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Swearing In Japanese

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Swearing In Japanese

Postby yankumi » Mon 09.19.2005 2:09 am

I recently read Japanese Beyone Words. The author comments that often students of Japanese want to know how to swear, when in actuality, there are no swear words in Japanese, just speech in rude forms. I am curious about this, because I have watched movies where subtitles were translating swear words. But recently, I was watching a television show, one time for the same word they had bull*#$! and another time
nonsense! Online I found some phrases and ばかいえ is given as an abrupt and
potentially rude form, ばかいわないで is supposed to be more polite. But on the television show, the first one
was subtitled as bull*&#, the second one spoken by a woman was translated as impossible. So is this true, that "swearing" is accomplished by using rude forms?
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RE: Swearing In Japanese

Postby Kates » Mon 09.19.2005 9:45 am

I'd have to agree, to some degree. XD As far as I know there are very few STRAIGHT swear words in Japanese. Right now, all that I know/can think of is: chikushou and kuso. Typically it seems that words than can be used in everyday conversations (well, maybe not convos with your boss.. haha, they're still a little rude...) are just altered a bit to make it extremely rude, and are then translated as swears in English.

For example, one word I've come across a lot is: FUZAKERU. It means "to play with, joke, jest, talk nonsense, etc" -- not too bad, right? FUZAKERU'NA can mean "Don't be silly[stupid]!" or "Don't talk rubbish!" or "Don't get smart!" or "Watch your step!" .... which is quite an array of translations for just one phrase--and I'm sure you can think of more. (Depending on the character you are 'voicing,' you can pick which phrase fits him/her best. That's a fun thing about translating!)

FUZAKEN'JA'NE! (I think I 'spelled' that somewhat right) is also frequently used by angry, rude, male characters. I've seen this translated as "Don't screw with me!" to "Don't f*** with me!" and even "Shut the hell up!" would fit--all depending on the character, situation and other dialogue.
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RE: Swearing In Japanese

Postby CviCvraeVtMoriar » Tue 09.20.2005 12:41 am

Just as Kates said. From my experience translations of "bull****", "f***", and such are merely embellishments of the translator such as likes his media and entertainment rather coarse and adult in nature. Usually, the words which are translated as swear-words indeed are merely very casual and impolite forms of normal and otherwise innocuous words.

Japanese people are highly preoccupied - almost obsessed seemingly - with issues of formality and decorum. If I am correct, for the average, well-bred Japanese person, the mere use of a word form not appropriate to the situation is unthinkable, let alone the use of an expletive. The impropriety of an impolite form is already probably nearly equivalent to our swears, so to use an actual swear is going way beyond any notion of tolerability.

It seems to me that you were almost disappointed by the understandng that the Japanese should have no swear-words per se. The demeanor of the average American would be far less unsavory and repulsive if he didn't use swear-words. So, I, personally, am glad that the Japanese don't have many. While, I don't like language to be devoid of character and personality, I don't think that swear-words actually imbue speech with any character other than wretched and ugly character - particularly when the swear-words aren't being used in jest.

If you really need your Japanese to be overwrought with ugliness, then just wait awhile. Just as English words, which are now considered swears, were once normal and inoffensive, the same, certain Japanese words, which are now considered normal and inoffensive, will be swears, in all likelihood, in the future - with the help of American culture which is compeletely divested of all comeliness, beauty, and ingratiating aspect (what with our pop-stars; reality shows; pundits; corrupt politicians; REPULSIVELY ignorant rubes from the South; misguided notions of patriotism; fundalmentalist Christians who have completely missed the point; rap ::shudders:: ; retarded sports fanatics; rehashed and banal action movies; lawyers; political correctness which impertinently places countless and abitrary burdens upon everyone; et cetera...)

P.S. It seems that the Japanese have adopted our swear-words, however, not appreciating their severity:

Image

P.P.S. Someone may want to correct me on some of this. I in fact haven't lived in Japan, so I am by no means an expert. I was merely speaking from my own experience.
Last edited by CviCvraeVtMoriar on Tue 09.20.2005 1:00 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Ni di me non pvlchrvm paterentvr, omnia bona agerem. Dixit: Cvr se deos liqvisse? Qvid se faceret? Di se fecissent foediorem qvam qvem canis ipse videre posset. Qvaeram a qvovis, vel diabolo, vt bellvs a se fiam modo ne malam vitam vivam. Dico, si aliter egissent, fvtvrvm fvisse vt bene viverem. - me
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RE: Swearing In Japanese

Postby Harisenbon » Tue 09.20.2005 2:36 am

I'll just back up everything that was said above. Japanese has no swear words per se, but rather it is the use of words inappropriate to the situation that bring about similar reactions to swear words.

The fact that Japanese has no swear words is probably one of the reasons that they have little comprehension of how powerful a word like F*** can be.

