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Bug #37282 closed:unresolved

Yes We Can! Fix This Mistake

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This bug appeared in a news report published by The Atlantic on Oct 19, 2009 by James Fallows. View the original news report.
Bug Type:  Simple Factual Error

Back in October, 2009 James Fallows wrote on his Atlantic Monthly blog about how a newly coined word, “obamu,” had “gained currency among some Japanese youths.” The word according to the blog entry was a verb rooted in the name Obama, as in President Obama. Essentially this new addition to the Japanese lexicon implied the same hopeful concept embraced by Obama’s famous campaign slogan, “Yes we can!”

 It was a great story from that so often “inscrutable and mysterious” land known as Japan. The trouble is the newly minted expression had about all the weight of cheap counterfeit knock-off. Upon closer inspection, CNN.GO’s Daniel Krieger, in an article entitled “Obamu: Obama gets his own (imaginary?) verb,” discovered that all that glitters isn’t gold. His research findings are perhaps best summed up in the CNN.GO articles subtitle that says “There's been a lot of buzz about a new verb based on Barack Obama's name, but we don't uncover any evidence of actual usage.”

 The main source for Fallows’ post is a blog by “a foreigner living in Japan.” The site's author prides himself on being free of the cultural blinders that so often obscure the truth in media reports, blogs, etc. covering Japan.  Unfortunately in this case the self-proclaimed unbiased portrayal of Japan as it really is, may really be in short nothing more than another tall tale.

In light of Krieger’s work the Atlantic story looks like it could easily dovetail with the famed urban legend about the Tokyo department store whose Christmas window display featured a crucified Santa Claus and so many other tales born from Western imaginations. Sure, facts may not be as entertaining as fancy but they’re worth more than hearsay any day, and those are words you can bank on.

 

Response

JT Cassidy has contacted The Atlantic

Bug History

Jul 19, 2012 11:22 pm Open JT Cassidy
Jul 19, 2012 11:50 pm Open: Under Discussion JT Cassidy
Sep 19, 2012 9:01 am Closed: Unresolved admin

Discussion Leave a comment

 

I submitted the following comment via the Atlantic Monthly's automated query form - but forgot to reference this bug report):

"An October 19, 2009 blog post by James Fallows tells the tale of the word “obamu” a then-recent addition to the Japanese lexicon. The blog article explains that the new word is based on the name of President Obama and essentially bears the same meaning as the president’s campaign slogan, “Yes we can!” Intrigued by the story I went looking for more about it on the Internet and discovered an article by Daniel Krieger on CNN.GO entitled, “Obamu: Obama gets his own (imaginary?) verb.” In his article Krieger makes a close inspection of the newly coined word. His research findings are perhaps best summed up in the CNN.GO article’s subtitle that says “There's been a lot of buzz about a new verb based on Barack Obama's name, but we don't uncover any evidence of actual usage.” Now after reading both articles I’m left wondering if this newly minted word as reported by the Atlantic is really nothing more than a counterfeit."

Jul 19, 2012 11:50 pm

Thanks for posting this report. The CNN.GO report is here. Sounds like there's a good strong chance this is an urban myth; though in this case disproving it definitively might be difficult, the onus probably ought to be on journalists to find some real cases of the term's existence/use than for the rest of us to attempt to prove the negative. Do post again if you get a response from the Atlantic.

Jul 20, 2012 5:06 am