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From http://www.encyclopedia.com/articles/14137.html

zaibatsu [Jap., (= (money clique], the great family-controlled banking and industrial combines of modern Japan. The leading zaibatsu are Mitsui, Mitsubishi, and Sumitomo. Most zaibatsu developed after the Meiji restoration, when the new government granted them a privileged position in the economic development of Japan through subsidies and favorable tax policies. They maintained close ties with political parties. After World War II the Allies tried, but failed, to break their influence. They still wield great economic power.

Meiji was the reign name of the emperor of Japan from 1867-1912 whose given name was Mutsoshito. The Meiji restoration occured shortly after his ascension in 1868 and essentially put down the old feudal system based in Kyoto and created a central authority in Tokyo which fostered in the modern industrial era.

You might also be able to generalize a zaibatsu to any family owned business. But, then again, is a family-owned farm, cigar store a zaibatsu?

You may hear WilliamGibson mumble something about zaibatsus in NeuromancerBook.

A lot of people who have read Gibson use the term zaibatsu mistakingly to mean any transnational megacorporation. However, this abuse is prevalent; I wonder if the word has taken on new meaning in English culture. Then again, only a handful people use the term, which means it officially has no meaning in English.

But does the word only have meaning if x number of people speak it? Or does it have meaning when y number of people would recognize the meaning? What I'm getting at is that many more people will recognize the meaning of a word than will actually use it as part of their working vocabulary. zaibatsu is not part of my working vocabulary, but I would unhesitatingly assign it the Gibsonian meaning of a transnational megacorporation; implies Japanese origin and attempts to control the lives of its employees.

It's much easier to count the number of people who speak a word, so I can see that standard arising. I just don't think it's right.


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