what does okama mean?

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Ben Bullock

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Feb 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/1/96
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As a lot of readers here know, there are a whole bunch of books about
Japanese slang out. In one of these books by Peter Constantine he
defines a word "okama" to mean homosexual. I found from talking to
some Japanese people that "okama" meant "transvestite" rather than
"homosexual". From reading his book, Peter Constantine seems to not
know Japanese, so I assumed that he made a mistake.

However I looked in a book which seems to be much more accurate than
Constantine's book, called "How to use Japanese slang", but this book
also gives okama as homosexual rather than transvestite. However,
this book for instance calls "oyakodon" "oyakodonburi", so it seems to
be slightly questionable.

[[I know the kind of tedious response from people eager to demonstrate
their imagined street credibility that any enquiry about Japanese
slang creates on this group. Can those people can give it a rest, and
let someone who knows what they are talking about answer this time?
Thanks a lot.]]

--
Ben Bullock @ KEK (national lab. for high energy physics, Tsukuba, Japan)
e-mail: b...@theory.kek.jp www: http://theory.kek.jp:80/~ben/
1-1 Oho, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305, Japan. tel: 0298 64 5403, fax: 0298 64 7831


Alan Engel

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Feb 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/1/96
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b...@theory4.kek.jp (Ben Bullock) wrote:
>let someone who knows what they are talking about answer this time?
>Thanks a lot.]]

(-: Let me be the first to violate the Bullock Rule. ;-)

A literal translation of 'okama' together with it derogatory conotation
might be 'faggot'. Perhaps someone familiar with the etymology of both
terms can comment.

Joel Bowman

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Feb 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/1/96
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Ben Bullock (b...@theory4.kek.jp) wrote:
: As a lot of readers here know, there are a whole bunch of books about

: Japanese slang out. In one of these books by Peter Constantine he
: defines a word "okama" to mean homosexual. I found from talking to
: some Japanese people that "okama" meant "transvestite" rather than
: "homosexual". From reading his book, Peter Constantine seems to not
: know Japanese, so I assumed that he made a mistake.


This seems to be a common misconception among the Japanese slang books.
In fact I haven't seen one that gave the proper translation for the word
"okama", which in fact does refer to transvestites. The only word that
I've heard Japanese people use for a homosexual is that of "homo."
Of course there is always the formal "dooseiai" also.

Leigh Melton

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Feb 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/1/96
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b...@theory4.kek.jp (Ben Bullock) writes:

> [[I know the kind of tedious response from people eager to demonstrate
> their imagined street credibility that any enquiry about Japanese
> slang creates on this group. Can those people can give it a rest, and

> let someone who knows what they are talking about answer this time?
> Thanks a lot.]]

I have no street credibility, so I have nothing to lose here. In the
book _Beyond Polite Japanese_, Akihiko Yonekawa writes that "okama" is
used *either* about a homosexual or a feminine man.

Sample usage: "Okama ja aru mai shi, gurasu motsu no ni koyubi taten ja
ne yo?"

There is a note below the entry which reads "From the belief that the
human posterior resembles a kettle comes the slang usage of 'okama'
[kanji given] to mean 'rear end' and hence one who prefers anal
intercourse with a person of the same sex."

Akihiko Yonekawa is an assistant professor at Baika Women's College in
Osaka, so please direct questions or flames in that direction. I'm
afraid I have no opinion on the matter personally; after all, I am
still reading my way through the Moomin Dictionary. <laugh>


L.

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J. Coyne

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Feb 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/1/96
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F...@cris.com (Joel Bowman) writes:

>This seems to be a common misconception among the Japanese slang books.
>In fact I haven't seen one that gave the proper translation for the word
>"okama", which in fact does refer to transvestites. The only word that
>I've heard Japanese people use for a homosexual is that of "homo."
>Of course there is always the formal "dooseiai" also.

I would tend to dissagree, In my stay in Japan, I heard the word used
many times, in reference to homosexuals. This opinion is further
authoritated by the Japanese move 'okoge'.

The acutal original meaning of okama is pot (cooking pot) I don't know
how is came to have a homosexual connotation though.. Okoge is the rice
that is stuck to the pot after cooking in it. A person who is okoge is
one who is not gay, but prefers the company of gays (usually a woman, in
gay company)

This is the subject of the movie, okoge, who is befriended my okama.


For some further insight, I beleive the katakana work nuhafu is used for
transvestites, and I have no clue as to its derivation..


