Friday, April 29, 2011

Stupid Fool

Talking about horses...
This is a word used by Japanese people colloquially to insult someone.
I found the Chinese characters (Kanji) that make up this word interesting.

Japanese: 馬鹿
Reading: baka
Meaning: fool, stupid, idiot
Kanji: "horse" and "deer"

I've heard that this is so because the word describes someone who is so stupid that he can't even perceive the difference between a horse and a deer...

You have to have a special talent for that, or be like, very very drunk :P

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hold Your Horses!

"Oh man, look at that horse they have there in Africa, it has stripes all over it, is it sick or something?"
"No dude, it's a Zebra."
"A Ze-what?"
"Mmm...Striped Horse, for you"

Japanese: 縞馬
Reading: shima-uma
Meaning: Zebra
Kanji: "stripes" and "horse"

"Ha ha! Look at that horse in the pond! I've never seen such a fat horse! What's up with those African horses?!"
"Eeee? Hip Hop-what?"

Japanese: 河馬
Reading: kaba
Meaning: Hippopotamus
Kanji: "river" and "horse"

I was amused to find that the Kanji (Chinese Characters) meanings of Zebra and Hippopotamus in Japanese were striped horse and river horse respectively (river horse? how about sumo wrestler horse!).
There is something similar in English, namely, the sea horse. The Kanji for sea and horse form a word in Japanese as well, only that it's not the word for sea horse...

Japanese: 海馬
Reading: todo
Meaning: Sea Lion
Kanji: "sea" and "horse"

"Oh, that horse over there MUST be sick!"
"NOT A HORSE man, that's a Gira...
yeah, that's a long necked weirdly colored horse..." :P

(No. Actually, giraffes have nothing to do with horses, even in Japanese)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Heavy Eating & Drinking

In English, if you eat and drink a lot and really mess the place up someone might say you're eating like a pig. In Japanese...

Japanese: 牛飲馬食
Reading: gyuu in ba shoku
Meaning: heavy eating and drinking; gorging and swilling
Literally: "cow drinking horse eating" as in, drinking like a cow and eating like a horse.

What about the pig? She's cute, leave her alone!

Another very similar expression in Japanese is:

Japanese: 鯨飲馬食
Reading: gei in ba shoku
Meaning: heavy eating and drinking; eating mountains of food and drinking oceans of liquor
Literally: "fish drinking horse eating" as in, drinking like a fish and eating like a horse.

As you can see, Japanese people are not quite sure who is the bigger drinker, but what is certain, horses eat the most!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Women as Flowers

This expression has no English equivalent, at least not one that I'm aware of.
It describes the situation where you have a beautiful woman on your right arm and another beautiful woman on your left arm.
I found the literal meaning very nice.

Japanese: 両手に花
Reading: ryou te ni hana
Meaning: flanked by two beautiful women; two blessings at once
Literally: a flower in both hands (a flower in each hand)

And if the women have flower names (Lilac, Lily, Daisy, Jasmine etc.) then this is a double fun expression!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


The fact that Japanese has a word for this shows you just how hard Japanese people really work.

Japanese: 過労死
Reading: karoushi
Meaning: death from overwork and mental stress

I mean come on... if you feel like you're about to DIE, please, by all means, stop working!
It's OK! Take a break, drink something...on ME! :P

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Going to France

This whole entry started when I saw this word in the dictionary:

Japanese: 渡仏
Reading: tofutsu
Meaning: going to France

I was thinking to myself that this is weird. Why would Japanese have a special specific word for 'going to France'? I love France and my name (Michel) is French but isn't such a word too specific?
I mean, if we have a word for 'going to France', why not have a word for like...'visiting a shrine', or better yet 'visiting a shrine in winter'! or if we are going all out, why not have a word for 'visiting a shrine NAKED in winter'!

But OH WAIT! Japanese DOES have a word for that...

