January 31, 2018

Japan’s go-to dictionary revises two entries: “LGBT” and “Shimanami Expressway”


The latest edition of Kōjien, displayed at a bookstore in Tokyo.

Publishers of Japan’s most respected dictionary, Kōjien, corrected two definitions this year, for “LGBT” and “Shimanami Expressway,” according to the Japan Times.

Though most Americans probably won’t understand what was up with “Shimanami Expressway,” the issue with “LGBT” was easy to spot: the dictionary defined the term as “people whose sexual orientations are different from the majority,” completely ignoring the T — which stands for “transgender.” Not good.

As literally all of us should know, while the terms “lesbian,” “gay,” and “bisexual” do in fact refer to sexual orientation (though the collective definition of them as simply “different from the majority” is cringeworthy); “transgender” refers to the mismatch between a person’s gender identity and the sex assigned to them at birth.

The new definition will read: “In broad terms, people whose sexual orientations are not heterosexual or people whose gender identity does not match the sex they were identified with at birth.”

Merriam-Webster’s definition of LGBT, which has the advantage of being written in the language from which the acronym is derived, simply breaks it down to “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.” Their definition of transgender is “Of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity differs from the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth; especially: of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity is opposite the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth.”

For the other entry, “Shimanami Expressway,” Kōjien corrected one of the islands that road is listed as connecting: Oshima Island, in Ehime Prefecture, had been mistakenly swapped out for Suo-Oshima Island, in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Certainly a correction worth making, though arguably of less social importance.



Alex Primiani is the associate director of publicity at Melville House.