With Valentine's day ahead, you may be casting about for pretty phrases for your cards. If so, a word of advice: French might be the official language of l'amour, but when it comes to the Realpolitik of male-female relations, Japanese might just win your heart.
Like all languages, Japanese is constantly evolving. People here love to patch new expressions together, cutting and pasting to create buzzwords that perfectly suit the idea of the moment. Nothing keeps these word wizards busier than romance - or a lamented lack of it.
Women seem to have cornered the market on the most colorful new expressions. A look at the newest phrases they're bandying about reveals as much about the state of love, Japanese style, as it does about Japan.
*Seinto barentainu dei: St. Valentine's Day has been around for awhile, but it's worth starting here to cover a basic truth that colors all male-female relations in Japan - traditionally, men come first. Imported by a confectionery industry desperate to boost sales after World War II, Valentine's Day in Japan is a male-dominated affair. Only men get chocolates.
Women give them, then have to wait until March 14, dubbed "White Day," to receive sweets from the men in their lives. That annoying, month-long wait could explain the language Japan's women are using these days.
*Kyukon-kun: These "bulb guys" can do nothing right. They are mama's boys in their 30s who are hapless with women and show no inclination to get married.
They've earned the name because they root themselves in their parents' homes, suck up nutrients, and slowly but steadily get larger. The women who complain about bulb guys aren't imagining things. About 80 percent of single men in their 30s don't feel any pressure to get married, according to a survey by OMG, a Tokyo-based dating service company. Not only that, many of them are reluctant to leave Mom's cooking behind: 78 percent say they don't want to get married because of the slump in their standard of living that's sure to follow.