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Unrelenting Swearword Missionary
June 23, 2014 11:54 AM   Subscribe

Chris Broad bought up a bunch of copies of a Japanese book called 正しいFUCKの使い方 (How to Use "Fuck" Correctly) and proceeded to introduce it to some locals.
posted by gman (58 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Reminds me of the classic: How to use the word "FUCK"
posted by kmz at 12:05 PM on June 23


THIS IS AMAZING, I HAVE A RICTUS-LIKE GRIN ON MY FACE.

But seriously, correct deployment of profanity is a significant part of fluency and encompasses all sorts of interesting problems in language usage and pedagogy.
posted by Sokka shot first at 12:09 PM on June 23 [4 favorites]


hahaha this video is so great
posted by rebent at 12:12 PM on June 23


Who wants to begin fermenting some Fuck's Sake?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 12:14 PM on June 23 [7 favorites]


"Hitler, you fucking bastard!"
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 12:15 PM on June 23


Wait. It's fuckable means It's possible?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:22 PM on June 23


Japanese is an interesting language because there are no taboo words. There are words that can be inappropriate in certain situations, or words that indicate disrespect for the listener, but there are no combinations of syllables that have been deemed intrinsically objectionable.

Take the word 貴様 ("kisama"). It literally has no definition other than "you," and in fact is a very polite formulation. And yet, the only way to translate it into English while keeping its connotations intact is as "you fucking bastard."
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:28 PM on June 23 [5 favorites]


Is it possible to buy this in the U.S? Or to buy through the Japanese Amazon store?? My wife would LOVE this. (She can speak and write Japanese)
posted by Twain Device at 12:33 PM on June 23


Take the word 貴様 ("kisama"). It literally has no definition other than "you," and in fact is a very polite formulation. And yet, the only way to translate it into English while keeping its connotations intact is as "you fucking bastard."

Well, bless your heart.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:37 PM on June 23 [15 favorites]


It's relatively easy to buy things through the Japanese Amazon store if you read Japanese. Shipping charges are brutal. Easier, probably, to order from Kinokuniya.
posted by Jeanne at 12:38 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


Well, bless your heart.

Aren't you a dear?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:49 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


I'm crying tears.
Thanks.

Japanese people are fucking kawaii when it comes to swear words.
posted by bigendian at 12:57 PM on June 23


Expecting to see some schmuck teaching unsuspecting Japanese folk how to say the word "fuck," I came away thinking it was awesome, notably the young woman trying to master "shit a brick."

As for Japanese coarse language, as mentioned above it doesn't really exist. The way people say "fuck you" would be "shine, omae" (she-ney, o-mah-eh), which means "die." You could also say "korosu" which means "I will kill you." Not very pleasant to hear those coming from recalcitrant junior high school boys.

In terms of actual taboo words, the two words I see non-Japanese speakers using the most which I wish they wouldn't are "yakuza" and "burakumin." I have never encountered either word in Japanese language outside of a book.

"Yakuza" really is a frightful word, and the term "boryokudan" ("a group that uses violence as a means to achieve its goals") is used in the media instead. Japan is a nation of small businesses and shop owners, and the mafia really has, until the last 25 years or so, held a lot of sway.

Saying the word "yakuza" really conjures up all sorts of fearful images (calling something "scary" in Japanese is one of the worst ways to describe something), so even in English I tend to use "mafia" or "organized crime."

"Burakumin" is the term for the former untouchable caste. Once again, I have heard non-Japanese speakers use the term in conversation, which can be pretty shocking. The term "dowa" is generally somewhat more acceptable.

Anyway, great post!
posted by KokuRyu at 1:22 PM on June 23 [12 favorites]


Hilarious. I have done many such lessons with my Japanese friends. And to add on to what's been said, Japanese doesn't have any swear words because, instead, there's several politeness levels in speech, especially with the word "you." In many European languages there is the polite form of "you," but English dropped it's casual form ("thee, thou") a while back so there is only one word for everyone.

In Japanese, there are a lot of words for "you"; I can think of at least 6, although I think there are even more. Omae for instance can be completely innocuous and mean simply "you" or "dude" when talking with your friends. Say the same word to your boss or teacher and it's the equivalent of "motherfucker." Who says what to whom is key--it's all about context. So with that, there's not need for swear words. Or, I should say there's one--baka, which means stupid. Which can be used jokingly or out of anger--much like shit and fuck--but it's really the only Japanese insult word out there.
posted by zardoz at 2:23 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


> Japanese is an interesting language because there are no taboo words. There are words that can be inappropriate in certain situations, or words that indicate disrespect for the listener, but there are no combinations of syllables that have been deemed intrinsically objectionable.

