Parasites, Herbivores and Dried Fish: Dehumanising Metaphorical Blends in Japanese

Ewelina Maria Prażmo, Rafał Augustyn


In the context of a vast body of research on the role and function of conceptual metaphor in linguistic representation of non-dominant or non-normative social groups, the present paper deals with metaphorical blending found in a number of expressions used to describe deliberately single people forming part of the Japanese society. Expressions such as parasaito shinguru (“parasite singles”), sōshoku-kei danshi (“herbivorous men”), and himono onna (“dried-fish women”) are used as labels designating particular groups of people who do not conform to conventional societal roles because of, for example, failing to marry and establish a family in, what is considered, due time. The Japanese language often reflects very conservative, conformist, and ritual-abiding attitudes and mindsets of its speakers and hence, is rife with derogatory expressions which serve to denigrate non-conforming elements of a society. The expressions analysed here are culturally-determined and mirror, at least partially, the mindsets and opinions of some of the Japanese speakers. The present paper is maintained within the methodological framework of cognitive semantics. We conduct a conceptual blending analysis of selected metaphorical expressions found in the Japanese discourse. We find a strong trend towards employing conceptual blends based on dehumanising, often animalising, metaphors in order to linguistically denigrate groups non-conforming to expected societal norms.


conceptual metaphor; dehumanising metaphor; conceptual blending; cognitive semantics; Japanese society

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