Apr
28
2013

Japanese Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia. That’s a big scary term with a much less daunting meaning: any word that mimics a sound. In English, onomatopoeia consists of words like “boom”, “pop”, and “cock-a-doodle-do”.

Of course, Japanese also has onomatopoeia (which they call 擬態語 : ぎたいご). They have LOTS of it…

Japanese Onomatopoeia
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Dec
08
2012

36 Cool and Obscure Words (WOTD Roundup)

For the last month or so, (almost) every day, I’ve been posting a #Japanese #WOTD on Twitter. Since information on twitter is quickly buried, I’ll leave a record here for the sake of data permanence…

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Jul
03
2012

Saying “You” in Japanese

Saying “you” in Japanese is much trickier business than in English. In English, we have just the one word, and we use it all the time. Japanese has a much broader vocabulary, but also a strong tendency to avoid using it.

Saying “You” in Japanese
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Jul
04
2010

Japanese vocabulary: crime words

Japan is one of the safest countries in the world, but not without its share of problems. Mostly, these problems amount to stolen bicycles and umbrellas (I had my own bicycle stolen last fall). Recently I played through 龍が如く3 (English title: Yakuza 3) on Playstation 3, so I had a chance to polish my crime vocabulary a little bit. Here’s a list of crime-related words which may or may not have been found in the game.

Japanese vocabulary: crime words
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May
23
2010

7 polite phrases foreigners aren’t supposed to know

One of the joys of learning Japanese is seeing that shocked and dumbfounded look on native speakers’ faces when you fire off a difficult word or phrase that even they probably wouldn’t have come up with. You get to smile snobbishly and think to yourself: Ha! you didn’t see THAT coming, did you!?

7 polite phrases foreigners aren’t supposed to know
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Apr
17
2010

Nihonshock’s new vocab section

Following on yesterday’s graphical tweak of the site, I’ve added a new feature: Vocabulary.

These are basically short posts (just a paragraph or so) about a specific Japanese word that I thought was either interesting or worth talking about. The words included will (for the most part) be…

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Feb
17
2010

Japanese words for age

You may already know that Japan has the world’s longest life expectancy. But did you know that Japanese are also the most well prepared for their longevity with a vast array of special words for different ages? Although many (umm, almost all?) of these words are not commonly used, they’re still fun to know. And you never know what’s going to come up on a Japanese game show or in your izakaya parties. Here’s the list!

Japanese words for age
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Nov
28
2009

The many ways to say “I”

One of the many unique and intriguing features of Japanese is the vast selection of words you have available to choose from when you want to say “I.”Each of these words has a different connotation reflecting the speaker’s view of his/herself and relationship to the listener.

For this article, I’m introduce to you my personal collection of “I” words that I’ve encountered here in Japan (even if I’ve only seen them once or twice in obscure contexts). Hopefully, this list will help to prepare you for your own Japanese adventures.

The many ways to say “I”
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Nov
10
2009

Vocab power: stop saying “totemo”

Totemo means “very” in Japanese, also sometimes pronounced とっても/tottemo with a kicked “t” for added emphasis. Because it is so easy to pronounce, so broad in meaning and so simple in grammar, it is one of the most useful words in the Japanese language. “Power-words” like totemo great for speed-learning, and non-Japanese pick up on these words with unparalleled ease… However, all too often those learners end up clinging to these words to a far greater degree than they should and for a much longer time than they should…

Vocab power: stop saying “totemo”
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Oct
31
2009

Katakana Mysteries: 7 lucky loan words

In the first chapter of Katakana mysteries, I covered a few words whose Japanese meaning has by one path or another become quite different from their English ancestors. This time, I’ve rounded up 7 more words/phrases that are interesting for the opposite reason: their accuracy. You probably wouldn’t have expected these underdogs of English to even become loanwords at all, much less to have survived the Japanese translation gauntlet intact…

Katakana Mysteries: 7 lucky loan words
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