Impoliteness and hypermasculine language in Japanese shock advertising


  • Satoko Suzuki Macalester College



impoliteness, politeness, gender, masculine language, advertising


This article shows that by using hypermasculine language in shock advertising, advertisement creators highlight its aggressive and crude image. Hypermasculine language has been commodified as a marker of impoliteness. This analysis utilises the concept of indexical field and makes two theoretical contributions. First, it shows that one can employ the concept in the analysis of styles, which are broader linguistic resources than individual variables. The analysis thus expands the applicability of the concept. Second, the article shows that advertisement creators are changing the indexical field of hypermasculine language. The analysis thus corroborates the characterisation of the indexical field as fluid. This article also argues that, because many in Japan believe in the importance of avoiding offending others and the prominence of linguistic politeness, hypermasculine language, with its foregrounded meanings of aggressiveness and vulgarity, violates the perceived code of linguistic politeness and serves as a useful apparatus for shock advertising.

Author Biography

Satoko Suzuki, Macalester College

Satoko Suzuki, DeWitt Wallace Professor of Asian Languages and Cultures, teaches Japanese language and linguistics courses at Macalester College, USA. She is interested in discourse analysis, pragmatics, and sociocultural linguistics. Her recent scholarly work focuses on language and identity, language ideologies, and media representations. She recently published ‘Masculinity, Race and National Identity: Representations of Non-Japanese Men’s Speech in Contemporary Japanese Novels’ (Gender and Language, 2020) and ‘Multiculturalism or Cultural Nationalism? Representation of Ellie Kameyama as a Conduit and the Other in the NHK Morning Drama Massan’ (Japanese Studies, 2020). She is currently working on a new project titled ‘Language, Power, and Sense of Belonging in US Academia: Voices of Female Japanese Professors’.


Asahi Shimbun Digital, (26 January 2019). (Media Times) Gendaa tou kookoku – butsugi – kao ni pai nagetsukerareta josei (Media Times) ?????????????? ???????????? [(Media Times) Advertisement that questions gender –

controversy – a woman who was defaced by a pie thrown at her]. Retrieved from

Campbell-Kibler, K. (2007a). Accent, (ING), and the social logic of listener perceptions. American Speech, 82(1), 32–64.

Campbell-Kibler, K. (2007b). What did you think she’d say? Expectation and sociolinguistic perception. Paper presented at the annual conference on New Ways of Analyzing Variation, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, October.

Culpeper, J. (2005). Impoliteness and entertainment in the television quiz show: The weakest link. Journal of Politeness Research: Language, Behaviour, Culture, 1(1), 35–72.

Cutting the Chai. (10 December 2007). Shock value advertising. Retrieved from

Dahl, D. W., Frankenberger, K. D., & Manchanda, R. V. (2003). Does it pay to shock? Reactions to shocking and nonshocking advertising content among university students. Journal of Advertising Research, 43(3), 268–280.

Eckert, P. (2008). Variation and the indexical field. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 12(4), 453–476.

Famitsu App. (8 November 2017). Monsutaa storaiku kooryaku matome ??????????????? [Monster Strike conquering strategy summary]. Retieved from

GameWith. (29 July 2017). Monsuto kooryaku: Monstaa sutoraiku tettei kaisetsu ????????????????????? [MonSt conquering strategy: Monster Strike complete explanation]. Retrieved from (1 May 2018). Kotoshi no imeeji kyarakutaa wa mono iu oyaji ‘Izumiya Shigeru’ ?????????????????????????? [This year’s image character is the crusty old man who asserts himself, ‘Izumiya Shigeru’]. Retrieved from

Irvine, J. T. (2001). ‘Style’ as distinctiveness: The culture and ideology of linguistic differentiation. In P. Eckert & J. Rickford (Eds.), Style and Sociolinguistic Variation (pp. 21–43). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Itakura, H. (2015). Constructing Japanese men’s multidimensional identities: A case study of mixed-gender talk. Pragmatics, 25(2), 179–203.

Lebra, T. S. (1976). Japanese patterns of behavior. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

McVeigh, B. J. (2014). Interpreting Japan: Approaches and applications for the classroom. London: Routledge.

