Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Verbification in Japanese: Katakana + RU = New Verb! (use with caution...)

I've been collecting a certain kind of neologism form lately that is getting too large to hold in my brain, so I figured I'd post it before it's gone completely (turning 40 in a few weeks...).

The following list consists of words that are made up of katakana with a hiragana る appended to make a new word, usually with a slang or sarcastic connotation. For example, take a katakana noun コピ, add る and voila: コピる = to copy!

According to my friend, some of these are used by teenagers and haven't entered standard lexicon, so I'm just using these when absolutely necessary (e.g., to be a dork).

1. From Katakana nouns or foreign languages

コピる = to copy
ググる = to Google
ブログる = to blog
ネグる = to neglect
メモる = to take notes
タクる = to take a taxi
ダブる = to overlap, to coincide (fall on the same day); to have two of something; to appear doubled; to repeat a school year after failing
サボる = (from "sabotage") to play hooky; to skip school; to be idle; to sabotage by slowness
アジる = (from "agitate") to stir up; to instigate; to foment
オケる = (from "karaoke") to go to a karaoke bar
トラブる = (from "trouble") to make trouble
スタンバる (from "standby") to be on standby; to be kept waiting
ナビる = (from "navigate") to navigate, use GPS
バグる (from "bug") to have a computer bug
ミスる (from "miss") to make a mistake; to mess up; to err
ハモる (from "harmony") = to harmonize; to harmonise; to be in harmony
パニクる; パニックる (from "panic") = to panic
バトル (from "battle") = to battle
ポニョる (from "Ponyo" cartoon character) = to get flabby, to get a gut/belly
   (I've been getting called Ponyo a lot lately...)

パクる (from German "packen" = to seize, grab, grasp) = (1) to steal; to rip off; (2) to arrest; to pinch; to nab

2. From Kanji

キョドウる = to act suspiciously (from 挙動不審 【きょどうふしん】 (n) suspicious behavior; acting suspiciously)

コクる = (from 告白する) to confess (one's love); to propose (marriage); to ask out (on a date)
キレる (v1) (sl) to get angry; to snap; to blow one's top (from 切れる 【きれる】 to cut into pieces, split, shred, burst, collapse, etc.

テンパる (v5r) to be about to blow one's fuse
This one seems to be from: 聴牌 【テンパイ】 (n,vs) "fishing" in mahjong (i.e. needing one more tile for completion) (chi: tingpai)

キョヒる  to refuse; to reject; to deny
This one is from 拒否 【きょひ】 (n,vs,adj-no) denial; veto; rejection; refusal

3. Apparently Mimetic

ポシャる = to fizzle, peter out, break down, fail, flop

てくる = to trudge (from てくてく (adv) trudgingly; going long way at steady pace)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Four-character Phrase: 官尊民卑

I came across an interesting term in a Japanese blog:

官尊民卑 【かんそんみんぴ】 (n) respecting the authorities and denigrating ordinary citizens

Even though it was new to me, it was understandable because it had the same structure as

男尊女卑 【だんそんじょひ】 (n) male domination of women; male chauvinism; subjection of women

I looked for a clear definition to get a sense of the context, nuance, etc., and came across this sentence in Wikipedia:


My translation: "Just as a subordinate follows the orders of his/her superior within an organization, there is a theory that there is tendency in Japanese society toward authoritarianism in which the citizens are compelled to obey the Military and the Bureaucracy."

OK, so based on that, I think a close translation of 官尊民卑 is statism. Here's the Wikipedia entry for statism:

Statism (or Etatism) is a term that may refer to any of the following:
Government having a major role in the direction of the economy, both through state-owned enterprises and indirectly through the central planning of overall economy.[1]
The "concentration of economic controls and planning in the hands of a highly centralized government."[2] The Fascist concept of statism which holds that "basic concept that sovereignty is vested not in the people but in the national state, and that all individuals and associations exist only to enhance the power, the prestige, and the well-being of the state. The fascist concept of statism repudiates individualsm and exalts the nation as an organic body headed by the Supreme Leader and nurtured by unity, force, and discipline."

Sounds like 官尊民卑 to me!

NB: At first I thought "dirigism" might work, but that seems limited to economic planning. Here's Wiki:

"Dirigisme (from the French) (in English also "dirigism" although per the OED both spellings are used) is an economic term designating an economy where the government exerts strong directive influence. While the term has occasionally been applied to centrally planned economies, where the government effectively controls production and allocation of resources (in particular, to certain socialist economies where the national government owns the means of production), it originally had neither of these meanings when applied to France, and generally designates a mainly capitalist economy with strong economic participation by government. Most modern economies can be characterized as dirigiste to some degree – for instance, governmental action may be exercised through subsidizing research and developing new technologies, or through government procurement, especially military (i.e. a form of mixed economy)."


