LRT joins SNS as a Japanese logogram

Executive Summary: Both SNS and LRT have become proper Japanese logograms.

SNS has for years been used as the Japanese logogram for the Japanese word エスエヌエス (ESUENUESU), which is Japanese for social media.

I suspect that few Japanese users of the initialism SNS realize what it stands for, and it should be no surprise that few native English speakers use the initialism, although strictly speaking it does have an origin that can be initialized as SNS. But to everyday walking-around people, it’s social media.

The pronunciation of SNS as the Japanese word ESUENUESU is now accepted, is used by countless media, and can even be seen on government websites, without explanation. For example, on, a page aimed at providing guidance to children in using social media, we find “SNS(エスエヌエス)を使うときの注意”

Enter LRT, which to many in-the-know native English speakers is the initialism for light rail transit. The recent introduction into Japan of this tram-like system has caused LRT to pop up frequently in the news, and accidents involving run-ins with cars have boosted its frequency of occurrence in the media.

As far as I can tell, and certainly on various Japanese-language NHK and Nikkei media, the initialism LRT is voiced as エルアールティ(ERUAARUTEI), and is most often followed with a gloss (both in print and orally) of 次世代型路面電車. Well, yes, it could be called that (next-generation streetcar), but readers and listeners are not given any hint as to what LRT stands for. This makes LRT a logogram for the Japanese expression 次世代型路面電車, and there is no chance of any significant number of native Japanese speakers ever learning what LRT actually stands for, nor will they think of anything but 次世代型路面電車 when they see or hear the Japanese logogram LRT. But that’s just fine, because LRT is Japanese.

I would advise English translators to gloss LRT with its expansion, and to never use SNS unless you are addressing or writing for an audience that would recognize it, and that is quite rare.

Leveraging the katakana advantage

The Japanese word police have for a while been saying that the Japanese name of diabetes (糖尿病) should be changed, basically because the middle character means urine, which has an unpleasant and dirty feeling. There was concern over prejudice against diabetic people because of this.

As reported by NHK on September 22 (, the Japan Association for Diabetes Education and Care (公益社団法人 日本糖尿病協会) has now announced a proposal to change the name of the disease in Japanese to the phonetic katakana rendering of the English name diabetes, (DAIABETEISU), from which one cannot even ascertain that it is a name of a disease. It also says that one reason is that there are numerous patients not exhibiting sugar in their urine, but my guess is that the overwhelming concern is the impression feared given by the character for urine. They arguably could have devised another, more-descriptive and more-understandable name in Japanese, but it looks like a win for katakana.

In writing this, I vividly recall when ホームレス people (or, in some circumstances, 路上生活者) were 浮浪者 and reported as such in the news, and when お手伝いさん were 女中.

I suppose an official adoption of this newspeak term DAIABETEISU will require the association to change its name, which currently includes the character for urine.

Language on the move.

Japanese Government to Use AI to Accelerate Translation of Laws

Nikkei online reported on March 26 that the Japanese government, in an effort to accelerate the translation of Japanese laws into English, was going to employ AI. The goal is to achieve a four-fold increase in the pace of law translations.

Prime Minister Kishida is promoting foreign investment in Japan, one aim of which is to increase domestic production of strategic items such as semiconductors and batteries.

Nikkei reports that previous efforts to translate statutes relied on private companies and could take as long as one year. The new system is one developed based on software from the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) and enhanced by machine learning of terminology unique to laws.

The aim is to translate 160 laws in FY 2023 and 320 laws in each of FY 2024 and 2025. The laws translated will focus on business statutes relating to the Civil Code and banking laws.

Article concludes with mention that, with the increase in number of laws translated, the government is considering increasing the number of specialists to verify the translated content. It does not provide any details regarding those specialists and their qualifications.