Ramsay Ramblings 12/6/2007

There are a few things I’d like to ramble about this morning (2:30am!).

The word “Half” – to allow it or not

Mami and I were talking about what to tell Rikuto about the word, “half”. If you missed my post, Half-Japanese or Half-Blood?, this English word is used by Japanese people to describe someone who is only part Japanese. Foreigners despise this word because the English implications are not complete, impure, or even polluted.

The problem is that Japanese people have absolutely no idea we see it as a derogatory term, and say things like “Ah, isn’t he cute? Is he a half?” or “You’re so lucky to have a half!”. How should we respond to these kind of comments? And at what age should we teach Rikuto that it’s wrong for people to refer to him as “half”?

Mami is worried that if I jump on everyone that describes him that way, he’ll learn from me that it’s derogatory, and lose all self-confidence when he hears everyone using that term to describe him! I can understand what Mami is getting at. She wants to protect him until he’s old enough to understand an explanation. Fortunately, we’ve still got a long time to think this one through. 

Google’s war on paid links 

Mike lost his PageRank and Jason was finally spanked by Google this week, and I’ve been scrambling to make my websites compliant with Google’s new policies on paid linking so the same thing doesn’t happen to me. Most of you won’t have a clue what I’m talking about, but basically Google is punishing people who sell text link advertising. Mike, Jason and I all wrote sponsored posts and got paid to do so, but now Google has outlawed that practice, at least if you still want people to find your blog in Google’s search results. The reason for this “shock and awe” phase of Google’s “war on paid links” is that it’s possible to manipulate their search results by buying text advertising and using words you expect people to search for to find your site.

LongCountdown.com penalized by Google anyway

I still have my “PageRank” for the time being, but Google has penalized me for something else which I’ve yet to identify. If you search for my name right now, you’re unlikely to find me on the first page of Google’s search results. In fact, you might have to go as far as page three to find LongCountdown.com. This fall from number three to page three isn’t what bothers me, though. The real kicker is that my Writing Wizard website sits in a subdomain of this blog, and that means my most profitable website has also been pushed off the front page of Google’s search results.

If it’s broke, fix it

The bright side to all this is that while I try to figure out what change I need to make to this blog to “reactivate” it in Google, I’m learning a few things about “bad neighbourhoods” and other factors that can topple a site from it’s perch. I’m quite confident I’ll have things back to normal within a month. Fortunately, my other sites are holding up well and still putting money in my pocket while I ride this out. Update: Within 48 hours, I was back ranking where I should be. I did this by ensuring I was in compliance with Google Webmaster Guidelines, finding questionable links with the bad neighborhood tool and then removing them, and finally submitting a reconsideration request through Google Webmaster Tools.

Two weeks Christmas holidays coming up

I only realized the other day that I have nothing to do during this year’s festive holidays! Whoo-hoo! It’s the longest holiday of the year for me, but I usually find myself busy with something. Last year we moved house; the year before that we went to England on our belated honeymoon, and previous Christmases have had me developing school curriculum! This year, besides doing all I can to appease Google, I have nothing to do but play with Rikuto! I’ll probably set up a playroom for him in a spare room, somewhere he can safely run around and bump into things – once he discovers he has legs, of course. 

Spending Christmas Day with my family in England

This year will be the first time we can really put our web camera to good use. Rikuto’s grandparents in England finally got broadband last month and that means we’ll be sitting around having drinks together, and opening presents with them through the internet!

If you like, you can find me on Twitter at @nick_ramsay. I'd love to hear from you!

12 thoughts on “Ramsay Ramblings 12/6/2007

  1. Nick-
    Yuko and I discussed the “Half” issue as well. It never bothered me at all, and I think the reason is that they are not saying “Half”. In fact, it is not an English word at all. They are saying “Hafu”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be facetious (this time). I understand the etymology behind the term, but I truly believe the term is no longer English. Much like ‘toranpu’, ‘arubaito’ and even ‘kasutera’ from other languages. As you so eloquently put it, the intention is not to use the term in a derogatory fashion, actually exactly the opposite. If someone is speaking to me in Japanese and refers to my children as ‘hafu’ then I’m not in the least offended. If someone is speaking to me in English and called my kids ‘half’ I would be surprised and probably correct them. Nick, ‘hafu’ has been adopted by Japan as a whole. You aren’t going to be able to fight the culture. Even if you got every Gaijin in Japan on board it just wouldn’t do any good. I would even go so far to say that even if the government tried to fix it, it would do nothing. France has been trying to regulate language for a century and it just doesn’t work. Perhaps your wife is correct, why make it into ‘half’ when it isn’t. It’s ‘hafu’. Embrace it and move on.

    1. I know what you’re saying makes sense and sounds like the right thing to do, but it just doesn’t feel right. Actually, you’re the first foreigner I’ve heard say he doesn’t mind the term…. and that’s quite refreshing and gives me something to think about.

  2. I find these sociological questions really fascinating. At what point does a term cease to become politically correct? And why? Is it when the term begins to morph into a derogatory meaning like “retarded” to refer to a person with developmental disabilities or even ni**r to refer to an individual of African decent? Neither of these terms were considered negative until…. what point? Or is it when the group of individuals the term refers to decides that it is degrading like “Stewardess” to refer to female flight attendants?

