- デマ (dema): unfounded rumor
- Demagogie: from German, political practices that seek support by appealing to emotions rather than by using rational arguments.
デマ was coined in the Showa period as an abbreviation of the German term “demagogie”. Although a political and social term at first, when integrated into the Japanese language, only the dishonest connotation of it remained and it came to mean lazy lies and unfounded rumors.
More recently, the term デマ showed up in the news after the Fukushima earthquake in 2011. The general state of distress of the people living in the affected areas and surroundings made it easy for false rumours to spread and create panic.
On a brighter note, this term is also translated to mean “fake news”.
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.
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