MIC The Radio Use Web Site. (n.d.). FAQ on technical conformity mark. Retrieved from

Miyazaki, A. (2004). Japanese junior high school girls’ and boys’ first-person pronoun use and their social world. In S. Okamoto & J. S. Shibamoto Smith (Eds.), Japanese language, gender, and ideology: Cultural models and real people (pp. 256–274). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Mizutani, O. (1981). Japanese: The spoken language in Japanese life. Tokyo: Japan Times.

Nakamura, M. (2007). ‘Sei’ to nihongo: Kotoba ga tsukuru onna to otoko ?????? ???????????? [‘Sex/gender’ and Japanese: Women and men that language constructs]. Tokyo: Nihon Hoso Shuppan Kyokai.

Nakamura, M. (2010). Women’s and men’s languages as heterosexual resource: Power and intimacy in Japanese spam e-mail. In J. Holmes & M. Marra (Eds.), Femininity, feminism and gendered discourse: A selected and edited collection of papers from the Fifth International Language and Gender Association Conference (pp. 125–144). Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars.

Niyekawa, A. (1991). Minimum essential politeness: A guide to the Japanese honorific language. Tokyo: Kodansha International.

Ochs, E. (1992). Indexing gender. In A. Duranti & C. Goodwin (Eds.), Rethinking context: Language as an interactive phenomenon (pp. 335–358). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Okamoto, S. (1995). ‘Tasteless’ Japanese: Less ‘feminine’ speech among young Japanese women. In K. Hall & M. Bucholtz (Eds.), Gender articulated: Language and the socially constructed self (pp. 296–325). New York: Routledge.

Okamoto, S., & Sato, S. (1992) Less feminine speech among young Japanese females. In K. Hall, M. Bucholtz, & B. Moonwoman (Eds.), Locating power (pp. 478–488). Berkeley: Berkeley Women and Language Group, University of California.

Okamoto, S., & Shibamoto-Smith, J. S. (2016). The social life of the Japanese language: Cultural discourse and situated practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Parry, S., Jones, R., Stern, P., & Robinson, M. (2013). ‘Shockvertising’: An exploratory investigation into attitudinal variations and emotional reactions to shock advertising. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 12(2), 112–121.

Saito, M. (2002). Bunshoo tokukon san e ??????? [Dear writing manuals]. Tokyo: Chikuma-shobo.

Shibamoto-Smith, J. S. (2004). Language and gender in the (hetero)romance: ‘Reading’ the ideal hero/ine through lovers’ dialogue in Japanese romance fiction. In S. Okamoto & J. S. Shibamoto-Smith (Eds.), Japanese language, gender, and ideology: Cultural models and real people (pp. 113–130). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Soomu-shoo. (n.d.). Chuugoku soogoo tsuushinkyoku gallery ???????????? [Chugoku general communication station gallery]. Retrieved from

Sora News 24. (9 January 2019). ‘We don’t need an age of women’ Japanese commercial says, then hits actress in face with cream. Retrieved from

SturtzSreetharan, C. L. (2004). Japanese men’s linguistic stereotypes and realities: Conversations from the Kansai and Kanto regions. In S. Okamoto & J. S. Shibamoto Smith (Eds.), Japanese language, gender, and ideology: Cultural models and real people (pp. 275–289). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

SturtzSreetharan, C. L. (2017). Language and masculinity: The role of Osaka dialect in contemporary ideals of fatherhood. Gender and Language, 11(4), 552–574.

Suzuki, T. (2009). Nihongo-kyoo no susume ???????? [On recommending Japanese language religion]. Tokyo: Shincho-sha.

Toyama, S. (2014). Kokugo wa suki desu ka ka ???????? [Do you like the national language?]. Tokyo: Taishu-kan.

Yoshino, K. (1997). Bunka nashonarizumu no shakaigaku: Gendai nihon no aidentiti no yukue ?????????????????????????????? [Sociology of cultural nationalism: Future of contemporary Japan’s identity]. Nagoya: Nagoya

Daigaku Shuppankai.

YouTube. (31 December 2018). Seibu Sogo: Watashi wa watashi - orijinaru muubii ?? ??????? - ????????? [Seibu Sogo: I am me – the original movie]. Retrieved from

Vogue. (8 December 2017). Benetton’s most controversial campaigns. Retrieved from



How to Cite

Suzuki, S. (2021). Impoliteness and hypermasculine language in Japanese shock advertising. East Asian Pragmatics, 6(1), 65–85.