> As for Japanese coarse language, as mentioned above it doesn't really exist.

> And to add on to what's been said, Japanese doesn't have any swear words

Wrong, wrong, and wrong! Y'all need to get a copy of Peter Constantine's Japanese Street Slang. From the Foreword:
Japanese dictionary makers have given no more than sporadic coverage to the numerous words that are generally regarded as impolite or vulgar, and have thereby helped to foster the widely held misconception that Japanese is deficient in those important areas of vocabulary. Japanese Street Slang will leave no doubt in any reader's mind that Japanese is as rich as any European language in words that refer raunchily to all known forms of sexual activity, that refer contemptuously to mental, moral, anatomical, and physiological shortcomings of other persons [...]

Much of both the value and the fun of Japanese Street Slang comes from Constantine's extremely apt English translations, which reproduce with remarkable accuracy not only the content of each Japanese example but the connotations of nonchalance, flippancy, annoyance, anger, or disgust that are apparent in it. It is a shame that earlier dictionaries did not have on their staffs a writer/translator with Constantine's formidable skill at conveying the "register" of a translated example; perhaps then the 1927 edition of Kenkyusha's Japanese-English Dictionary would have translated Kuso demo kue not as "A fig for you" but as the far more accurate "Go fuck yourself."
It ain't all about politeness registers and pronouns.
posted by languagehat at 2:42 PM on June 23 [3 favorites]


languagehat, the one star reviews of that book had this to say:

"My Japanese friends laughed very hard as they told me 80% of this book contained words they had never heard of, and even speculated were made up. This book contains outdated or outright incorrect Japanese, and should not be picked up by anybody hoping to speak actual, real Japanese. Ever."

and

"When I read this book seven years ago and tried to use some of the new words I learned on some Japanese friends of mine, the only reactions I got were blank stares. I showed them the book and the words, and they still had no idea what I was talking about. I highly suggest staying away from this book...."

But I will amend my statement to add that there is, actually, at least one more bad word--kuso, or shit.
posted by zardoz at 2:51 PM on June 23 [3 favorites]


Unrelenting Swearword Missionary

God damn it. Now I have to start a band, because this absolutely has to be the name of our first album.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:56 PM on June 23


languagehat, perhaps you're thinking of "cant" as slang, rather than cusswords?

I get what you're saying, but there is not really a word for "fuck" per se. I mean, I guess "yaru" is pretty close (ie, "to fuck someone") and there are all sorts of sexual terms that are used in pornography, but using sexual swearwords when out with mates is kind of gross.

And every niche subculture from truckdriving to carpentry has its own slang, but you're not going to hear people saying "abso-fucking-lutely."

It's all about "register" or "politeness levels" in speech.

My wife taught me to swear; we speak Osaka-ben in the home
posted by KokuRyu at 3:29 PM on June 23


"Kuso" doesn't even have as harsh-sounding a feeling as "shit." It's more like "damn" or "crap."
posted by KokuRyu at 3:34 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


Okay, the problem is really what, exactly, is meant by "swear word". Saying "kuso" is a swear word seems to me ridiculous. That's like saying "poop" is a swear word. No, it ain't "all about politeness registers and pronouns", but a hell of a lot of it is about context. If we're playing "come up with as many words that start with ku as you can!", and my 5 year old says "kuso", there's no problem. If I tell him to clean his room and he calls me "kusojiji", we have a problem.

I've thought about this before in the past, and while the technical definition may differ, I think for the man on the street it really comes down to "is there any context where a kid can say it to their parent and have it not be a problem". Like, when I was a kid, if some big kid picked on me and said, "Dumb ass motherfucker", and I went crying home, and my parents asked me what happened, I would say, "Some mean big kid called me a dumb a-word mother f-word". I couldn't actually bring myself to say "motherfucker" in front of my parents. Not because they would get mad, but because it is, context independent, an absolutely "bad word".

In that sense, which is what I thing regular people mean by "profanity", Japan has very little. But it does have it! The two that immediately pop to mind are 1) the specific word "manko" ("cunt"), and 2) a whole category: racist and discriminatory words like "chon" or "eta".
posted by Bugbread at 3:40 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


Well done, Grasshopper.
You are now ready for Deadwood Season I.

