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MUSINGS / Nov. 14, 2017

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun’s Nov. 14 issue.

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If the person in front of you seems somewhat apathetic or dispassionate, you might want to say that person is nihiru (nihilistic). Where did this word come from? I wondered, and went to the dictionary to find it was Latin.

Let’s hope the new Latin word Chibanian becomes as common as nihiru is. An international academic institution just informally decided to give a stratum found in Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture, this Latin name, meaning the “Chiba age.” When the decision becomes official, the geological period [based on the stratum] that ranges from about 770,000 to 126,000 years ago will be called by this name worldwide.

Naming rights can be a source of dispute. A group of Japanese researchers had to compete for the rights with an Italian group that had found a similar stratum and is said to have won in a vote.

When I typed Chibanian into my personal computer, it did not convert into proper Japanese. The built-in dictionaries will likely be updated sooner or later. Just as Jurassic, a period from a larger geological time scale, came to be known from a dinosaur movie, the new name may have prospects of its own if people can come up with bright ideas.

Where celebrity is involved, Chiba has never done so well. Tokyo Disneyland is one example, and Narita Airport, which used to be called the New Tokyo International Airport, is another. These places were so named even though they are actually situated in the prefecture. If we are going to feel for the locals, we cannot be nihiru. We should be moved by their sudden advance into the global arena.Speech

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