; ; ; Jason Coyne
;'''; ; ; jco...@blue.weeg.uiowa.edu
;' ; ;, ; gai...@lust.isca.uiowa.edu
,;', ,; ;';, ;';
',; ; ';, ,; '; Genesis... it's Coming.
,; ; ,; ';,
,;' ; ,;' ';, http://odie.weeg.uiowa.edu/~jcoyne/
,;' ; ,;' ';,


Chuck Douglas

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Feb 2, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/2/96
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J. Coyne (jco...@blue.weeg.uiowa.edu) wrote:
: F...@cris.com (Joel Bowman) writes:

: >This seems to be a common misconception among the Japanese slang books.
: >In fact I haven't seen one that gave the proper translation for the word
: >"okama", which in fact does refer to transvestites. The only word that
: >I've heard Japanese people use for a homosexual is that of "homo."
: >Of course there is always the formal "dooseiai" also.

[edit]

I would have to concur with this. Most okama that I have seen on tv insist
that they are not gay but enjoy dressing as women. Some may be gay but in
general, that is not the meaning behind the word from what I have seen.

: For some further insight, I beleive the katakana work nuhafu is used for

: transvestites, and I have no clue as to its derivation..

Actually, nuhafu (from "new half") refers to people that have undergone a
sex change operation. I don't think I need to go into the etymology now
that you see where the word derives from. :-)

--
Chuck Douglas -- chuc...@prairienet.org
"I don't pretend I have all the answers/Just the obvious ones"
--_Backbone_ by Baby Animals
Homepage now available at: http://jaka.nn.com/~chuckers

Charles M.Richmond

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Feb 2, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/2/96
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J. Coyne wrote:
>
> F...@cris.com (Joel Bowman) writes:
>
> >This seems to be a common misconception among the Japanese slang books.
> >In fact I haven't seen one that gave the proper translation for the word
> >"okama", which in fact does refer to transvestites. The only word that
> >I've heard Japanese people use for a homosexual is that of "homo."
> >Of course there is always the formal "dooseiai" also.
>
> I would tend to dissagree, In my stay in Japan, I heard the word used
> many times, in reference to homosexuals. This opinion is further
> authoritated by the Japanese move 'okoge'.
>

In the IDX9500 (WordTank) okama is given the meaning of:
"sodomy ; a gay ((hito))"
The kanji are jis 3866 (as used by okame == government or okage == thanks )
and jis 3378 (iron pot/kettle as in kamameshi as Jason pointed out)
...
...


>
> For some further insight, I beleive the katakana work nuhafu is used for
> transvestites, and I have no clue as to its derivation..
>

I believe new-half refers to those men who have started the medical
process to become women, but who have not yet faced the knife.

Charlie

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Nigel Wheatley

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Feb 3, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/3/96
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b...@theory4.kek.jp (Ben Bullock) wrote:

>As a lot of readers here know, there are a whole bunch of books about
>Japanese slang out. In one of these books by Peter Constantine he
>defines a word "okama" to mean homosexual. I found from talking to
>some Japanese people that "okama" meant "transvestite" rather than
>"homosexual". From reading his book, Peter Constantine seems to not
>know Japanese, so I assumed that he made a mistake.

>However I looked in a book which seems to be much more accurate than


>Constantine's book, called "How to use Japanese slang", but this book
>also gives okama as homosexual rather than transvestite. However,
>this book for instance calls "oyakodon" "oyakodonburi", so it seems to
>be slightly questionable.

I was also told in Japan that okama didn't have any explicit meaning
of homosexuality, just transvestitism. I have heard okamappoi used to
describe effeminate behaviour in men.

The non-slang word for homosexual is douseiai-sha.

>[[I know the kind of tedious response from people eager to demonstrate
>their imagined street credibility that any enquiry about Japanese
>slang creates on this group. Can those people can give it a rest, and
>let someone who knows what they are talking about answer this time?
>Thanks a lot.]]

Surely that applies doubly or trebly to those who write books of
Japanese slang .....

Nigel


Ben Bullock

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Feb 3, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/3/96
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Alan Engel (aen...@netaxs.com) wrote:

> b...@theory4.kek.jp (Ben Bullock) wrote:
> >let someone who knows what they are talking about answer this time?
> >Thanks a lot.]]
>
> (-: Let me be the first to violate the Bullock Rule. ;-)
>
> A literal translation of 'okama' together with it derogatory conotation
> might be 'faggot'. Perhaps someone familiar with the etymology of both
> terms can comment.

Violate the Bullock rule at your peril. I am getting lots of good
information here, but all of it by e-mail. My information is that the
Japanese slang books are all written by people who don't know what
they are talking about, because "okama" means "transvestite".
Contradict me very much at the peril of contradicting numbers of
native speakers.

I guess what happened here is that these slang books all copied each
other's information one from the other, and all ended up distorted as
a result. Very interesting proof that the authors of these books are
not really as knowledgeable as they pretend to be. I think I could
write a slang book better than those guys.

Bill Franke

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Feb 3, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/3/96
to
Ben Bullock (b...@theory2.kek.jp) wrote:
: I think I could write a slang book better than those guys.

Why don't you do it, then? It will be more impressive to see that you
really have knocked down a few trees, telephone poles, and power lines
than merely to hear speculative bluster whistling through the leaves and
wires.

My own limited experience with the word "okama" suggests that it is used
in more than one way, depending upon who uses it and it what context.
Some of the native speakers I know tell me that it means "homosexual" by
implication; others tell me that it means "transvestive."


NAKANO Yasuaki

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Feb 4, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/4/96
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I have not read the original article. News feed is very bad in our site.

In article <jcoyne.8...@blue.weeg.uiowa.edu> jco...@blue.weeg.uiowa.edu (J. Coyne) writes:
>I would tend to dissagree, In my stay in Japan, I heard the word used
>many times, in reference to homosexuals. This opinion is further
>authoritated by the Japanese move 'okoge'.

>The acutal original meaning of okama is pot (cooking pot) I don't know
>how is came to have a homosexual connotation though..

"Okama" means male homosexuals. Sometimes it means male homosexual whores.

I have read an article (not academic) on its etymon, but I don't know if
it is true. Since Edo era, a mistress has been called as "mekake". This
word has alternative meaning "me + kake" or "eye lacking". A famous samurai
who had a single eye is Kamakura Gongorou Kagemasa. At the battle in 11th
century, he fought with Abe-no-Sadatou who made revolt to Kyoto court, but
Minamoto-no-Yosiie suppressed the revolt. Kagemasa was shot his eye by
Yosiie with an arrow, but he fought bravely after the injury. This bravity
was so famous in Edo era that his surname "Kamakura" became the synonym of
a one-eyed warrior. Thus "o" (honorific prefix) + "kama", or "okama" became
to mean a mistress, "mekake". Afterwards, the meaning changed to male
homosexuals.

Another interesting theory is that this word might have something to do
with a Sanskritian (ancient Indian) word "kama" or "love". You might have
heard about "Kamasutra". In the Buddhist temples, homosexuals were very
popular, since priests were forbidden to touch women. It is probable that
the word was originated from Sanskrit, which was very familiar to priests.

> Okoge is the rice
>that is stuck to the pot after cooking in it. A person who is okoge is
>one who is not gay, but prefers the company of gays (usually a woman, in
>gay company)

Correct.

>For some further insight, I beleive the katakana work nuhafu is used for
>transvestites, and I have no clue as to its derivation..

"Nuhafu" is "new half", and "half" in this word may mean the neutral gender.
As far as I understand, "new half" means male transvestites, but they
should be more beautiful than ordinary girls.

Yasuaki Nakano

Benjamin Barrett

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Feb 4, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/4/96
to

In article <4f021c$4...@keknews.kek.jp> Ben Bullock wrote:


>Violate the Bullock rule at your peril. I am getting lots of good
>information here, but all of it by e-mail. My information is that the
>Japanese slang books are all written by people who don't know what
>they are talking about, because "okama" means "transvestite".
>Contradict me very much at the peril of contradicting numbers of
>native speakers.
>
>I guess what happened here is that these slang books all copied each
>other's information one from the other, and all ended up distorted as
>a result. Very interesting proof that the authors of these books are

>not really as knowledgeable as they pretend to be. I think I could


>write a slang book better than those guys.

>[[I know the kind of tedious response from people eager to demonstrate


>their imagined street credibility that any enquiry about Japanese
>slang creates on this group. Can those people can give it a rest, and

>let someone who knows what they are talking about answer this time?
>Thanks a lot.]]

I guess while I was busy with some rush translation jobs, BB (that's not an
acronym for MY name) has been busy making snide references again. Can't HE
give snideness a rest?

yoroshiku
Benjamin Barrett


Ben Bullock

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Feb 5, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/5/96
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Benjamin Barrett (Gog...@gnn.com) wrote:

> I guess while I was busy with some rush translation jobs, BB (that's not an
> acronym for MY name) has been busy making snide references again. Can't HE
> give snideness a rest?

Could you give editing other people's posts to make them look like
something different from what they are a rest?

Could you give giving out completely wrong information and then
arguing with people who try to correct you a rest?

Could you give up making dumb comments to try to tell the rest of us
how great you are a rest?

Could you give up not reading other people's posts before following
them up?

Could you stop being a general pain in the neck?

If you do that I can give making snide remarks a rest.

Benjamin Barrett

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Feb 5, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/5/96
to

In article <4f47ru$7...@keknews.kek.jp> Ben Bullock wrote:
>Could you give editing other people's posts to make them look like
>something different from what they are a rest?
>
>Could you give giving out completely wrong information and then
>arguing with people who try to correct you a rest?
>
>Could you give up making dumb comments to try to tell the rest of us
>how great you are a rest?
>
>Could you give up not reading other people's posts before following
>them up?
>
>Could you stop being a general pain in the neck?
>
>If you do that I can give making snide remarks a rest.

Something about pots and kettles and their relative colors comes to mind...


John O'Conner

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Feb 5, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/5/96
to
Ben Bullock wrote:
>
> As a lot of readers here know, there are a whole bunch of books about
> Japanese slang out. In one of these books by Peter Constantine he
> defines a word "okama" to mean homosexual. I found from talking to
> some Japanese people that "okama" meant "transvestite" rather than
> "homosexual". From reading his book, Peter Constantine seems to not
> know Japanese, so I assumed that he made a mistake.
> <snip>

I have an interesting experience with this word. When introducing myself
I used the word "okaana" for my family name. During my first couple
months in Japan, I apparently had difficulty pronouncing this properly.
After getting many polite smiles and a few giggles, I was told that I
had been introducing myself as a homosexual. This "homosexual"
translation came from Japanese speakers who didn't know English very
well, so perhaps the translation is incorrect. At any rate, although I'm
not overly concerned with the EXACT meaning of the word, the memory of
this mistake makes me laugh.

--
John O'Conner
Email: JOCo...@novell.com
Of course, I speak for myself.

Jeffrey Friedl

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Feb 6, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/6/96
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Ben Bullock wrote:
> I guess what happened here is that these slang books all copied each
> other's information one from the other, and all ended up distorted as
> a result.

This is called a "lexical ghost". The first one to publish the mistake
(either on purpose, or in error) can then point to the others as plagorists.
Of course, the pointed-to can say "hey, the native population must have
read your book and picked it up" :-)
Jeffrey
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jeffrey Friedl <jfr...@omron.co.jp> Omron Corp, Nagaokakyo, Kyoto 617 Japan
See my Jap<->Eng dictionary at http://www.wg.omron.co.jp/cgi-bin/j-e
and http://enterprise.ic.gc.ca/cgi-bin/j-e

Dan Coughlin

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Feb 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/7/96
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An excellent illustration of okamasama.
Cattiness and bitchiness are what drag queens are all about.
Thank you.


J.C. Kelly

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Feb 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/8/96
to

One of the guys who works out at the gym I do is Okamae-san. The first
time he introduced himself to me, he said:
"Okamae desu...(perfect timing)...OkamaE ya de!"

He must have had a lot of similar experiences to John...
=====================================================================
J.C. Kelly 会者定離

Ashiya, Japan
jck...@gol.com

Shinobu Satoh

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Feb 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/8/96
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In article <4f0cpj$p...@crl7.crl.com> kis...@crl.com (Bill Franke) writes:


|My own limited experience with the word "okama" suggests that it is used
|in more than one way, depending upon who uses it and it what context.
|Some of the native speakers I know tell me that it means "homosexual" by
|implication; others tell me that it means "transvestive."
|

"Okama" means men who wear women's dress. However, they say it is
derogatory and they prefer to be called "New Half" instead.

Also, there is a term "Onabe" which means women who wear men's clothes.

SHINO

Bill Franke

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Feb 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/8/96
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Shinobu Satoh (ssa...@phe.hitachi-sk.co.jp) wrote:
: "Okama" means men who wear women's dress. However, they say it is
: derogatory and they prefer to be called "New Half" instead.

I also noticed that whenever anyone used the word, whatever it means, that
there was often an undercurrent of tittering or other signs of
embarrassment. It always seemed to me to be a derogatory term, not one
to be used "in polite company."

: Also, there is a term "Onabe" which means women who wear men's clothes.

