Warning: I have no sense of how offensive any of these words might be. They are repeated only insofar as they help me learn what not to say. Apologies for any accidental offense, and please do not read if you feel it might be potentially upsetting.

I was going through this list of unbroadcastable words, and most of them, being racial epithets, terms of derision, or simple vulgarities, are easy enough to understand why they are objectionable.

However, some of them are puzzling. To a non-native speaker like myself, without enough knowledge of the history, or enough feel for the language, a lot of them seem kind of arbitrary. So I'm hoping some people can give short summaries for why some of these words are not considered politically correct.

  • Why is 芸人{げいにん} any different from 芸能人{げいのうじん}?

  • My dictionary defines both 人非人{にんぴにん} and ひとでなし as "brute of a man". Putting aside the old-school English definition, what differentiates them to make 人非人{にんぴにん} worse?

  • Why are 家柄{いえがら}血筋{ちすじ}, and 身分{みぶん} bad at all? They are defined as "lineage", "blood line", and "social status", respectively, all of which seem kind of neutral to me. Why ban them and not things like 上流{じょうりゅう}, 階級{かいきゅう}, or 地位{ちい}?

  • Following from the above, what makes 名門校{めいもんこう} bad? There's a note saying that in a particular use in reference to baseball it might be accepted, but why would it ever be seen as a bad thing?

  • Does ザギン have any more impact other than just being a slang way of saying 銀座{ぎんざ}?

  • As noted on the webpage, it cannot be totally trusted. (I don't know whether the examples you picked out are genuine or not.)
    – fefe
    Commented Jan 11, 2012 at 15:46
  • 1
    Obviously 人非人 is a derogatory term, but the others don't sound so bad to me...
    – user1016
    Commented Jan 11, 2012 at 16:02
  • 1
    芸人 usually refers to comedians/manzai comedians/rakugo masters etc. while 芸能人 actors/actresses/singers etc.
    – user1016
    Commented Jan 11, 2012 at 16:08
  • Why aren't any of the above in the answers section?
    – Flaw
    Commented Jan 11, 2012 at 17:19
  • This is many (interesting) questions all rolled into one... If that's OK, I will turn this into a CW, so we can have people contributing what they know to each part, rather than attempting to answer everything.
    – Dave
    Commented Jan 11, 2012 at 17:22

3 Answers 3


The Japanese Wikipedia article has an entry on 放送問題用語 which includes some discussion of the different types of words that are considered problematic. It appears there is not a single list that applies to all broadcasters: (from the entry on 放送禁止用語)

今日の日本には放送禁止用語は正しくは存在せず自主規制のみである (Currently in Japan no "banned words" list exists and there are only voluntary restraints).

It seems that the list you can find floating around was a NHK list but it is not currently "official". Interesting categories other than the obvious listed in the entry for 放送問題用語 include:

誤った言葉・不正確・不明確な言葉・表現 (words that are misleading or unclear)

通信制高校または定時制高校 (I think this touches on the 名門校 issue: e.g. discrimination by education or against certain types of school as dbassett suggested)

特定の職業に関する言葉 (certain terms relating to occupations)



"~ya" is a term which generally requires caution. The use of it to express scorn towards small businesses in service and retail sectors or similar occupations is banned. There are no problems in the use if the business name contains ~ya, or where someone uses the term self-referentially, or if ~yasan is used.

Who would have thought there would be such consideration into where you could use 屋?

I think the bolded section might also be the source for some of the other words: it might not be clear from the meaning in English, but a word could have been used (historically or otherwise) to discriminate against/insult people based on occupation (職業差別).

For some of your other examples: 人非人 I think may take its unacceptability from 非人. ザギン apparently is ズージャー語 and ズージャー itself (as opposed to ジャズ) is also on the list - this might just be an issue of avoiding slang or certain types of slang, though, as opposed to these words being strictly offensive. I would guess that some types of slang (for example, slang commonly associated with/used by criminal organisations) would be an automatic no-no even if the meaning of the words was fairly harmless.

http://monoroch.net/kinshi/ has pretty much the same list, with some notes for some of the words.

Another interesting source for a general overview of standards is: http://www3.nhk.or.jp/pr/keiei/kijun/index.htm , particularly 第11項 表現

芸人 is still a mystery to me: I wonder if it's just that it is preferred to specify お笑い芸人 or 芸能人.

  • as an example of a negative use of 屋、走り屋 is a term for kids on ostentatious low-power bikes (well below 暴走族 in status) Commented Jan 3, 2014 at 11:02

Regarding 家柄, 血筋 and 身分: the page itself indicates that the words aren't so much banned as "requiring extra care" or "better to avoid if possible"... Considering their group (discriminatory words) and their neighbours (部落民), I think it's quite easy to understand why they might be considered potentially "offensive" words. By their history, they were most often used to make distinction between people based on social rank, lineage and other discriminatory criteria.

As a mildly off-topic aside: you may want to keep in mind that the Japanese approach to "offensive"/"politically incorrect" terms is rather different from that of many Western countries, in that very often, terms with no intrinsic pejorative meanings are banned for the sole reason that they are associated with a thing/person/practice frowned upon. The most famous example being probably 部落民【ぶらくみん】, which was a rather "neutral" term (in a heavily discriminating system, of course) akin to something like "negro" in English, and is now just as taboo as the other N word.

Generally, Japanese tends to scrub off those words that are loosely or even indirectly associated with disagreeable topics and favour euphemisms instead.

  • 1
    @DaveMG: you may have misunderstood me: I was talking about the Japanese approach above. And whereas English (or rather, for the sake of this discussion: US) media would ban words that are offensive in intent, Japanese will tend to ban words that are merely offensive by association (my best guess: because they make the conversation "uncomfortable", more than out of fear to offend). A parallel would be if the US made the word "black" or "negro" a taboo word (which it doesn't).
    – Dave
    Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 3:37

I think the difference between the words [家柄, 血筋 and 身分] vs. [上流, 階級, 地位] is what kind of status the words imply. The first group of words refer specifically to what social caste you or your ancestors were born into. This touches upon the 部落民 discrimination and all that unpleasantness.

The second group of words though, refer to a more general type of socioeconomic status, not one's ancestry. 上流 is a much more general word and doesn't only mean 'upper classes', it can just mean upper level, upper course, etc. Similarly 階級 is the general word for social class, so it's used in words like proletariat, bourgeois, upper- middle- and lower-class, etc. 地位 is even more general and can apply to your position in a company or even just a physical position.

So the reason why those first three words are distasteful is because they refer to discrimination by birth specifically, which is illegal and taboo, even though it still exists. This is totally different from discrimination (or differentiation, to use a more neutral word) by socioeconomic status, which often has absolutely no relation to birth ancestry. There are members of the Japanese Diet (certainly wealthy and powerful) that are descended from 部落民, while I'm sure there are many descendents of Japanese nobility that are nothing more than freeters.

名門校 I think is touching upon discrimination by education. While endemic, discussion of it is distasteful and so avoided.

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