Ecchi - Etymology and Use in Japan

Etymology and Use in Japan

The correct transcription of the word エッチ after Hepburn is “etchi”, denoting its usage in Japan. Its current meaning is still closely related to the word “hentai” (変態).

“Hentai” itself was introduced in the Meiji period as a term for change of form or transformation in science and psychology. In context, it was used to refer to disorders such as hysteria or to describe paranormal phenomena like hypnosis and telepathy. Further spreading the word led to the connotation of non standard. In the 1910s, it was used in sexology as the compound expression “hentai seiyoku” (変態性欲, abnormal sexual desire) and became popular within the theory of sexual deviance (Hentai seiyoku ron), published by Eiji Habuto and Jun′ichirō Sawada in 1915. In the 1920s, many publications targeted a broad audience, dealing with deviant sexual appearances, including works related to the Ero Guro Nansensu movement. Matsuzawa calls it a period characterized by a “hetai boom”. In the 1930s began a new western influenced period of censorship which resulted in progressive stop of publication.

After the war, in the 1950s, new journals showed an interest in hentai. With this renewed interest, the word hentai is sometimes written in romaji and it was then that H (pronounced as エッチ, as the pronunciation of the English letter H, /ˈeɪtʃ/) began to be used as an alternative to “hentai”. In 1952, the magazine Shukan Asahi reported that a woman who was groped by a stranger in a movie theater reacted with "ara etchi yo" ("hey, it's a pervert"). In this context, “etchi” must be understood as sexually inappropriate and is synonymous to iyarashii (嫌らしい, unpleasant, dirty or disgusting) or sukebe (すけべ, a pervert). From that moment, the meaning of “hentai” and “etchi” evolved independently. In the 1960s, etchi started to be used by the youth to refer to sex in general. In 1965, a newspaper reported that primary school children using etchi kotoba (the word sexy). In the 1980s, it was used to mean sex as in the phrase etchi suru (to love). The most common theory states that it derives from the first character of the word hentai (変態?),

The word sekkusu is also used in Japan for sex, and Japanese native words for sex (such as 性交 seikō) are often replaced by words of foreign origin such as sekkusu or neologisms such as ecchi. Therefore, ecchi is used as a qualifier for anything that is related to erotic or pornographic content. The nuance of ecchi varies with context, but in general, the word itself is comparable to the English words "naughty" or "dirty" (when used as an adjective). In pornographic context, the word ero and other wordings are preferred over etchi by the media. For example ero-manga (エロ), adult anime (アダルト), or anime / manga for persons over 18 years (18禁アニメ, 18禁), and so on. The prefix "H-" is also sometimes used to refer to pornographic genres: H-anime, H-manga, etc.

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