Sunday, April 23, 2006

No Curse Words in the Japanese Language?

Here are some culturally significant words unique to Japan. You can find these kanji symbols in print on some interesting t-shirts sold at J-List also offers a wider range of products from Japan, including foods, books, DVDs, clothes -including traditional Japanese clothing. So if you like Japan, please check out their website when you have time.

Mt. Fuji 富士山
Famous symbol of Japan (Volcanic Mountain in Tokyo)
Sakura 桜
Cherry Blossom
Bonsai 盆栽
Beautifully miniaturized trees
Tofu 豆腐
Delicious Japanese staple food
Futon 布団
Japanese sleeping mat
Sushi 鮨
The most famous Japanese food (raw fish)
Tempura 天麩羅
Fried shrimp and vegetables (deep fried with a batter)
Uchiwa うちわ
Hand-held Japanese fan
Torii 鳥居
Japanese arch
Yakitori 焼き鳥
Grilled chicken on sticks
Karaoke カラオケ
Japanese singing
Takoyaki 蛸焼 
Fried octopus balls from Osaka
Onsen 温泉
Japanese hot springs
Koinobori 鯉幟 
Symbolizes carp swimming upstream
Geta 下駄
Traditional Japanese shoes
Shamoji 杓文字
Japanese rice scoop
Ocha お茶
Green tea
Haka 墓
Japanese family gravestone
Hashi 箸

One of the interesting things one finds out about Japanese after studying the language is that the a-typical 'curse words' do not exist in the Japanese vocabulary. There is no derogatory "f" word or multiple ways to spout off vulgar strings of derogatory language. Japanese -by its very nature- is a clean cut language where most words mean exactly what there literal definition is.

However, this isn't to say the Japanese "slang" does not have insulting connotations. Yet, when it comes to actual curse words in Japanese the most vulgar you can get is the well known BAKA (idiot) and universal KUSO (shit). However, kuso is the literal word for "shit" and so its usage isn't so much derogatory as much as it means, "Look out! You stepped in some *shit." Also its potent immediacy is not as unnerving as the American curse word equivalent. Rather, the Japanese usage of kuso is so common that it is used in even children's animation as a mild word to depict annoyance. This really puts a perspective on how we imply and infer meaning from words -and how these words affect us; since words only have meaning with their social/cultural context.

Of the above words, there are little images which show you the item or object being depicted. Below are some of the less kosher words from Japanese slang. I guess you could consider the words below profanity, but they are often associated in everyday conversation as sentence subjects, and so are often associated with either a warning or a topical relevance, but on the rare occasion, they can be defamatory.

Japanese words with negative connotations -nottice the "sexual" orientation of the words -this means that these words are accostomed to *private or personal situations, and so these words are NEVER used in public. The only time you will learn bad words like these is when you study a language EXTENSIVELY, and even then, you will never probably use these words outside of their practical contexts.

Chikan 痴漢
Male pervert, often touching women on a train
Chijo 痴情
Female pervert, woman who likes sex too much
Paizuri ぱいずり
Copulating with a woman's breasts
Tekoki 手酷
Hand job
Kokeshi 木形
Traditional Japanese doll, also slang for a dildo
Tamakeri 玉蹴り
The fetish of women kicking men in the balls
Manko マンコ
Female genitilia
Panchira パンチラ
Catching a glimpse of a girl's underwear
Baka 馬鹿
Stupid, popular catch-all Japanese insult
Bukkake ぶっ掛け
Spewing on your lover, facials
Zenra 全裸
Full nude
Hentai 変態
Pervert, deviant individual
Cosplay コスプレ 
Dressing up in anime costumes (Cosplay)
3P (さんぴー)は、性行為の一形態で3人プレイの意味。
Sex with three people, aka manage-a-trois
Shakuhachi 尺八
Classical musical instrument, also popular slang for fellatio (BJ)
Chinko チンコ(陰茎)
Male genitalia
Fuzoku 風俗店 Soaplands ソプランド
Where women wash men with their bodies
Rabuho ラブホ
"Love Hotel," where couples go to be alone
Kuso 糞

Now, please realize that most Japanese NEVER learn these "bad" slang words. In fact, my fiancé had to buy a dictionary to answer some of my questions when I enquired as to some of the meanings. She, like many Japanese, doesn’t ever hear or use these bad words -and it's only people like me who have a deep interest in the Japanese language that ever learn it by extensive study. In all consideration -Japanese can be considered the *cleanest and most polite language on the planet. These 'curse words' are not used regularly (if ever) and the only time you may hear them is when a gangster speaks them in old Yakuza (Japanese Mafia) films.


Anonymous said...

wow no curse words, excellent, funny how however there are sexual conotations words (with the lingering perversity in men) however still good that they are not used in public! Culture is so interesting! TX for the insight!

Tristan Vick said...

Yeah, but the sexual words are founded in a patriarchal society that treats women as merely "objects" or items to be "objectified." In any society where men have more rights than women, supression -including abuse, abusive words, and gender inequality will happen.

Also consider that Japan is more sexually agressive. They have had over 5,000 years of unhindered sex -and in Japan one of the cultural rules is you act your age. This means when you become an adult is when you become sexually active. They have no Christian taboos regarding age sex discrimination, so nature dictates such.

I think the language reflect these cultural elements, but it also shows that the country does sponsor the occassional pervert who thinks he can get away with mistreating women by being lax on the gender equality and rights issues.

Again, these words are never used in public by anybody. The only time I've seen them is when reading Manga (comics). Accept for the occassional love hotel, a cultural element in itself due to strong family ties -where families stay together- love hotels are important for all generations to find time alone away from everyone else. Like this, many of the words have a very "specific" usage -so even though they may be derogatory -they can only be applied when talking about the subject directly, and not in referance -so there can never be slander, unless the language is used more indirectly, but then you wouldn't be using these "specific" words. Interesting.

Anonymous said...

>most Japanese NEVER learn these "bad" slang words.
>many Japanese, doesn’t ever hear or use these bad words

oh my.
it's not true, it's not true...
I'm Japanese, was born in Japan, has grown in Japan.
I'm sure that most Japanese know "bad" slang words, though they don't use these words usually -- yeah, some examples that you pick up about "bad" slangs are really really uncommon slangs, maybe rather obsolete. In addition, most examples about "bad" slangs are related to sexual thing, and they are used by male mainly, so your fiance might not have heard them.

At last, I must say that it's not right that there are no curse words in the Japanese language, either.
Some use them, some don't. I think that there are curse words in every language as long as we use.