

Other examples of words which have become unacceptable include the replacement of the word hyakushō (百姓) for farmer with nōka (農家), or the replacement of the word shina (支那) for China written in kanji with the version written in katakana (シナ) or with the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese name for China, Chūgoku (中国).

Kotobagari and Ideology

Kotobagari has led to some confusing terminology.

NHK, the Japanese Broadcasting Company runs a Korean language study program, but the language is called "Hangul" to avoid being politically incorrect. This is a result of both the North and South Korean governments demanding that the program be called by the name of one country. North Korea wanted the show to be called "Chōsen language" (朝鮮語) taken from its full name, 朝鮮民主主義人民共和国 or Democratic People's Republic of Korea. South Korea wanted "Kankoku language" (韓国語) from 大韓民国 or Republic of Korea. As a compromise, "Hangul" was selected, but this has led to the use of the neologism "Hangul language" (ハングル語) to refer to the Korean language; "Hangul" normally refers to the Korean writing system.ko:고토바가리

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