August 23, 2004

Did Cliches Depress Japan?

I was recently reading a New York Times article on depression in Japan (the article itself isn't really that interesting; it's pretty much a rehashing of a recent Nature article on the same topic, only with more silly cliches) which contained the following sentence:

In Japan, the coining of kokoro no kaze marked a sea change in people's thinking about depression. (emphasis mine)

This just sounded silly to me. Had the way Japanese people thought about depression become something "rich and strange"? Had the phrase "sea change" taken on any special meaning since last I heard it, when it referred to a "change" involving the "sea"? Was the sea somehow involved in the modern conception of depression in Japan? Or was the author just using a pretentious cliche? (Ding-ding-ding!)

In my attempt to confirm that "sea-change" is just a clichéd way of referring to a (large) change, I ran across Paul Brians's collection of common errors in English usage, which is well worth a look. Here's the entry on "sea change" if you're interested.

Posted by Susan at August 23, 2004 06:38 PM

The sentence in the article that most rubbed me wrong was the one right before the one you've mentioned:

"Inside every neologism lies a compact history of cultural change -- think McJobs, metrosexuals, the blogosphere."

I'm not convinced that the rise of the three trendy neologisms the article just mentioned are comparable to the changes in Japanese terminology/ideas relating to depression; moreover, the article's language, both in this sentence and elsewhere, seemed really trite, trendy, and cliched.

Posted by: Ed at August 23, 2004 10:20 PM

Yeah; the article had already earned my undying hatred for its use of the odious term "blogosphere".

Posted by: susan at August 23, 2004 10:59 PM

The term "sea change" refers to a change made to a ship while it is at sea, rather than having it refturn to a shipyard. By extension it can refer to any change that is not part of a general overhaul.

Posted by: John Wendt at August 27, 2004 09:43 AM
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