kichi kichi!
April 3, 2003 7:44 PM   Subscribe

Japanese Sound Effects and what they mean. Spotted on Gen Kanai's blog: this rather comprehensive list of sound-effect words from manga - the Japanese equivalent of BAM! WAP!, OOF! (and possibly even D'OH!), but covering a wider range of social and emotional terrain. Lest you surmise that these are more or less arbitrary, I "tested" ten or so on my fiancee and found that she knew every single one. Aaaa!
posted by adamgreenfield (12 comments total)
piri piri = sharp sensation, as of pain, electricity, spiciness. Can be the sharpness or electricity of a glare.

Hmm...I wonder where that came from. Great fun - and a lot of semantic onamatopeic pondering to be had. Thanks, Greenfield!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:00 PM on April 3, 2003

Yeah I like the trend lately of translated manga leaving the sound effects "as is"... especially the Tokyo Pop volumes. I recall seeing the sound of duct tape being pulled described somewhere but it's not on the list.
posted by bobo123 at 8:05 PM on April 3, 2003

An excellent resource! I find these words one of the most interesting aspects of the Japanese language, and of manga in particular.

My own theory is that since Japanese has a purely phonetic writing system at its disposal, these onamatopoeic words are more numerous and varied, and feel less unnatural than in a language like English, that just has an alphabet. In English, the pronounciation of a letter varies depending on the word it's in, so we tend to process whole words as a unit, and expect them to have a meaning, whereas in Japanese there are characters that represent just a sound, with no other meaning. The language lends itself to this kind of word, whereas in English we have ended up with a much more limited vocabulary, which still feels a bit strained/over-the-top ('oof', 'bam' all feel very Batman to me).

bobo: When you say they leave them 'as is', what do you mean exactly? [I've been making some fan manga translations recently (with my very-amateur-Japanese), and I decided to just render them phonetically in English, and then provide a 'translation' in the margin where necessary.] What are the professionals doing these days?
posted by chrismear at 8:20 PM on April 3, 2003

'oof', 'bam' all feel very Batman to me

Entirely intentional, I can assure you. Lime-green cut out letters & Adam West!
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:47 PM on April 3, 2003

[this is good]
posted by headspace at 9:05 PM on April 3, 2003

What are the professionals doing these days?

Well, Raijin Comics, Shonen Jump and Tokyo Pop just leave the katakana in there, and they don't flip the art left-right so it looks the same as the Japanese. They'll explain a few of the sound effects in the back but don't bother to give explanations for everything.

I remember some publishers labouriously redrawing all the sound effects in the 'oof' 'bam' style (Ogre Slayer particularly) which I thought was a bit of a waste of effort when you can sort of guess what the sound is supposed to be like anyway.

Fascinating, in that a lot of these sound effects aren't even really 'sounds', like コちょク (kochoku) for being paralyzed, or ギロ (piro) for staring.
posted by bobo123 at 11:03 PM on April 3, 2003

good link adam...I hear many of these sounds in my Japanese studies. One that seems to be missing from the list is "pome, pome" (deep bass drum sound) while gently patting one's tummy to indicate a full content belly.

I'm going to print this off for my class!
posted by vito90 at 6:06 AM on April 4, 2003

Since Gen is a MeFite, you might want to actually link to him:
Gen Kanai weblog. And here's the actual entry:
Japanese sound effects

Some of these I've known for a long time. Some of these I've never seen in manga. Ergo, must read more manga :)

Japanese Sound effects and what they mean

via languagehat's blog
Posted by gen at March 26, 2003 06:21 PM
(And here's where he got it from.)
posted by languagehat at 8:17 AM on April 4, 2003

A friend of mine who's much more into manga than I am told me once that there's a specific word for the sound of a bra being undone. Didn't see it on this list, though. %)
posted by kindall at 8:24 AM on April 4, 2003

Great link, thanks.

Favorite attempt to capture the feeling of a manga sound effect in English to date:


This from Sarah Dyer's adaptation of Kodocha #1 (Tokyo Pop) where meek Tsuyoshi transforms into a comic berserker in response to classmates teasing him about his mom. One wonders if we're witnessing the genesis of a new vocabulary for effects in comics... wouldn't THAT be neat?
posted by mumbletiger at 8:28 AM on April 4, 2003

This thread is missing my favorite word.


posted by wrench at 10:23 AM on April 4, 2003

Similarly, does any one have a reference for various visual clues. Things like the very animeish giant-teardrop on the forehead, or various exclamations and facial expressions?
posted by mkn at 12:36 PM on April 4, 2003

« Older Firefighters   |   rocket starchaser Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments