Is it "Imperial Japanese Navy" or "Japanese Imperial Navy", and why?

  • As many questions do, this made me think of beer... and so out of curiosity I did some Googling. Interestingly, "Russian Imperial Stout" and "Imperial Russian Stout" seem to be interchangeable. Equally delicious either way. – MT_Head Jun 4 '12 at 6:09

Although @tchrist has given an excellent explanation for why it ought to be "Japanese Imperial Navy", searching for "Japanese Imperial Navy" auto-corrects to "Imperial Japanese Navy"... and even if you override that and re-correct to "Japanese Imperial Navy", the first hit is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperial_Japanese_Navy. Even the pages further down in the results, whose titles include "Japanese Imperial Navy", revert to "Imperial Japanese Navy" in their actual body text. Further, the official (English) abbreviation is "IJN", not "JIN".

As for why, I suspect that the answer is twofold:
- originally, an arbitrary choice on the part of some translator or other - perhaps employed by the Imperial court - that "stuck" and became official usage
- in modern usage, to distinguish between the Japanese Navy of Imperial days and the modern navy, known as the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.

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    Perhaps the "Imperial" is qualifying "Japan" first, and then the resultant phrase "Imperial Japan" is qualifying "Navy". That's why it ought to be "Imperial Japanese Navy". – qazwsx Jun 6 '12 at 2:39
  • @user6076 - Sounds reasonable to me; I can see an argument for it either way (although in fact it sounds more logical to me with "Japanese" in front.) But yes: from everything I've read about Japan and Japanese society during those years, "Imperial" seems to have been foremost on everybody's mind. I imagine it was much the same in Napoleon's France. – MT_Head Jun 6 '12 at 2:45

It’s “Japanese Imperial Navy”, not the other way around. This is due to adjective ordering restrictions.

See this paper by Alexandra Teodorescu for details various and sundry.

  • Adjective ordering doesn't apply to proper names. – David Schwartz Jun 4 '12 at 10:41
  • @DavidSchwartz I didn’t realize it was a pre-defined term. If it is a pre-defined term, then why the question? – tchrist Jun 4 '12 at 10:46
  • Is it obvious that the said term is pre-defined? – qazwsx Dec 26 '12 at 4:25

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