I went to a birthday party on Saturday and on my way there, I realized that I left the present back at my apartment. So I learned a new word, the sound of which I love so much I can't stand it: OCCHOKOCHOI

おっちょこちょい (adj-na,n) careless person; scatterbrain; birdbrain

This one will also work:

そそっかしい (adj-i) careless; thoughtless

I wonder whether it's related to this one:

そそくさ (adv-to) (on-mim) hurriedly; in haste


I came across an interesting article about how Japanese hospitals are starting to adopt a spreading practice in the United States whereby hospitals have instituted a practice of explaining medical mistakes quickly and clearly, and apologizing. (The result seems to be fewer malpractice suits.) According to the article, there is no practice of a doctor or hospital apologizing for mistakes.

This paragraph stood out:

"In a paper published in the September 2007 issue of the medical journal Iryo Anzen (Medical Safety), Yoshimitsu Yamazaki, a physician who has obtained a law degree and is preparing for the bar exam, cited 32 court rulings that referred to apologies made to patients by medical professionals. He categorized these apologies into two types: one he termed kyokan hyomei (an expression of empathy or regret for not meeting patients' expectations); and the other sekinin shonin, which includes an admission of oversight. Courts have excluded the first type as evidence of negligence — but not the other."

Interesting distinction!

Here are the kanji for the terms:

共感 【きょうかん】 (n,vs,adj-no) sympathy; empathy; response
表明 【ひょうめい】 (n,vs) declaration; indication; representation; manifestation; demonstration; expression; announcement; assertion

責任 【せきにん】 (n) duty; responsibility
承認 【しょうにん】 (n,vs) recognition; acknowledgement; acknowledgment; approval; consent; agreement

Headline: Governor of Iwate Prefecture Prostrates Himself

This one is from 河北新報社:

岩手知事土下座し再議 無床化予算減額修正案を可決

Governor of Iwate Prefecture Prostrates Himself (to Request) Reconsideration:
(seeks) Adoption of a Proposed Amendment to (Hospital) Budget Cuts

I love this one:
土下座 【どげざ】 (n,vs) kneeling down on the ground; prostrate oneself

And 無床化 is a new one for me: literally, "no-bed-ification" along the lines of:
少子化 【しょうしか】 (n,vs) declining birth rates; decrease in the number of children
高齢化社会 【こうれいかしゃかい】 (n) aging society; ageing society

Key words:

知事 【ちじ】 (n,adj-no) prefectural governor
土下座 【どげざ】 (n,vs) kneeling down on the ground; prostrate oneself
再議 【さいぎ】 (n,vs) reconsideration; redeliberation
予算 【よさん】 (n,vs,adj-no) estimate; budget; (P); EP
減額 【げんがく】 (n,vs) reduction; diminution; abatement; (P); EP
修正案 【しゅうせいあん】 (n) proposed amendment; ED
可決 【かけつ】 (n,vs) approval; adoption (e.g. motion, bill); passage; (P); EP


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Word of the Day: Tamamushiiro

Here's a good word today that my supervisor used today to describe the multiple interpretations 解釈 (かいしゃく)of a phrase in a joint statement that was being drafted in conjunction with a foreign government. Because the phrase was so vague that it had 2 meanings that were polar opposites, he said that it was being left in to avoid confrontation on the issue. The word he used was 玉虫色 【たまむしいろ】 , which literally means "iridescent" (or "the color of a jewel beetle") but figuratively means something like "chameleonic" or "open to multiple interpretations."

Why they would choose to leave in a phrase that allows for a meaning that they know is directly contrary to the meaning intended by the other side, invariably setting up embarrassment and/or annoyance down the road when the other side realizes that what they understood to be the case is in fact not the case, is an issue that is beyond my abilities to explain.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Non-Word of the Day: "Tondemogozaimasen"

A couple weeks ago, my co-worker was talking on the phone and I overheard him say "tondemo-gozaimasen." This seemed really odd at the time, but I couldn't figure out why it was wrong. I thought "tondemonai" was an adjective that meant "absurd" and was used for expressions like "don't be silly" or "of course not"...rather than the negative form of a verb (tondemu?!?). So I guess I had put it in the box in my brain with "kudaranai" and "abunai" and "mottainai" as words that end in "nai" but aren't really negative. Was I missing something?

