I learnt a strange new Japanese word today, while scanning through the commencement documents for my new job. In Japanese one can add the word “ka” (化) to a noun to add the meaning “-ification” to the end of the noun. For example, the word ango means “cipher, code” so angoka is “encryption.” The word genkin means cash, and some companies here offer credit card genkinka, in which you can get cash from a card that doesn’t directly offer you a cash withdrawal service (presumably you buy a 1000 yen pen at a hugely exaggerated price and keep the difference). In this case the literal translation would be “cashification.”

Japanese also offers many imports from foreign words, and one such word is “paperless.” You could probably write this in Japanese as something like mushisei (無紙), which would translate literally as “essence of no paper” but this is never done – one always says “Paperless.” So today, my work informed me that they are going to communicate official matters to me primarily by email for purposes of … paperlesska. That’s right, they’re paperless-ifying the office. This is an official word in Japanese: paperless-ification.

Imagine Judge Dredd as a desk cop in Japan: “This office has been paperless-ified!”

Incidently, this ka is also the bake in bakemono, a word all role-players should know: bake is the stem of the verb “to corrupt.” In the Japanese language, words meaning change or transformation can have many bad meanings. For example, “troublesome” is literally written as taihen (大変), the characters for “big change” and a strange person is a hen na hito, literally a changed person. I think this is one of the ways in which the conservatism (in the literal sense of that word) of Japanese society and culture shows directly through language.

Anyway, as a form of corruption, both of the English language and of office practice, I think “paperless-ification” is an excellent idea!

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