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Zokugo 05 – Ways to Refer to People

Posted by Darkslime Z on 2011/05/29

For today’s zokugo post, we’re going to look at casual ways to refer to people in the 2nd or 3rd person. While it isn’t really “zokugo”, per se, these words are extremely important for understanding and participating in casual conversation in Japanese.

Second Person – Referring to “You”

The second person, which is the one you don’t really go over in high school English classes, refers to “you”, rather than “I” or “him”. There are many ways to do this in Japanese – however, as you probably know, people don’t use them often! Whatever the reason may be, such as intimacy or just outright being vulgar, Japanese people prefer to leave this kind of word out of the sentence altogether, substituting with the person’s name or そちら・そっち whenever possible. Even so, in close-quarters situations, these words will come in handy; just use them sparingly!

お前

Only used by guys(it’s seen as vulgar when used by ladies), this version of “you” can generally be used one of two ways. First off, we have the joking around way with casual friends. It’s usually intonated starting high and ending low when used like this:

お前、以外によくやったな!こんなこと、したことあるよな?
Heh, you did that pretty well! You’ve actually done this sort of thing before, haven’t you? (come on, tell me!)

The second reason to use this is to express frustration at someone(and not show them any kindness, really). Whether it be police chasing after a petty thief or a couple of friends getting into an argument, it definitely conveys a sense of hostility. The intonation, unlike above, is usually low to high here:

おい、お前!彼女はせっかくあんなことをしてあげたのに、その態度は何だ!?
Hey, you! What the hell is up with that attitude, after that girl went through all that to do that for you!?

I never hear this being used by girls, so just keep that in mind. I do, however, hear it being used towards girls, with both connotations listed above.

あんた

Basically the equivalent of お前, except it’s used by girls sometimes. Also, you really can’t “joke arond” with あんた, and it really is pretty rude.

私のこと「あんた」って呼ばないで!私はあなたの母親なんだから。
Don’t be “hey, you”-ing me like that; I’m your mother!

貴様(きさま)

Essentially like お前; it can be used jokingly – only among very close male friends – or, usually, to express complete hostility towards the person.

小さな赤ちゃんを殴るなんて、貴様、それでも人間か!?
What kind of person are you, hitting a small baby like that!?

Insightful readers will see these kanji, though, and wonder why it’s so disrespectful. In truth, 貴様(‘your honorable self’) used to be a term to refer to your superiors. I would assume it took on a sarcastic connotation over the years, and ended up like this.

てめえ

Don’t use this, it’s probably the worst one here. It can’t really be used jokingly.

てめえはこの話しに関係ねえんだから、引っ込んでろよ。
This is none of your f***in’ business, a*****e, so get the hell out of here.

Oddly enough, てめえ can be used to refer to yourself, too, but I don’t hear that often at all. (Similar to 己(おのれ), which I won’t go over here)

Third Person – Referring to “That Guy”

The third person, usually stricken in Japanese in favor of the person’s actual name nonetheless has important uses and come up quite frequently in casual conversation.

あいつ

“That guy”. Compare to お前 – it can be used both to display affection or to display contempt.

あいつとは小学校時代からの友達さ。いいやつなんだ。
Me and him’ve been pretty tight since grade school. He’s a good guy.

I don’t really hear this being used to refer to girls, but I do hear girls use it; most of the time in anger.

あいつなんか死ねばいいのに。
I wish he would just die already.

こいつ

“This guy”, or, when not referring to a person, just “this thing” or “this stuff”. The connotations of こいつ are difficult to understand unless you’ve heard it used many times. A lot of times in anime and stuff, the character will just utter the word こいつ angrily to show their contempt towards someone they’re facing or talking to(kind of like この).

こいつは遊ぶのが好きで、仕事をしたがらない困った人間だぜ。
This guy here goofs off so much and doesn’t do his job; what an excuse for a person.

Again, it can also be used to refer to objects, many times when complimenting it.

こいつはうまいコーヒーだ。どんな豆を使っているんだろうか。
This here is some pretty great coffee. I wonder what kind of beans they use.

野郎(やろう)

While the above two words were “ko-so-a-do” words, this one isn’t. From the kanji for “field man” we get a rather vulgar way to refer to a person. Usually it’s preceded by この or あの, depending on their proximity.

あの野郎、俺をなめやがって。そう簡単にだまされないぞ。
That idiot’s making fun of me. Well, I won’t be fooled that easily.

