- アベック (abekku): pair, usually referring to an unmarried heterosexual couple
- Avec: from French, the preposition “with”
The term アベック, borrowed from French movies, was commonly used since the 1920s to refer to married couples or same-sex friends together in public. It was only after the American occupation of Japan (1945-1952) that it was used to refer to unmarried couples.
Prior to that, women were not seen on the streets with men to whom they were not related, and married couples would not be seen walking with their arms locked together. Wives would walk a few steps behind their husbands (walking alongside would have brought criticism).
It was the behavior of American soldiers and their dates during the Occupation that made dating in public more commonplace and this was later copied by younger Japanese couples. This social shift lead to numerous articles documenting how to behave and dress on a date even became the name of a magazine.
Nowadays, アベックseems to be used only amongst the older generation, and is replaced by カップル (kappuru, from the English word “couple”). The only アベック that seemed to have survived is アベックホームラン (abekku ho-muran), which refers to back-to-back home runs in baseball.
This article is part of the weekly Katakana English series, where we discuss Japanese words borrowed (mostly) from English that have acquired a different meaning. For questions or comments, please click here.