Posts Tagged “talk about talking”

Miku Hatsune and Teto Kasane.

A very common bit of urban information, in the manner of "yeah, now that you mention it" without formal research done on the subject, is that when a person above the age of infancy or early childhood encounters an unfamiliar language, especially when introduced to that language by a friend of some fluency, the first words they will inquire about are the usuals necessary for a brief tour of the country of origin: "hallo", "goodbye", "yes" and "no", "how much is that", "where is the washroom", so on and so forth.

The next words they will inquire about, or sometimes even before the practical ones, are the insults.

"Baka", normally translated to "stupid", is an unusually familiar term among anime fans. I'm not sure why; perhaps it's just a very popular line in anime of the sort often watched as gateway shows. An entire generation of anime fans will remember, with about the same feelings of reminiscence and irritation as a Monty Python fan would to exclamations of "Ni!", the cries of "Ranma no baka!" from Akane Tsundere Tendo.

It is something that has spread to the mainstream, inasmuch as the subculture of anime fans has a mainstream. And once it is in the mainstream, it is limp, watered-down, bereft of passion and vigour. A thing of mundane utility, fascinating to those who had never encountered it before, but treated with the contempt bred from familiarity by those who claim to be "more experienced". Use it too often, they say, and you will wear it out.

Other words seem to have had the same treatment. "Neko" is a common one, since catgirls appear to be fairly popular in anime (so I say, as I queue Mayoi Neko Overrun in my to-watch-this-season list), to the point where I hear the word has been appropriated by another subculture to indicate… you know, I'm not sure, but I remember it placed a far greater significance on the word than merely "cat".

"Arigatou" ("thank you") has also entered mainstream culture, albeit sometimes preceded by "domo" and followed by "Mr. Roboto". A quick poll among my peers reveals that common Japanese words they recognize instantly are "itai" ("it hurts") and "dame" ("stop"), which makes me strangely reluctant to ask them why they recognize these words.

The deeper strata of anime fandom have their own vocabulary that are tiered based on how important these concepts are, often not as easily translated: I would be remiss in not mentioning "moe". Other obvious ones are "tsundere" (and its sisters of varying dysfunction, "yandere" and "kuudere"), "lolicon" and "shotacon", "meganekko", "pettanko", "nekketsu", "iyashi-kei"… even "otaku" seems to have become a badge of pride? I don't know.

I'm not even going into the truly mainstream words: "ramen", "udon", "bento", "sushi"…

I don't really see any point, like a lot of other anime fans, in demanding that people stop using Japanese when conducting discussions in English. Because while you could translate "ramen" to "noodles", you would be missing out on the connotations of the type of noodles (technically you'd have to specify "shoyuu ramen" or "shio ramen" or some such).

And putting aside terms like "tsundere", which seems to defy translation, I haven't even been able to find a good equivalent in English of, say, "ojamashimasu" or "itadakimasu". It makes fanfic-writing very, very difficult.

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