Never heard this term. Do you know the origin of the word?

Dan Coughlin

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Feb 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/9/96
to kis...@crl.com
kis...@crl.com (Bill Franke) wrote:
>Shinobu Satoh (ssa...@phe.hitachi-sk.co.jp) wrote:
>: "Okama" means men who wear women's dress. However, they say it is
>: derogatory and they prefer to be called "New Half" instead.
>
>I also noticed that whenever anyone used the word, whatever it means, that
>there was often an undercurrent of tittering or other signs of
>embarrassment. It always seemed to me to be a derogatory term, not one
>to be used "in polite company."
>
Polite company in Japan does not like to acknowledge homosexuals, let
alone homosexual transvestites. They will tell you that there are no
homosexuals in Japan!
Anyhow, the words I usually heard in the gay bars of Shinjuku 2-chome
were 'homo', 'homodachi', 'gei', 'nongei' for straight, 'okama' for drag
queen or TV, 'okoge' for fag-hag, ...
Just guessing, but 'onabe' sounds like an allegory to 'okoge'.


Benjamin Barrett

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Feb 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/9/96
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In article <DMHw3...@utcc.utoronto.ca> Dan Coughlin wrote:

>Polite company in Japan does not like to acknowledge homosexuals, let
>alone homosexual transvestites. They will tell you that there are no
>homosexuals in Japan!
>Anyhow, the words I usually heard in the gay bars of Shinjuku 2-chome
>were 'homo', 'homodachi', 'gei', 'nongei' for straight, 'okama' for drag
>queen or TV, 'okoge' for fag-hag, ...
>Just guessing, but 'onabe' sounds like an allegory to 'okoge'.

Was it nongei or nonke? I've heard non (from English non-) and ke from ki
as in genki. The explanation for the word is usually "sonna ke ga nai."

The opposite, "sonna ke ga aru" is o-keke.

yoroshiku
Benjamin Barrett


Glen C. Perkins

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Feb 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/9/96
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chuc...@prairienet.org (Chuck Douglas) writes:

>J. Coyne (jco...@blue.weeg.uiowa.edu) wrote:
>: F...@cris.com (Joel Bowman) writes:

>: >This seems to be a common misconception among the Japanese slang books.
>: >In fact I haven't seen one that gave the proper translation for the word
>: >"okama", which in fact does refer to transvestites. The only word that
>: >I've heard Japanese people use for a homosexual is that of "homo."
>: >Of course there is always the formal "dooseiai" also.

>[edit]

>I would have to concur with this. Most okama that I have seen on tv insist
>that they are not gay but enjoy dressing as women. Some may be gay but in
>general, that is not the meaning behind the word from what I have seen.

Well, I disagree. I'm not much of a "street smart" kinda guy, but
after living with Japanese roommates in college, there is no
doubt that *they* thought that okama meant gay.

The problem here may be any or all of several things. Those in the
gay/transvestite/transsexual subcultures probably have quite
clear delineations among terms. For typical heterosexual
guys like my roommates, all of the above seemed like pretty
much the same thing, so they were all called "okama". Also, because
of the nature of the topic and slang in general, it's likely
that the word is both used differently by different people
and that its meaning drifts significantly over time.

__Glen Perkins__
--
+---------------------------------------------------------------------------+


Koji Kawakami

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Feb 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/9/96
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Bill Franke (kis...@crl.com) wrote:
> Shinobu Satoh (ssa...@phe.hitachi-sk.co.jp) wrote:
> : "Okama" means men who wear women's dress. However, they say it is
> : derogatory and they prefer to be called "New Half" instead.

> I also noticed that whenever anyone used the word, whatever it means, that
> there was often an undercurrent of tittering or other signs of
> embarrassment. It always seemed to me to be a derogatory term, not one
> to be used "in polite company."

> : Also, there is a term "Onabe" which means women who wear men's clothes.

> Never heard this term. Do you know the origin of the word?

"Okoge" is a friend of okama, since it sticks to okama. ^_^


Back to your original question, me thinks that a real okama with which people
used to cook rice looks really masculine, whereas an onabe looks less so.

/koji

Bruce E. Harris

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Feb 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/10/96
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Homosexual.

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Ben Bullock

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Feb 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/10/96
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Bill Franke (kis...@crl.com) wrote:

> : Also, there is a term "Onabe" which means women who wear men's clothes.
>
> Never heard this term. Do you know the origin of the word?

I heard it. I think it comes from "nabe" as in pot, similar to the
origin of okama.

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