オーエル【OL, OL】, オフィスレディ

■ An OL is a woman who works in an office, typically as a support staff member handling miscellaneous tasks. Traditionally, those tasks have included making copies, answering the telephone, typing, simple bookkeeping, serving tea, etc. In recent years, the changing work environment brought about by the increased use of computers and evolving attitudes toward working women has transformed the roles of OLs, and the jobs of OLs vary more widely than in the past.

□ OL is an abbreviation for オフィスレディ or オフィスレディー "office lady," a term invented in Japan. It seems to have come into widespread use in the decades after the Second World War. An earlier term, found in some prewar dictionaries, is オフィスガール "office girl." While not completely obsolete, オフィスガール is no longer widely used. Another term no longer often used, and perhaps having coarser connotatations, is BG, an abbreviation for "business girl."

オフィスレディ is probably one of the most widely known Japanese-English words. Like サラリーマン "salaryman," a word to which it is often linked, "office lady" has been used enough in English writings about Japan to be included in some English dictionaries. The New Oxford Dictionary of English (1998), for example, defines "office lady" as "(in Japan) a woman working in an office, typically in a secretarial or relatively menial position."

One of the images conveyed by OL and オフィスレディ is "a young woman in a respectable middle-class job." In past decades, OLs were often expected to stay in their jobs for only a few years until they got married, and some companies would try to get rid of OLs when they reached their mid- to upper twenties. Changing laws and attitudes, combined with falling marriage rates and birthrates, have weakened somewhat the image of OLs as short-term unskilled workers whose job is only to serve male workers and to brighten up the office environment with their youthful perkiness.

Since the enactment in 1986 of the 男女雇用機会均等法(だんじょこようきかいきんとうほう) "Equal Employment Opportunity Law for Men and Women," two separate career tracks have emerged for women working in white-collar jobs. One is 一般職(いっぱんしょく), which corresponds most closely to the traditional OL jobs (and includes less risk, or opportunity, of job transfers or promotions), and 総合職(そうごうしょく), which theoretically offers women equality to male workers who are in similar career tracks. Today, the word OL usually suggests 一般職 workers, and many 総合職 women would not want to be called OL.

◇ 県内サラリーマン・OLが予想するボーナス見込み額は平均58万4千円となった。(Web, July 2000)
The average bonus expected by salarymen and OLs in the prefecture was 584,000 yen.

OLなんて雑用が仕事と思っているワタシの会社の男性達にとにかく頭に来てます。(でもワタシ、実は総合職。一般職ではないんだぞ!)(Web, July 2000)
Anyhow, I just get angry at the men in my company who think that the job of OLs is to do odd jobs. (And, in fact, I'm not an OL; I'm a career woman!)

帰り道、サラリーマンやOLたちが結構いたので安心して歩いていると、どっかのチンピラがOLに絡みはじめた。(Web, July 2000)
On my way home, I felt safe because there were a lot of [people who looked like] salarymen and office ladies on the street, but some hoodlums started to hassle an OL. (As suggested by this example, OLs can often be recognized by their clothing and hairstyles and, like サラリーマン, they seem respectable and safe.)

今回の調査では、補助的な単純労働に仕事が限られている一般職100人と、労働内容に制限が無い総合職100人の双方の意見を聞いている。総合職の女性は、16%のみがOLという言葉を支持し、会社員という言葉を好む人が44%だった。一般職の女性は、OL支持が52%であり、会社員は29%にとどまっていた。(Web, July 2000)
(The above opinion poll results show that 一般職 women are much more accepting of the OL label than are 総合職 women.)

→女子社員、女子事務員、会社勤めの女性(Web, July 2000)
(This entry from a glossary of supposedly discriminatory terms offers less offensive alternatives to the word OL.)

そして総合職であるヒロインとは対照的な一般職OLの役で加藤紀子がTBSのドラマに初出演。「普通のOL」という等身大の役は初めてとあって意欲満々でクランクインを待っている。(Web, July 2000)

ゆっくりと周囲を見渡すと知り合いにもOLがいたり、二児の父がいたり、コンビニ強盗もいたり、なかなか大人である。(Web, July 2000)
(In this example, OL refers more to a woman's status in society as an adult worker than to her particular work tasks or career track.)

3年前の12月、妻子ある職場の上司とつきあった都内のOLが相手の家に放火し、幼児2人が焼死した。事件後、OLの自宅から印字された電子メールの束が見つかった。社内ネットで送られてきたメールを印字しては自宅に持ち帰っていたのだ。(Web, July 2000)

カタログ通販のセシールは第一勧業銀行と提携し、電話で銀行口座に振り込みができる「テレホンバンキング」を利用した代金決済を3月から開始した。通販会社では初のサービス。在宅のまま購入商品の代金を支払えるようになり、多忙なOLや外出する機会の少ない高齢者らの利用拡大を目指す。(Web, July 2000)
(As shown by this example, OL are also an important demographic group targeted by marketers. Because many OLs live with their parents, they often have a lot of disposable income.)

昔は、OLと言う言葉がなかったが、「女性自身」と言う月刊誌が、公募してきめたのが始まりだそうで、この和製英語OLが、最近では本場の英語圏の国々でも使われ始めているらしい。もっとも、一般的には working woman と呼ばれているらしいが。
 戦後長い間、これも和製英語BG(business girl)と呼ばれていたが、これは西洋(英語圏)では bar girl の略語で夜の蝶々を表すらしい。office lady ・OLはなかなかシャレタ言葉で、響きも良く「女性自身」のヒットに違いない。(Web, July 2000)

OLBGほどではないが依然として安っぽい。女子事務員のほうがいいんじゃない)(Web, July 2000)

痴漢通勤電車 OLたちの性

オフィスレディ 性感帯教育
(The above two examples are titles of pornographic videos. In media aimed at men, OL often has a distinct connotation of "young, attractive woman who is a potential sex partner.")

さて、今日のコスチュームは30番のピンクのOL。ホントは念願のバドスーツを選びたかったのだが、Mさんは背が低いし、初対面なので無難なOLを選んだ。でも、着替えから戻ってきたMさんは超似合っていて、すごくかわいかった。やっぱり超ミニのOLスーツはいいねぇ。Mさんも「銀行の窓口のお姉さんみたい。こんな超ミニで恥ずかしいー。」と言っていた。(Web, July 2000)
(The above is an excerpt from a man's Web diary describing a visit he made to a sex services shop where the women dress up in costumes and play out roles for the gratification of the men. In this case, the woman dressed up as an OL.)

This entry was created by Tom Gally, with additional contributions by Brian Chandler.

Created 2000-07-08. "BG" suggested by BC 2000-07-09.

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