やつ

Like the above, another rather vulgar way to refer to a person. However, it can actually be used to refer to an object(like こいつ), to refer to something you don’t know the name of, or just a way to say “he” or “she”.

お前も変なやつだな。俺を指示どおりなぜやらないんだ。
You’re one weird guy. Why can’t you just do it like I tell you to?

この雑誌、先週買ったやつと同じよ。あんた、ダブって買ったの?
This is the same magazine you picked up last week. What did you go and do, buy two of the same thing?

(Readers will notice both あんた and a word from last week, ダブる, being used here)

俺、太りすぎだから、食餌療法というやつをやることになった。
I’ve been putting on some weight lately, so they put me on one of those medical diet program things.

Closing Notes

This was originally going to include a whole bunch of other kinds of “names” to call people, but just the pronouns were making the post a little long. Perhaps another time.

Big thanks goes out to Beyond Polite Japanese: A Dictionary of Japanese Slang and Colloquialisms, by Akihiko Yonekawa. The idea to do a post on this, as well as many of the example sentences, came from this book. For someone studying colloquial Japanese, it’s a great reference, so you should go buy it! Other example sentences came from SpaceAlc.

Hope you liked the post; see you with some more zokugo next Sunday! For those of you US readers, enjoy your Memorial Day weekend.

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Adverbs 03 – Doubtlessly Helpful Words

Posted by Darkslime Z on 2011/05/28

Today we’re going to look over some ways to express the feeling of “definitely” doing something or “certainly” being a certain way, and look into some of the more subtle nuances of the words and the different structures they can have.

必ず(かならず)

First off we have かならず, to mean “definitely”, such as in the sentence:

どんなことがあっても、必ず行きます。
No matter what happens, I’m definitely going.

As an adverb, all you have to do is plop it before a verb and you’ve got yourself a perfect sentence! However, important to note is the fact that you can only use かならず with positive verbs – in other words, you can’t use the word to say you’re definitely not going to do something. That role is left to…

絶対(ぜったい)(に)

As with かならず, all you do is stick 絶対に in front of a verb to mean “definitely”:

あの人は絶対に行かないよ。
That person is definitely not going.

As you can see, 絶対に can be used with a negative verb as well as normally with a positive verb, such as in the phrase 絶対に勝つ(I’ll definitely win).

Both 必ず and 絶対 are similar to the word きっと, but きっと carries slightly less certainty with it. 必ず is also used in the grammatical expression 必ずしも, but that’s another story.

全く(まったく)

You may have heard the word まったく muttered under the breath of a character you’ve seen on TV, and they usually mean it in the “geez…” sense. However, it does work as a legitimate adverb to mean “completely” or “totally”:

全く同感だ。
My thoughts exactly. / I precisely and completely think and feel the same way as you do.

It can be used either with positive or negative verbs:

全くわからないね。
I don’t really understand at all. / I am in a complete state of not understanding so and so.

Basically, you’re emphasizing that not only is something “very” X, but it is “completely” X.

もちろん

This word means “of course”, of course! It’s slightly different than the above in that it also implies a certain level of obviousness, or something that is basic and generally known to all in the conversation.

僕はもちろん大賛成だ。
I’m obviously all for it. / I am in great agreement with this thing [someone] has stated, of course.

If you have trouble remembering where to put it in the sentence, just keep in mind that this is an adverb, like all the other words so far: just place it before the verb or predicate, and you’re good.

確かに(たしかに)

確かに is a bit of an oddball in terms of usage. It generally means “definitely” or “without a doubt”, but in English it translates better to “of course [X]… (but…)” If that confuses you, let’s look at some examples.

確かに、あの町に夢中になる人って多い。
A lot of people are certainly fascinated by that city.

The normal usage is a bit hard to “get” out of context. Whoever is saying this is essentially agreeing with something else said – such as “this city has been on the news more often lately”, which leads this person to say “yeah, a lot of people seem fascinated by it”. A good English equivalent, in this case, would be “indeed”.

確かに、夢は現実と想像の断片がしばしば混じり合う。
Indeed, dreams themselves often combine bits of both reality and imagination.

Again, this isn’t something you would just say right off the bat – the speaker has been obviously been talking about dreams and how they relate to the real world, and then follows up with this kind of sentence.

The most important thing to remember about 確かに is that it’s a kind of “follow-up” word, and using it to start your first sentence in a conversation wouldn’t make any sense. It’s almost like an agreement, but not really, and it can get a bit confusing.

