Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Word From the Depths of the Internet

(Spoiler: This post contains ass-paddling.)

Happy weekend. For today, a geeky-minded word-of-the-week:
weeaboo (WEE-ə-boo) — noun: a non Japanese person who favors Japanese culture over his or her own.
Being someone who likes video games and enjoys a significant chunk of what gets shoved under into the “geek culture” label, I’ve run into a few people who might be called weeaboos. Online, I should point out. These folks are indoorsy types, who only brave sunlight to cosplay or perhaps to read manga while sitting on the floor of chain bookstores. I noticed their activity once on IMDb, when I saw that the site lists video games in addition to movies and TV shows and was puzzled that someone had entered the bigger-name classic titles as Sūpā Mario Burazāzu and Sutorīto Faitā. These might be technically more correct in one sense, as they’re literal re-renderings of the Japanese characters that make up these video game titles, but in any other sense it’s ridiculous to insist on transliteration rather than just saying Super Mario Bros. or Street Fighter, especially when the original Japanese titles are supposed to be in English anyway. (That is, you would see Street Fighter on a Japanese game cartridge, not the Japanese characters for “street” and “fighter.”) The IMDb titles have since been fixed, so apparently enough people agreed with me.

But this idiocy, friends, was the work of weeaboos.

The website Know Your Meme explains the history of the term weeaboo. Before 2005, these people would have been called Wapanese — either “wannabe Japanese” or “white Japanese” — but thanks to that source of all things strange and fascinating, 4chan, the term was literally replaced with weeaboo in 2005 when a user hacked the site so that all instances of Wapanese were replaced with a nonsense word from a Perry Bible Fellowship comic.

The name stuck (though sadly the ass-paddling associations did not) and these dorks have been called weeaboos to the point that, according to Know Your Meme, it now gets used more often online than wapanese and the technical term, japanophile. The site also distinguishes weeaboo from otaku, a Japanese word that over there means “fan” or “excessive fan” but over here tends to refer specifically to anime nuts, manga fanatics, or people unnaturally obsessed with Japanese-produced video games. Whereas the otaku simply indulges in their hobby to an unhealthy extent, the weeaboo is the one who addresses you using the Japanese honorific while snacking from a bento box with chopsticks they had imported from Japan, because “they’re just better Japan,” but instead they call it Nippon because that’s what Japanese people call Japan.

I kind of wish equivalent words existed for people obsessed with English, Italian, Spanish or French culture — you know, aside from asshole.

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