(That was ridiculously charming to watch.)
posted by uosuaq at 4:05 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


Well said, bugbread; I was thinking about "kuso" as another example. Japanese, like English, has lots of words that denote the same stuff: "Baba" and "unchi" are child words, like "doodoo." "Unko" is less childish, and more like "poop." "Fun" is closer to "turd" (and is for animal droppings only, not human) and "daiben" is the most formal, like "feces." Somewhere in the middle you find "kuso," which is probably closest to "crap." It's informal, but it's not naughty. It's not a word that would drive a nine-year-old into taboo giggling fits, and nobody would wash out a child's mouth with soap for using it (unless it's directly insulting, of course, as bugbread said).

Japanese has no word for "shit."
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:17 PM on June 23


Hey, don't forget about "appa".
posted by KokuRyu at 4:24 PM on June 23


I had a friend who came from a (large) German Roman Catholic family in Cincinatti. It was funny, he grew up dirt poor (his parents had no car and would take 8 kids on the bus to Mass) and would occasionally remark how glad he was to have "escaped Cinci" by getting a job on the JET Programme in Japan. He still lives in Kyoto.

Anyway, one time I used the word "motherfucker" in conversation, and he said menacingly, "Whose mother are you fucking?"

His take on the word motherfucker was that it was disrespectful to both his own mom, to women in general, and to the Virgin Mary. Only time I ever heard anyone say that.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:28 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


So languagehat was wrong?
posted by futz at 5:07 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


I would say "languagehat was overstating his case, in response to people overstating their cases".

One issue may be that people are using various terms ("swear words", "profanity", "coarse language", "taboo words") that, to a linguist, may have very different meanings.

Another issue is what we're really talking about when we say a language has "many words" for something. Like, if a language has 5000 offensive words for "shit", but the average speaker of the language only knows one of them, does the language have "many" words (because a large number of words exist), or "few" words (because native speakers only know a few of them)?

From my experience, I would just say "there are very few words generally known in the Japanese language which native English speakers would consider analogous to English words like 'fuck', 'shit', 'asshole', and the like".
posted by Bugbread at 5:19 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


> there is not really a word for "fuck" per se.

I didn't say there was.

> I would say "languagehat was overstating his case, in response to people overstating their cases".

Exactly!

> But I will amend my statement to add that there is, actually, at least one more bad word--kuso, or shit.

What about chikusho?
posted by languagehat at 5:27 PM on June 23


It ain't all about politeness registers and pronouns.

Oh but much of it is. Hey let me show you an old video I put on my blog, I'm getting my site's old videos running again. I call this story The Old Man and the War Against the Trees. The cranky old guy curses out the city officials who speak to him in a very polite and deferential way. The clash of politeness levels is almost comical, but probably only of interest to students of the language.

My favorite keigo book is called "Minimum Essential Politeness" and that is a pretty fair description of Japanese language politenesses and social customs. If you are rude to people, it is a statement that they are far beneath you. And then there is the rudeness of speaking inappropriately, mockingly, at very high levels of respect language.. darn it I used to know the Japanese word for that.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:28 PM on June 23


Also:

"perhaps then the 1927 edition of Kenkyusha's Japanese-English Dictionary would have translated Kuso demo kue not as "A fig for you" but as the far more accurate "Go fuck yourself."

I'm not real fond of literal translations, but this is one case where I think a (close to) literal translation would be totally fine, so I don't get why they went with "go fuck yourself" instead of the (close to) literal "eat shit".
posted by Bugbread at 5:29 PM on June 23


languagehat: "What about chikusho?"

Nah. Again, it's a context thing, and I can imagine "chikusho" being used in really offensive words, but I can also imagine a bunch of first graders in a park, gathered around a Nintendo DS, and the kid playing the game shouting "chikusho!" when he loses a match, and absolutely none of the nearby parents batting an eye.
posted by Bugbread at 5:31 PM on June 23


What about chikusho?

Doesn't that literally mean "beast of burden"? It's more like "rats" or "damn!"

