The Jacket Party Manifesto

You might expect Japan to be all politicked out after the last couple of months of campaigning, voting, and editorializing for the New York Times and Mu. But you would be wrong. Just today I noticed that a new party had leapt into the fray with the publication of its "Jacket Party Manifesto" (ジャケット党宣言) in the current issue of underground anarchist review Non-no.

The Jacket Party itself seems to consist of a number of factions, including a right-wing splinter group of militaristic yet feminine biker types, but they claim broad popular support: "This autumn, everyone will [rally behind] the Jacket Party Manifesto!" Their specific campaign promises include increases in fashionability of 100% or more.

But seriously, using 党 (-tō, "faction, party") to specify taste cliques ad hoc is a common technique in Japanese. Two of the oldest and best-known non-political parties here are the amatō 甘党 and karatō 辛党, the Sweets and Spicies respectively. Today these are often used to mean "People with a sweet tooth" and "People who prefer spicy food" respectively, but the original opposition was between sweets and booze.

Another group that welcomes drunks is the satō 左党, "Left Party," so named because "left-handed" (hidarigiki [or, more commonly, hidarikiki]) is also slang for a hard drinker. The most commonly given etymology for this, found in sources like UMEGAKI Minoru 楳垣実's Ingo jiten 隠語辞典 ("Dictionary of cant"), makes it an Edo pun: workmen would hold their hammer in their right hand and their chisel (nomi 鑿) in their left, making the left hand the nomi hand, and equally so when the nomi in question is the other one, meaning "drinking" (飲み). This seems rather fanciful as etymologies go, but elaborate wordplay was the cornerstone of Edo culture.

The more prosaic alternative explanation is that you drink with your left hand so that your right hand can more easily hold the bottle to pour from and/or grab your sword when things get drastic. It's also worth noting that most books of etiquette recommend that men hold the sake cup in their left hand even today.

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How odd, now that I think about it, I drink left-handed. I always thought this was because you wanted to keep your right hand dry so you could light matches, smoke, or do other things requiring a nonslip grip.

Leonardo Boiko:

Murray’s «13 Secrets for Speaking Fluent Japanese» (an anecdotes book, really) has an entire chapter dedicated to outrageous, tongue-in-cheek prefixes and suffixes. Besides 党 (exemplified by コーヒー党 «the coffee (not tea) faction» and 日本酒党 «the saké (not beer) faction»), it includes –派 «branch», –族 «tribe», –系 «-ist», –屋 «house of», –の卵 «proto–, apprendice», –の名人 «famous», –好き «lover, –phile), –心 «the soul of», 極– «extreme», 謎の– «the mysterious», 日本一の– «Japan’s best», and so on and so forth. My favourite part of the book.

Speaking of which, tea-guys have a long feud with saké-guys, dating back to medieval (IIRC) essays.


> "left-handed" (hidarigiki)

While that is a possible reading, hidarikiki is by far the most common. (I happen to be left-handed.)

Regarding a link between 鑿 (chisel) and 飲み (drinking), linguistically any etymology is implausible. Both words are well attested in Old Japanese. 鑿 is /no2mi2/, while 飲み is /no2mi1/. /mi1/ and /mi2/ contrasted as different phonemes. (What the exact difference was is a source of much study and heated debate.) So while /no2mi2/ > /nomi/ and /no2mi1/ > /nomi/ and hence indistinguishable, they were originally quite distinct words. As such folk etymologies are easy to come up with.


Pace Kindaichi--but the folk etymology is based on the Edo reading, in which case mi1 and mi2 were distant, hazy memories in the dreams of kokugakusha. (Who didn't drink enough in my opinion.) As described, it's argot (like rhyming slang) that turned into a more common term.

...Which doesn't mean that the folk etymology is right. Perhaps they just passed the Dutchie on the left hand side. (And since the drinking form is sinister, I'd say Occam's Razor it and go with that.)



I believe that I tried to say the very same thing. When comparing /nomi/ (chisel) and /nomi/ (drinking) in the 17-19th century, of course the two sounded the same. Hence, it was "easy to come up with folk etymologies".

Even it was just for fun, only solid data and evidence can sufficiently cast doubt or disprove an etymology. That is why I indicated the OJ forms, which clearly show that what now seems to be the same are only so following various phonological mergers.


Nah, the claim is that the association of "nomi" (chisel) with "nomi" (drinking) was understood as a pun in the Edo period, not an actual etymological relationship. So as MMS says the OJ pronunciations only show that the pun couldn't have been made a thousand or so years earlier. (Now, re hidarigiki you are quite right. Whoops.)


Is that spicy kara or salty kara? Is there a distinction between savory and sweet as in the States or only spicy and sweet? Or is it the spicy/savory party?

And as a hidarikiki (in both senses), thanks for finding me a political party I can believe in.

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