I was reading this question on English.SE Is a lengthy combination of words with hyphens like “the worst not-technically-in-a-recession year in American history” a new fashion of writing?.

Surely, the combination could be called and used in nominalization or inversion (source), but the combination is very long and usually it's intended as a form of light sarcasm or irony.

I'll cite the example

... The year’s second-quarter growth rate was just downgraded to an anemic 1.3 percent, real household income dipped in the month leading up to the two political conventions, and the American Enterprise Institute’s James Pethokoukis suggests that 2012 might turn out to be the worst not-technically-in-a-recession year in modern American history”.

(same source)

If I wanted to do a verbatim translation, my first method would not be to translate the combination directly but to make it standardized and straightforward. This method is used by Mitch's answer in the English.SE question.

... 2012 might turn out to be the worst year in modern American history not technically in a recession:

Why? Because translating it like this is NG and could be ambiguous or doesn't even have any meaning and is hard to pronounce in Japanese:

... 「最悪+[not technically in a recession]+年」 ...

This is simply bad "nominalization" in Japanese.

My questions are:

  1. Does this "nominalization" exist in Japanese?
  2. If you were to translate it from the start, would you do it like I did in my first method (making it standard)?
  • 2
    If you mean using pre-modification where post-modification should be used (inversion), Japanese accepts only pre-modification, so it is not a problem in Japanese. If you mean turning arbitray fragment into a modifying phrase (ad-nominalization), the quotative particle と and って can be very handy. If you intend the grammar to look unconventional as in English, な is sometimes used in this way, e.g. 「もうどうでもいい!」な気分. If you want to form a super long noun phrase,「ガラス等の基板上にブラックマトリクス、R,G,B等の着色フィルタ層、オーバーコート層及び透明電極等の各被膜が形成されたカラーフィルタ基板の各被膜と基板との密着性を定量的に評価するための被膜の密着性評価方法を提供すること」is somewhat common.
    – Yang Muye
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 14:22
  • @YangMuye I think your comment nearly fit with what I need. Could you explain more in "answer" section? Also, I think I will make the combination in standard way first, then I could use と and って to the sentence, so I could practice more with this "nominalization".
    – làntèrn
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 4:33
  • I don't understand why you are talking about nominalization. "not-technically-in-a-recession" is used an adjective.
    – dainichi
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 9:27
  • @dainichi I understand it's an adjective, but the important point is "the combination of words with hyphens".
    – làntèrn
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 9:51
  • 2
    I don't think it matters whether we call it an adjective or nominalization (I think both are wrong). And I think the reason the OP mentioned hyphens is to help express the idea in English―it's not to suggest that the grammatical equivalent would literally have hyphens in Japanese. I think what the OP is really getting at is this: can you form a long multi-word pre-head modifier in a noun phrase in Japanese?
    – user1478
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 23:14

2 Answers 2


If we focus on the word order, normal Japanese relative clauses look pretty much similar to this hyphen-combined English phrase. That is, a large modifying clause can come before the modified word.

  • large-fish-eating cat 大きな魚を食べる猫
  • not-technically-in-a-recession year 定義上は不況でない年
  • I-wanna-marry-you-kinda liking お嫁さんにしたいの好き

So the Japanese language usually doesn't need hyphens.

If you want to simulate the mild "sarcastic" effect, one way to do so is just to use brackets. Using 二重カギ括弧 (『』) more explicitly shows there's some special nuance implied in the content.

  • 2012年は米国史上最悪の「定義上は不況でない」年となるだろう。
  • 2012年は米国史上最悪の『定義上は不況でない』年となるだろう。
  • This is exactly what I need. Thank you so much!
    – làntèrn
    Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 1:40

First, gobbledigook exists in almost every language. That said,

  1. Is this "nominalization" exist in Japanese?

"Yes" and "No." "No" because the syntax of traditional Japanese does not include "-" as one of its elements. And "Yes" because similar intricate constructions do exist.

  1. If you were to translate it, in the beginning, will you do my first method (making it standard)?

Definitely. Why not? (I admit that attempt is not always successful, though.)

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