Or, I guess, faaaaaack.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:39 PM on June 23


BTW, this isn't about languagehat or anyone else being "wrong". It's just a discussion. Part of the fun of discussing things is that people that know something about a subject (in this case Japanese) sometimes have different points of view.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:41 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


I think futz was just having fun with the fact that languagehat's entry to the conversation was "Wrong, wrong, and wrong!"
posted by Bugbread at 5:43 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


I dunno, this may be an oversimplication, but my experience with Japanese folks is (schoolroom and workplace bullying aside, such as the going-on's at Tokyo municipal assembly), these days it's a very "gentle", less fighty, testosterone-fueled culture than that of North America, and the language reflects that.

On the other hand, I have always avoided the macho posturing that is pretty common in Japan, notably refraining from using "ore", which sounds absolutely idiotic when used by any male over the age of, say, 25.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:50 PM on June 23


KokuRyu: "notably refraining from using "ore", which sounds absolutely idiotic when used by any male over the age of, say, 25."

...? Maybe that's a Tohoku thing? What word do you hear guys over 25 saying to refer to themselves? My friends are mostly in their late 30s, not macho posturing guys at all, and I'm having a hard time imagining them saying anything other than "ore". I think one guy says "jibun". Maaaaybe one guy says "boku". But the rest is all "ore".
posted by Bugbread at 5:58 PM on June 23


SON OF BITCH

SHIT

posted by blue t-shirt at 7:08 PM on June 23


Hey, don't forget about "appa".

I'm not sure if you meant this as a joke, but I had to go look that word up just now. I speak hyojungo and have never heard this being used.
posted by misozaki at 8:53 PM on June 23


...? Maybe that's a Tohoku thing?

I live just north of Kansai (in Kinki), so the equivalent is "wai." I just use "boku," though (or my own name, "Nevin" instead of a personal pronoun). "Ore" makes you sound like an elementary school student.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:03 PM on June 23


I'm not sure if you meant this as a joke, but I had to go look that word up just now. I speak hyojungo and have never heard this being used.

Local dialect (Tsuruga) for "shit" or "kuso."
posted by KokuRyu at 9:03 PM on June 23


I think one guy says "jibun".

Interestingly, in Tsuruga and Wakasa, "jibun" means "you." I lived in Hitachi in Ibaraki for a while when I was first learning Japanese from friends in Tsuruga, and didn't know there was a regional difference, so it was confusing.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:05 PM on June 23


One last post, and I will shut up, but Tsuruga dialect strongly resembles a rougher form of Osaka dialect. Even Shiga just to the south has a milder Kansai accent. Obama, to the west of Tsuruga, has a variant of Kyoto dialect. Go over the mountains to Fukui proper, and it sounds like Tohoku dialect (Fukui dialect, as opposed to Tsuruga dialect, is a true regional outlier). Ishikawa (Kaga, not Noto) reverts to a more or less a western accent.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:08 PM on June 23


Take the word 貴様 ("kisama"). It literally has no definition other than "you," and in fact is a very polite formulation. And yet, the only way to translate it into English while keeping its connotations intact is as "you fucking bastard."

Wow, so the second character there is even "sama"?
posted by XMLicious at 9:09 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


Actually, come to think of it, I've wanted to ask native speakers about the use of fuck as an expletive for a while now. I've lived in Japan for so long and have no close friends who are native speakers... maybe I should just go read this book. This is going to sound so dumb, but does the "average" person really use fuck in conversation so much like in the movies and on TV? Holy fuck, fucking this, fucking that... When I was in university, which was a quarter of a century ago (fuck!), I'd hardly ever heard any of my friends use it. Has the prevalence changed over the years, or did I just have really polite friends?

Though I suppose the answer is "it depends."

On preview, don't shut up, KokuRyu. There are huge regional differences and that's fascinating.
posted by misozaki at 9:18 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


XMLicious, yes, because kisama used to be equal to anata-sama あなた様 a long long time ago, but not too many people know that today.
posted by misozaki at 9:22 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


KokuRyu: "I just use "boku," though (or my own name, "Nevin" instead of a personal pronoun)."

This has got to be an east/west thing, then, because using your own name instead of a personal pronoun is a super-super burikko thing here. I can't even imagine an adult male doing it, regardless of how macho or non-macho they are, with the exception of maybe someone with an extremely-flamboyant-gay character.

misozaki: "This is going to sound so dumb, but does the "average" person really use fuck in conversation so much like in the movies and on TV? Holy fuck, fucking this, fucking that."

