Japan Word of the Day #115 – OL

office-lady-rinkya-japan

Today’s Word is: OL (OL)

OL is short for “office lady (オフィスレディ),” a Japanese-coined English word referring to a female office worker.

In early Showa period, “BG” or business girl (ビジネスガール), was used to refer to these female workers, but rumors at the time said BG means Bar Girl and prostitution, therefore Japanese media stopped using the term in 1963, a year before the Tokyo Olympics. To replace BG, a new term was needed. The term office lady was then coined in 1964 as a result of popular votes by readers of Josei Jishin (a tabloid magazine targeted for women).

Office lady usually refers to a worker whose position consists primarily of assisting others (secretaries) or clerical tasks. When a female employee is in an executive position, or in preparation to be one, she’s no longer called OL. As you can imagine, it’s a highly prejudiced term, so you may want to be careful when and where it’s appropriate to use it.

Image source: Rakuten

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