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Old 12-26-2005, 06:59 PM   #19
Josh Reyer
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Location: Aichi-ken, Nagoya-shi
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 644
Re: What's happened to Shudokan?

I really know where Bryan and Sean are coming from. "Sensei John Smith" just sounds wrong to me. However, "sensei" is actually in Webster's dictionary, including a plural of "senseis", so that makes it English enough for people to do what they will (I'm a hard-line descriptivist).

There's the flip-side. Japanese has imported many foreign words it uses as job titles: manager, coach, (news)caster, reporter, announcer, trainer, and others. These words are frequently used as honorifics: Tanaka-maneejaa, Sato-koochi, Kikuchi-repootaa, Uchida-anaunsaa. If I get upset about Sensei John, I have to get upset about Sato-koochi.

Now, sempai is a whole different kettle. Sempai is not (yet) acclimated to the English language, so someone attempting to use it is attempting to bring a particular cultural concept, and in that case a little more adherence to proper usage would be preferable, if only to show that they understand the concept. "Sempai" is not a title one earns or loses, it's simply what you are. When listing teachers, for example, it's not unusual to put "sensei" next to their names (and the same is done with the above imported words), but it's never done with "sempai". One person's sempai is another person's kohai. Because it is varies depending on the person, and since it's not a qualification or a job, it's simply used as a form of address.

Related to this, what really bugs me is the use of "kohai" in Rising Sun (book and movie). Unlike "sempai", "kohai" is never used as an honorific, nor as a form of address.

"Aikidoist" is, linguistically, much, much more justifiable that "Aikidoer". The "-er" suffix is native English, and is derived from verb forms. We tend to attach it to native English words, or words that "sound" English. The "-ist" suffix is derived from French, and tends to be attached to foreign-derived words, and also nouns. One who plays a piano is not a pioner, but a pianist. One who writes is a writer, but one who writes novels is a novelist. And of course "-ist" is also used to refer to followers of a philosophy or doctrine, like "hedonist", "Impressionist", and so on. So on a phonological level ("aikidoist" flows better than "aikidoer") as a well as a semantical level (aikido is a noun; something we use/make, as well as a philosophy, rather than a verb like box, fence, or wrestle), I think "aikidoist" has much more to recommend it than "aikidoer".

Of course, "aikidoka" can be imported pretty easily. Tohei Akira Shihan once said that "aikidoka" referred to a professional instructor, although I can't say he's fully supported by common Japanese usage; it seems to refer to dedicated hobbyists over here, too.

Josh Reyer

The lyf so short, the crafte so longe to lerne,
Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
- Chaucer
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