I asked 3 of my Japanese friends about it, and they all said that it was strange but it didn't really seem ungrammatical per se. One of them suggested that maybe it was because "tondemonai" is inherently casual, so you would never use it in keigo form. Another did some digging and discovered that, yes, it is incorrect.

So I googled "tondemogozaimasen" and came across a really good explanation on a Japanese blog of why it's wrong. I translated the post here for anyone interested:


朝日新聞に載っていたのですが、『日本語力測定試験』なるものが10月25日に全国24ヶ所で行われるのだそうです。まあこの試験の趣旨はここでは割愛させ て頂くとして、掲載されていた問題例の中に興味を引くものがあったので、ちょっと触れてみたいと思います。


●次の文は、Aさんが年上の人にちょっとした贈り物を手渡したところ、その年長者が「(略)何かお返しを(略)」といい、それに対してAさんが口にした言葉で ある。そのなかで敬語の使い方としてまちがっているのはどれか。

①とんでもないことです。 ②とんでもありません。 ③とんでもございません。 ④とんでもない。

On October 25 in 24 places around the country, something called the "Japanese Diagnostic Test" was printed in the Asahi Shimbun. If you'll allow me to dispense with discussing the object of the test here, I think I'll mention something briefly regarding one of the questions included in the test that may be of some interest. I'll quote it here:

In the following sentence,
A has just given a small gift to someone older than him. The older person says "(omitted) how can I repay you{r kindness}? (omitted)", to which A replies _____.
Which of the following expressions is an incorrect usage of the keigo form?

① Tondemonai koto desu.
② Tondemo arimasen.
③ Tondemo gozaimasen.
④ Tondemonai.
(end quote)
 答えは当然の事ながら③の「とんでもございません。」ですが、これって何の抵抗もなく使っている人が多いのではないでしょうか? 新聞には解答だけで、解説 は何も載っていなかったので、お節介にもちょっとここで説明しておきますと、これは敬語として云々という問題ではなくて、こんな日本語は存在しないという根本 的な問題なんですよね。「とんでもない」というのは一語で形容詞ですから、この場合の「ない」は、「くだらない」とか「つまらない」とか「切ない」の「な い」と同じなわけです。つまり、「とんでもございません」というのは、「くだらございません」とか「つまらございません」とか「切なございません」というのと 同じレベルの事なのです。

The answer is of course (3) "tondemo gozaimasen" but aren't there lots of people who use this expression without raising an eyebrow? The newspaper only gave the solution, but didn't print any commentary to explain it. So even though it's being a bit officious, I'll give a brief explanation here, as this isn't just an issue of keigo usage, this is a fundamental issue about something that simply doesn't exist in Japanese. "Tondemonai" is a one-word adjective and, as such, the "-nai" at the end of the word is the same as in 切ない {【せつない】 (adj-i) (1) painful; heartrending; trying; (2) oppressive; suffocating; miserable} or 下らない 【くだらない】 {(adj-i) (uk) good-for-nothing; stupid; trivial; worthless}. That is, saying "tondemo-gozaimasen" would be on the same level as saying "kudara-gozaimasen" or "tsumara-gozaimasen" or "setsu-gozaimasen."

 「とんでもございません」はもちろん、文法的には「とんでもありません」も間違いです。先の問題例では「とんでもありません」は間違いではない事になってい ましたが、「敬語の使い方」で間違っているものを選ぶ問題だったからなのか、あるいは日常語として普通に使われる言い回しなので良しとしているのか分かりませ んが、厳密には間違いです。これも同様に形容詞ですし、しかも「とんでもない」の「ない」は否定・打ち消しの意味ではなくて「甚し(なし=はなはだしい)」の 意味ですからね。それが証拠に「とんでもない事」と「とんだ事」は同じ意味ですよね。
Of course ""tondemo-gozaimasen" is as gramatically wrong as "tondemo arimasen." In the question above "tondemo arimasen" is wrong, but it isn't an incorrect usage of keigo, as the question asked to be selected. In other words, although it's not clear whether it's an expression ordinarily used as a colloquialism, strictly speaking it's incorrect. By the same token, the "nai" in "tondemonai" is not a negative, but an intensifier. As evidence, compare the meaning of "tondemonai" with that of "tonda" とんだ (adj-pn) (1) unthinkable; unimaginable; inconceivable; unexpected; (2) terrible; awful; serious; (adv) (3) (arch) very.


OK, me again. So how *do* you say "tondemonai" in keigo? According to the Kotoba Ojisan, you can say:

"tondemonai koto desu" or "tondemonai koto de gozaimasu."