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Politics of Double-Meaning Buzzwords: The High-Context Usage of the "Three Cs" Concept of Japan's COVID-19 Response (under review)

Title: Politics of Double-Meaning Buzzwords: The High-Context Usage of the "Three Cs" Concept of Japan's COVID-19 Response

Author: TANAKA Sigeto (Tohoku University)


The concept of "three Cs" frequently appears in Japanese discourse about COVID-19 in reference to addressing the three conditions of closed space with poor ventilation, crowding, and close contact. It has two meanings that differ in the logical relationship among the three conditions: whether they are combined by "and" (conjunction) or by "or" (disjunction). In March 2020, experts proposed the concept as a conjunction to issue an alert only about places that satisfy all three conditions. In April, however, the government reinterpreted the concept as a disjunction to request that people avoid any situation with at least one of the conditions. This study explores the implicit switching between these meanings. Its use with the conjunction meaning was to relax the request for social distancing and allow people to enjoy leisure activities if they take any countermeasure to prevent one of the conditions (e.g., ventilation), as found in discourse supporting the subsidization program for traveling and eating in the summer and autumn of 2020. By contrast, its use with the disjunction meaning was to persuade people to stay home during periods of severe outbreaks in April 2020 and January 2021. The definition of the concept is left ambiguous to allow for such high-context usage. The government and experts mobilize people either to stay home or go out by using the same phrase but switching between its implicit meanings according to their political intentions. (See for details)

Conference: The Asian Conference on Arts and Humanities 2021 (ACAH2021) (May 24-26, 2021, Tokyo)

Status: Under review

Related: Tanaka Sigeto. 2021. The Emergence and Modification of the Concept of '(Overlapping) Three Cs': A Problem in Public Communication in Japan's Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Response.

2021-03-10: Created
2021-03-19: Revision

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