The President of the United States gives a speech referred to in English as the "State of the Union". Why is this speech called 一般教書演説{いっぱんきょうしょえんぜつ} in Japanese?

  • 1
    It has only relatively recently been referred to as the 'State of the Union Address'. Checking the English etymology might yield answers for you.
    – BJCUAI
    Commented Feb 6, 2019 at 4:58
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    Have you tried to break it down: 一般 + 教書 + 演説? Commented Feb 8, 2019 at 16:19
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    "General (Official)Message Speech" makes some sense, but why isn't this term in Japanese a translation of "State of the Union" like, 国家連合現状報告演説 -> 国連現報演説 -> 国連現報 or something like that instead? Even 国家教書演説 would make more sense to me personally. But maybe I just need to look up what @user27280 is talking about...
    – sazarando
    Commented Feb 8, 2019 at 20:09

1 Answer 1


As user27280 mentions, in English it used to be known by a different name:

Has the Message Always Been Known by this Name?

The message was generally known as “the President’s Annual Message to Congress” until well into the 20th century. Although some historians suggest that the phrase “State of the Union” emerged only after World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1934 message is identified in his papers as his “Annual Message to Congress on the State of the Union.” According to the Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives, it was known informally as the State of the Union Address from 1942 to 1946, and has been known “generally” by the same name since 1947.

I found a Japanese document from 1941, which calls it


President Roosevelt's message to the Seventy-seventh Congress

So the 一般教書 part of the term predates it being widespread to call it the State of the Union in English. I think the 一般 is to distinguish it from other messages of the President to Congress such as The Budget Message (予算教書), Annual Economic Report (経済報告–this one isn't a 教書), and whatever other special messages the President might want to give (for example Kennedy's 1963 speech on mental health is translated as 精神病及び精神薄弱に関する大統領教書). Even though the name of the speech changed in English, it's not surprising that it might not have changed so drastically in Japanese.

EDIT: The earliest source of 一般教書 directly I can find is in 1952. In that same year it was also known as 大統領年頭一般教書. I can't find any other sources for 一般議会教書 so that might have been a one time translation choice. However, I'm unable to search newspapers/journals around the 1940s, which likely would have had a concrete formalized translation.

  • It makes sense that it would be called 一般議会教書 because it's presented to a joint session, or to the 議会 generally. But, I wonder why the 議会 part got dropped? 一般教書 just seems too broad without it.
    – sazarando
    Commented Feb 8, 2019 at 21:39
  • Now that I think about it, it's probably just because it would be too long for a newspaper headline...
    – sazarando
    Commented Feb 8, 2019 at 21:44

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