As you guessed, it depends on the person, and on the TV show/movie you're thinking of. People don't curse like you'd hear in a movie based on a David Mamet play, or like a Tarantino movie — those are outliers. But, overall, when I watch movies, I usually don't find the profanity jarringly out of place, either. But keep in mind that the majority of movies are about people in some kind of tense situation, so the amount of "fuck" is probably realistic for those situations, but in real life those situations don't happen as often.
posted by Bugbread at 9:26 PM on June 23


I knew one extremely religious person who grew up in a northeastern U.S. culture which used "fuck" constantly in everyday speech, to the point that she seemed genuinely worried that her difficulty suppressing the reflexive use of it was imperilling her mortal soul. (It may partly have been a class thing too that caused worry and shame, in addition to religion-related taboo.)
posted by XMLicious at 9:40 PM on June 23


Thanks, I guessed as much. I'm kind of also wondering about the tone as well, especially when it's used for emphasis ("fucking A!" "abso-fucking-lutely!"). The people who say things like this between friends probably wouldn't say them in front of their parents?
posted by misozaki at 9:43 PM on June 23


I'm turning 40 this year. I think I've said the word "fuck" in front of my parents maaaaybe 3 times in my life. When I meet up with English-speaking friends, I'll say it at least once during the course of the evening, though that number could increase significantly if I'm talking about something terrible ("so my neighbor starts blaring music at 7 in the fucking morning!", etc.) or wonderful ("I went to see blahblahblah in concert last week. It was fucking amazing!", etc.)
posted by Bugbread at 9:47 PM on June 23


I guess this is where I confess that I've never once used "fuck" IRL, ever. What that says about me, I don't know... Also, this is probably the first time I've written it so much in one go, too! Wheee!
posted by misozaki at 9:49 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


XMLicious, that's interesting. So there still is a sense of taboo in using it, at least for some.

I think part of the reason why I don't use words like fuck and shit is because being a speaker of English as a second language, it makes me look like I'm trying too hard.
posted by misozaki at 9:57 PM on June 23


I have a French friend who misuses "fuck" and "shit" in pragmatically weird ways in English all the time and it is hilarious.

My favourite is a phrase he uses often with no awareness that it is incorrect:

"What the shit is this fuck?"
posted by lollusc at 2:22 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


As another data point:

- live in Tokyo, married to Japanese woman from Ibaraki, so maybe there are regional differences I'm discounting.

- In contrast to Kokuryu, I use "ore" regularly at age 38, and most of my male Japanese friends and acquaintances do as well in informal situations, and at my last job in a Japanese company pretty much everyone at higher positions used it, depending on context of course. I use "boku" or "watashi" when I'm with officials, shopkeepers, other folks I don't know or older people, although I slip and use "ore" all the time with my mother-in-law and she doesn't bat an eyelash, and wife told me it's normal (whew). Kokuryu, maybe this is a Kansai/Kantou difference?

- compared to the U.S. at least (at least in my experience in Kantou with folks roughly 25-45) there doesn't seem to be the kind of pervasive casual swearing in Japanese that we are familiar with. There just isn't the same kind of always saying--very lightly--"fucking , goddamnit, shit..." etc.

I think the alternative is what other folks have talked about which is placing yourself at a certain position or class, I guess, by your tone, the choices of conjugations you use and whatnot.

So it's not that you can't be more or less rude in Japanese or English--it's just that words with the visceral effect like "fuck" don't exist in the same way, in my experience. But you can provoke that same visceral effect by talking down to someone using the wrong language.

I think part of the reason why I don't use words like fuck and shit is because being a speaker of English as a second language, it makes me look like I'm trying too hard.

misozaki, I know what you mean. There are some Japanese phrases that are fun to say (like random stuff from Yakuza flicks ("この野郎!")), and I know some Japanese dudes who can talk that way and it sounds natural, but I just end up sounding like I'm trying too hard. So I don't bother. But it's good to understand, I suppose, as the guy in this video says to the the older gentleman regarding "fuck," toward the end.

posted by dubitable at 4:08 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


This topic is so much fun.
I used to be known among my Japanese friends as this saint-like person who never got upset and faced any and all situations with a calm and polite (verbal) reaction. The truth was of course that I just didn't know what words or phrasings corresponded to which level of affect; and chose therefore to always go with words from the academic-aloof register. I like believe that I'm more versatile these days.

I do wish someone would write a proper version of the book languagehat referred to though. But I suspect it would be less of phrasebook and more of a pronunciation manual, with examples like:
sore wa kore to chigau daro = These are separate issues, you must see that.
sorre wa korre to chigau darro = That has not a fucking thing to do with this, moron.
etc.

