TOKYO -- As an Asian nation steeped in the teachings of Confucius, Japan has always held the aged in high esteem, using flowery honorific language when talking about society's elders.

But now, as a growing retired population is viewed as a drag on society, respect for the elderly is decaying.

That, too, is reflected in language.

A fairly common, if nasty, term for an older woman is baba, a word that hints at babbling senility.

A formula used by young women to describe the kind of man they want to marry is cah tsuki, eeay tsuki, baba nuki -- that is, with a car, with a house, but without a baba hanging around.

For old men, current language is crueler. A retiree who has little to do but sit around the house and stick close to the rest of the family is known as a nureochiba -- that is, a wet, fallen leaf. The image is of a wilted, wet leaf sticking so close it's hard to remove.

On the TV "family dramas," retired men are regularly portrayed as doddering boobs. In such settings, the men are sometimes called suraigomi, or used furniture. Before it referred to elderly men, it was the term used for articles of trash that are too big to be hauled away in the regular garbage pickup.