Home History Days of the North American Post Webster Dictionary Edits “JAP” as “Insulting Word” in 1958

Webster Dictionary Edits “JAP” as “Insulting Word” in 1958

Original Issue Date: March 24, 1958
Translated by The North American Post Staff

The newly published Webster’s Dictionary will include the word JAP, but it will include an additional explanation that “the word is to be used as an insult,” according to Roy Nishikawa, president of the National Japanese American Citizen League. The Webster dictionary used to explain only that JAP is used in conversation, but a letter by President Nishikawa to the chief editor of the dictionary changed the situation.

The terminology has an insulting meaning against Japanese Americans as well as Japanese nationals, Nishikawa says in the letter. JACL has warned media companies including newspapers, radio, television and others about the usage of the word. With this change, most of the U.S. newspapers international conference in Portland Oregon in July, 1952, to announce that they would deny usage of the word.

Nishikawa continued to say that Japanese newspapers in the United States and Japanese media have also criticized Kouto Matsudaira, Japanese Ambassador to the United Nations, that he did not blame the word “JAP” in an interview in New York last summer. We want the Webster dictionary to state that the word has an insulting meaning.

Philip B Gove, editor in chief of the Webster dictionary, replied to President Nishikawa saying that he understands the meaning of JAP has changed in the last 20 years. The Third Edition of the Webster’s Dictionary will include a statement that the word has an insulting meaning. The Second Edition dictionary has not been republished since 1934.

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The North American Post is a community newspaper that celebrates Japanese culture in the Greater Seattle area. Founded by 1st generation Japanese-Americans in 1902, the publication is one of the oldest minority-owned newspapers in the region. Today, with bilingual articles in English and Japanese, the publication connects readers with diverse cultural backgrounds to Seattle’s Japanese community. Our articles include local news, event calendars, restaurant reviews, Japanese cooking recipes, community interviews, and more.