(Plus, of course, instruction in the proper way to talk down etc.)
posted by AxelT at 5:53 AM on June 24


I bought the book a couple of weeks ago for Mrs. Ghidorah. It's cute, and it gets into more than just the word fuck, but it's got a couple of errors here and there, for example, it says the proper way to insert fuck into delicious is "deli-fucking-licious" which is just wro-fucking-ong.

Other than a couple spots, though, the book is pretty good, and Mrs. Ghidorah's been swearing a lot more recently.

The thing I always tried to explain to my junior high and high school students when they found out about these words (I'd usually hear the second year jh kids shouting them in the halls, though sometimes there'd be a precocious first year) is that a really good way to describe "dirty language" is by calling it by its other name, fighting words. I told them I knew words that were bad in Japanese (there really aren't many, it's mostly a situational thing about which words are acceptable in what setting), but that I avoid using them exactly because I'm not knowledgable about the appropriate times. I told them, bluntly, that by running around screaming 'fuck' in the hallway, or flipping each other the bird in the middle of class in front of the English teacher, that they were pretty fucking far from figuring that part out, too. Given that their third year capstone was a trip to England, being in the habit of tossing out random swear words without knowing how or when to use them would be a bad thing.

On the other hand, I love the book, and books like it.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:49 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


This has got to be an east/west thing

I was indeed thinking that a lot of the take on language on this thread is very "Tokyo," and Kansai/Osaka dialect is another animal entirely. Indeed, Kansai dialect is perceived in popular culture to be shockingly rough, but on the other hand even the polite registers of Kansai dialect feel more informal, warm and friendly than hyojungo.

My take on things may also be coloured by the fact that I have lived in inaka (Noto, Toyama, small-town Fukui), and when I did work in a professional environment (as opposed to working as a translator and copywriter nowadays) I worked in the schools, where teachers use dialect with the kids (since so many kids in elementary school in rural Japan cannot easily understand polite standard Japanese).

So it may also be "ruralisms."
posted by KokuRyu at 9:40 AM on June 24


I was thinking about the way I say "I" in Japanese (eg, how I strenuously avoid macho posturing and the word "ore") and realized that to some extent my use of a personal pronoun depends (quite naturally) on who I am talking to. With close friends you can say whatever you like; with friendly acquaintances and friendly strangers, though, there is more of a "schtick" involved, where I am trying to break down the "omigawd, a foreigner" thing and make a real connection, and I do this by speaking in dialect, which is much more comfortable for me, since my wife and her family and all my friends speak it, and it is how I learned Japanese in the first place.

So here is the hierarchy of "I":

Formal settings (people I don't know): Watakushi
Workplace: Watakushi, Watashi
In-laws (SIL, BIL, MIL): Boku
Wife: Nevin (my name)
Friends: Nevin, Washi, Boku
Friendly acquaintances and friendly strangers: Washi, Wai
Children (in the past students, these days, my son's friends): Washi, Nevin
posted by KokuRyu at 2:39 PM on June 24


As a long-time Tokyo resident speaking hyojungo, I definitely default to "ore" in casual situations (as do quite a few of my Kansai/Shikoku friends, come to think of it). In more formal situations, however, I switch between "watashi/watakushi" and "boku". I'm pretty certain this is standard use here in the shutoken. Jibun is not a word really used either for oneself or the person one is speaking to, except as a reflexive pronoun ("jibun de yaru", etc.).

Oh, and on the topic of words stronger than "kuso", there's the always popular "kusottare", which doesn't really mean "shit" in the fecal sense but rather in the sense of "you are such a shithead/asshole/etc." It's considered quite strong in Kanto.

One thing I've always found interesting is the different nuances of "aho" and "baka" ("fool") in western vs. eastern Japan. In Kanto, baka is less strong than aho, while the opposite is true in Kansai.
posted by armage at 5:49 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


So true (aho vs baka). Yes, people use "ore" in Fukui, but I dunno... I just don't like it. Whatever!

By the way, my family and I were discussing this thread at the dinner table tonight, and my son was like "you could always say kusottare, that's pretty bad!" There is also the awesome usage of the suffix in ahondare.

Kind of straying from cusswords, and going into outright insults, but I always thought it was funny that one of the worst things you could say about someone was that they have short legs.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:11 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


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