確かに、この「確かに」の表現は少し説明しにくいですね。
This “certainly” expression is indeed difficult to explain.

There’s one more use of the adverb, but it’s not as important:

確かに受け取りました。
I have certainly received it. / Without a doubt, I have received it.

This last sentence seems more like a grammar form than anything else: it’s just a weird way to use たしかに. When you want to confirm that something has been done – and it’s usually you having gotten something, or come into possession of it – you can use a sentence like this. This is very polite, though, and really doesn’t make sense in casual conversation.

Closing Notes

For those of you who know a bit more of the language, you may have noticed that a few other seemingly-obvious additions are missing, such as 全然 and おそらく. These words don’t technically fall under this category, but will be covered at a later date(probably). Until then, remember how to use these five words!

My examples all came from goo辞書 and スペースアルク. The initial idea for getting adverbs of one type together and explaining them as a group came from a document called よく使う副詞の機能別一覧, a document floating around on the Web.

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Zokugo 04 – Neologisms

Posted by Darkslime Z on 2011/05/22

Today we’ll look at a group of words termed neologisms. If you don’t know what they are, then go apologize to your English teacher, then look up the Wikipedia article. Specifically, there are many strange-looking verbs gaining quite a bit of popularity in casual speech these days.

Called 造語(zougo) in Japanese, some of them are basically verbs where the actual word comes from another language, and is thus written in katakana – and then they stick a る onto the end to make it a verb! Imagine that. Here are some common ones.

サボる

You’ve probably learned this one in class, but if you haven’t, サボる is to cut class, skip work, etc. Just outright not going to somewhere you’re expected to be. It was probably used in many example sentences in your class, too.

But where did it come from? Apparently, it comes from the French word “sabot”, short for the English “sabotage”. There are a lot of explanations as to how this word ended up using “sabotage”; the first thing that comes to mind is that if you skip work, you’re making it harder on everyone else, thus sabotaging them.

インターネットの夢中になって仕事をサボった
Instead of working, I just goofed off on the Internet.

ググる

Just as in English, the word “google” is now a verb in Japanese. Cleverly, they used the る verb ending to “verb-ify”(動詞化?) it!

その俳優の出る映画をググった
I googled the movies that actor has been in.

ダブる

It means “to double” or “to coincide with”! Again, clever. It can also mean to repeat a year in school, or to double fault in tennis.

A社とB社の訪問時間がダブってるけど、どうするんだ。
The time I can visit Company A and Company B is the same; what should I do?

メモる

To take memos, or take notes! Jotting something down that you don’t want to forget.

昨日の授業はちょっと難しかったけど、要点をメモったから、テストの勉強は楽になるはず。
Yesterday’s class was a little hard to follow, but I jotted down the important parts, so studying for the test should be easier.

バグる

This verb illustrates a bug happening on your computer, or it just generally crashing. The word obviously comes from the word “bug”.

PC使用中に突然画面がぐちゃぐちゃにバグった
While I was using my computer, the screen all of a sudden started to get all buggy…

Interesting note that this doesn’t seem to be in many dictionaries…

ハモる

This verb means “to create harmony” or “to harmonize”.

カラオケでハモったりして歌いたいのですが全く音が取れません…
I want to sing the harmony or something at karaoke, but I can’t hit a single right note…

アジる

To agitate someone or something, obviously from the word “agitate”.

あの社長、若い頃に演説運動していただけあって、うまくアジるねえ。
Just by having practiced giving speeches when he was little, that executive can sure get a crowd riled up, eh?

Closing Notes

These kinds of verbs are likely going to keep popping up. Hopefully Japanese doesn’t turn *completely* into English! Even news anchors have started to use certain words like this; proof that these things are beginning to permeate modern society.

In any case, I hope you had fun reading!

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Adverbs 01 – Right Away, Sir!

Posted by Darkslime Z on 2011/05/14

In the vast depths of what we know as the Japanese language, many adverbs that express a time very nearly following the current instant of time(see: “soon”) exist. Today we’ll go through a whole bunch of them! Almost all of these would also make great “sentence starters”, as well.

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Zokugo 02 – Social Life

Posted by Darkslime Z on 2011/05/08

Today we’ll look at a few quite commonly used words to describe people: イケメン(ikemen) and ヒッキー(hikkii).

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Adverbs 101

Posted by Darkslime Z on 2011/05/07

I thought I’d use the first installment of the Adverbs posts to explain what adverbs are in Japanese and how to use them, so read on!

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