    So in this case, we know definitively that “hafu” is not intended to be derogatory by the users. However, we do have a body of individuals that believe the word is English (I think I can make a case to the contrary) and definitely carries with it negative connotations. It would be interesting to take a poll of people in Japan that are the product of mixed relationships and see if they indeed find the word “hafu” derogatory. I’m not talking parents, I’m talking about the individuals themselves. At what percentage do we then declare that indeed the term is no longer politically correct? Let’s start with Rikuto. What does he think?

    Maybe someone out there looking for a thesis topic for a Sociology major would be interested in taking this on.

    1. I usually don’t buy into all this political correctness, and still use words such as postman and policeman. It is an interesting topic, so I asked Rikuto what he thought. I couldn’t quite make out his reply, but it sounded like:


      And that makes about as much sense as using a foreign word to describe something different to its actual meaning in the absence of a non-derogatory term in the native language! 😉

  3. I find your perception of “half” as being derogatory. Being a Canadian, and more specifically being from Newfoundland, I have a mixed background as do most of the people I know. As Canada is largely a nation of immigrants and their descendants, we are not only halfs but quarters, and every other combination you can imagine. I am not aware of anyone who is shies away from this, but rather most people embrace it. We tend to say that unlike the United States, which is most often viewed as a melting pot, in Canada we are a mosaic, all the richer for having a diversity.

    Sometimes, the whole is greater then the sum of the parts. Encourage your son to be proud of the fact that he is a “half” with two rich cultural backgrounds to draw on.

    1. You really can’t compare a multicultural environment such as yours to the homogeneous one of Japan. I’m a combination of English, Scottish and Italian, but didn’t feel “different” from other kids at school in England. In Japan however, being called a “half” is a constant reminder that you are different to everyone else, and there really is no need for it. Being foreign isn’t cool anymore (thanks to the Japanese media) :sigh:

      I will take your advice about encouraging him to be proud of having two cultural backgrounds, and I’ll tell him to make sure people realize he isn’t a “half”, but a “double” 😀

  4. Nice, to hear you still have your PR in place.My best wishes for you to regain your position in Google search result also.

  5. I think that since you live in Japan there are just certain things that you need to accept. One of these things is the Japanese misuse of English words. Yes, its derogatory in our countries but in Japan it’s not. In fact it sounds more like a compliment(which is just as ridiculous) but as long as people don’t say it in a bad way, what’s the problem? Of course it’s wrong to use it that way but man, if you are going to stress out everytime English is misused in Japan then I predict you will have a heart attack within 5 minutes of leaving your house.

    Don’t get me wrong Net Buddy 4 Life, but for lack of a better expression you need to take a chill pill! It sucks that Japan is giving the gaijin are hard time, but maybe this just means that you need to take a long holiday outside the country.

    I know you are going to England next year but I just hope you will last that long. I remember that when I arrived on the JET program they said we should get out of Japan at least once a year. It’s been a while since you last did this.

    We all know Japan is stressful country to live in, even for the Japanese! So I hope you will keep this in mind for when you hear negative things. I can understand the pressures of living in Japan but I’ll bet that at the current moment things seem much worse than they are…

    Nick, come visit your net buddy in Canada…. Maybe you can just leave Mami and Rikuto behind for a couple of weeks and take some time out for you! You can do all of your work from my place and together we can hatch a scheme to blow other websites out of the water! Seriously man, just put down a 1000 bucks, get on a plane and come over! You dont need to pay for a hotel as you would be staying at mine, and food is really cheap too! Come on Nick! Do it! DO IT!!!!

    I’ll go to work during the day and you can do your business business from my computer… then when i get home I can do my business business with you and then we can go drink and complain about our lives!! yeaaahhh!!!

  6. Al’s comment on “At what point does a term cease to become politically correct? And why?” is interesting and could easily open up a whole new thread of conversation.
    However with the risk of playing “Devils advocate” and especially when I consider my previous postings in regards to “Finger-printing”, i do think we have to look at Japan’s continued phobia of losing it’s identity.
    As I said in a prior posting, being called a “Skin head” is not something I enjoy but to try and make every Japanese person aware that it is not “PC” to say something like this, kinda makes me non “PC”. In this I mean that each country has it’s customs and culture and what is right in one country does not mean it is right in another.
    For us gaijing to jump up and down and say it is wrong is kind narrow-minded (Not passing the buck here guys because I know i’m guilty of it too!!) and do feel at times that at least in my case, i should stop worrying about it and accept that it is what it is.
    We all can moan and groan about the wrongs of Japan but I’m still here, many of the “posters” on this site either live in Japan or have extremely strong affiliations with Japan and we all certainly know that our own countries have their faults too.
    I do feel that there are aspects of Japanese culture that could be improved, however this culture has been around for over 2000 years and just because we feel something is not righteous here, does not mean that it isn’t right!!
    I’m guilty of “Japan bashing” (harsh term maybe and do not really think we are on this thread at least!!) at times and while I may not accept some things here, I do feel that I need to make more of an effort to live with it!!!

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