I remember hearing from somewhere that English and Russian are the two most popular languages to learn for cursing, just because of their wealth and bredth of curse words.
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RE: Swearing In Japanese

Postby Spaztick » Tue 09.20.2005 11:43 am

While you make an excellent point Cvi (and I'm judging you posted such a picture with tact in mind), I'll ask you to delete it if I get a comment about it or the thread goes out of control (which the whole thread will be deleted at that point). That said, moving on:

Yea, I think Cvi and Harisen covered it pretty much how it is, the average Japanese person would'nt even use commanding forms of verbs in real life to another (fun and joking aside); according to guidetojapanese.org:

In reality, the command form is rarely used as Japanese people tend to be too polite to use imperatives. Also, this course type of speech is rarely, if indeed at all, used by females who tend to use 「なさい」 or an exasperated 「くれる」 when angry or irritated. This form is only really useful for reading comic books or watching movies. You may often see or hear 「死ね!」 ("Die!") in movies or manga which, of course, you'll never hear in real life. (I hope!)
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RE: Swearing In Japanese

Postby yankumi » Tue 09.20.2005 12:30 pm

Thank you for all the replies. My degree is in Cultural Anthropology with a focus on Linguistics, so I am interested in the socio-cultural aspects of the language.

And no, I am not disappointed by the lack of swear-words in Japanese...
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RE: Swearing In Japanese

Postby CviCvraeVtMoriar » Tue 09.20.2005 1:04 pm

Indeed, I did post it with......... [at this point go to Yahoo and do an image search for either 'shifty-eyes' or 'smirk'] .....tact in mind.

But, seriously, I wasn't trying to be sensational or scurrilous. I was just making a point with that picture. Honestly. ;)
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Ni di me non pvlchrvm paterentvr, omnia bona agerem. Dixit: Cvr se deos liqvisse? Qvid se faceret? Di se fecissent foediorem qvam qvem canis ipse videre posset. Qvaeram a qvovis, vel diabolo, vt bellvs a se fiam modo ne malam vitam vivam. Dico, si aliter egissent, fvtvrvm fvisse vt bene viverem. - me
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RE: Swearing In Japanese

Postby sexylexi » Thu 09.22.2005 7:15 pm

hahahahahah that picture is the funniest ever!!!!!! o and baka means idiot!!!!
Last edited by sexylexi on Thu 09.22.2005 7:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Swearing In Japanese

Postby hitori_no_ookami » Thu 09.22.2005 7:51 pm

There are a few books that deal with the misconception of swear words in Japanese. I reccommend Zakennayo. Remember that there are phrases in Osaka-bin that are considered extremely uncouth. I think everyone is trying to define swearing as an explitive outburst, but slang terms for describing nouns and verbs exist as the profane in all languages, even Kansai-bin. B)
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RE: Swearing In Japanese

Postby iseudon » Thu 09.22.2005 8:18 pm

Peter Constantine of "Zakkenayo" fame has written a couple of other books on slang terminology as well. "Japanese Street Slang" is entertaining and at times provocative, if a little dated at this point.

Japanese has few words that are direct equivalents to English swear words. There are things like "kuso", which is fairly innocuous and "chikushoo" (which I think literally means "beast" or something). Especially within the Kansai region (and Western Japan in general), you can get a lot of mileage out of "aho" and "akan." It is the case though, that a lot of times what would register in the Japanese brain as something equivalent to swearing would be deliberately using very impolite speech. If you address someone as "kisama," you could very well be seen as looking for a fight. If you refer to the town you are staying in as "konna machi," there is nothing intrinsically bad about the words, but it would come off sounding rude. Likewise, while "ano yatsu" can just mean "that guy/girl" in not necessarily a bad way, it can sound bad depending on the context of how you say it...and especially when used in a sentence with a word like "mukatsuku."
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RE: Swearing In Japanese

Postby Harisenbon » Fri 09.23.2005 9:33 am

Actually, I read Japanese Street Slang, and found it actually ANTI useful because so few of the phrases he wrote about are used anymore, or were too specific in scope to really be useful outside of a den of prostitutes or whatnot. Seeing that it was written over a decade ago, with information that was over two decades old, I can't say I recommend that book at all.
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RE: Swearing In Japanese

Postby yankumi » Fri 09.23.2005 9:56 am

Yes, for amusement purposes I bought Outrageous Japanese by Jack Seward, I am not sure I will ever find use for the phrase tare-jichi no hihi-baba-me. But just in case...
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RE: Swearing In Japanese

Postby Akuma » Fri 09.23.2005 8:31 pm

Just to add on to the conversation, Japanese does have some bad pronouns.. such as "kisama" which could somewhat be considered a "bad word" (only so much as "kuso" is considered a bad word). Also, I think "temee" is another, although it seems to be not as severe as "kisama."
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RE: Swearing In Japanese

Postby Harisenbon » Fri 09.23.2005 8:48 pm

DonnaP,
tare-jichi no hihi-baba-me

The wife and I have no idea what that means.
Does it have to do with some grandmother's long breasts?
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RE: Swearing In Japanese

Postby yankumi » Fri 09.23.2005 11:37 pm

according to my so-called handy book of slang, curses and epithets, it means "baboonlike woman with saggy breasts". Guess I won't memorize it, ahaha.
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