Japanese: 裸参り
Reading: hadakamairi
Meaning: visiting a shrine naked in winter

OK, so Japanese has some very specific words targeted to very specific situations <cough>, but why France? I asked around and found out that it's not only France. There are quite a few specific words for going/visiting other countries. Here is the list I have now:

Japanese: 渡米
Reading: tobei 
Meaning: going to USA; going to America

Japanese: 渡欧
Reading: toou
Meaning: going to Europe

Japanese: 渡英
Reading: toei
Meaning: going to Britain

Japanese: 渡露
Reading: toro
Meaning: going to Russia

Japanese: 渡伊
Reading: toi
Meaning: going to Italy

Japanese: 渡独
Reading: todoku
Meaning: going to Germany

Japanese: 渡西
Reading: tosei
Meaning: going to Spain

And just when you get used to the whole "TO-something" you get this unexpected turn:

Japanese: 訪中
Reading: houchuu
Meaning: going to China

Japanese: 訪台
Reading: houtai
Meaning: going to Taiwan

Japanese: 訪韓
Reading: houkan
Meaning: going to South Korea

Japanese: 訪朝
Reading: houchou
Meaning: going to North Korea

For a short explanation about how those words were formed just know that each county has a katakana name (katakana is the syllabic script used in Japanese to write foreign vocabulary, including foreign country names) but Japanese also has a way of writing the county names using Chinese characters (Kanji) and so, those words up there are a combination of one Chinese character meaning to transit or to visit and a second Chinese character that symbolizes the specific country.

There is one more word related to this long entry. How about visiting Japan? right? wrong.
Japanese people don't visit Japan, they live there, you are the one coming to visit and that is why the word is:

Japanese: 来日
Reading: rainichi
Meaning: arrival in Japan; coming to Japan; visit to Japan

In this case the first Chinese character's meaning is "come" and the second is "Japan".

Opening up a dictionary can sometime be time consuming.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tasting Soap

A friend of mine, also a Japanese student, thought I'd like this expression.
She was right! (Hi Vera chan!)

Japanese: 泡を食う
Reading: awa wo kuu
Meaning: to be confused
Literally: eat a bubble

Wait... eat a bubble?! I'm confused now...:P
For some reason, this makes me think of the situation when someone is talking or doing some other mouth opening activities and then a soap bubble enters his mouth, a split second before he closes his mouth on it. The bubble bursts inside his mouth and he now faces the reality of tasting soap. Now, there is that split second of not knowing what is the proper procedure to continue with...

"Should I spit it out? should I just not make a big deal out of it? should I laugh...did I just eat a bubble!?"

I can totally see how that split second of being frozen in time and not moving any jaw muscles,  symbolizes confusion.

Me like!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Samurai Days

Here is an interesting word in Japanese that reveals something about the samurai days.

Japanese: 辻斬り
Reading: tsujigiri
Meaning: testing a new sword by killing a passerby.

Well, how ELSE can I know if this sword is worth anything, man.

Holy shit...

Monday, April 11, 2011


Here is another amusing Japanese expression I learned today.

Japanese: 猿も木から落ちる
Reading: saru-mo ki-kara ochiru
Meaning: equivalent to the English expression "No one is perfect" or "Anyone can make a mistake".
Literally:  "Even monkeys fall from trees" :P

Amusing, isn't it?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Freaking EASY

Here's a new Japanese expression I've learned recently.

Japanese: 朝飯前
Reading: asa meshi mae
Meaning: easy as pie, a piece of cake, trivial matter
Literally: "before breakfast" as in, it's so simple that I can wake up, and with my eyes half closed finish doing it before breakfast...

that's freaking easy.
Me like!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Nihongo Shticks is born

Hi Everyone (yeah who will read this later :P)!

So, why am I here?
Well, I have been learning Japanese for the past year or so and found myself stumbling onto a lot of expressions, words, and language bits that very much amused me. Be it a word with a meaning that says something about the Japanese culture, an expression that is so visual and unique it makes me laugh or just a weird thing (for us non Japanese).
I very much wanted to share those little bits, those shticks, with people; and I did. I shared a lot of them in my Facebook status', but being that not all of my Facebook friends are Japanese students or people that may be interested in those shticks, I decided to move the Japanese Shticks to a blog and keep my Facebook status' focused on the boring stuff :P

If you're here, you probably know that "nihongo" is "the Japanese language" in Japanese and so I thought "Nihongo Shticks" is a suitable name for this blog.

I hope to make you smile and be amused as I am when I first find those little shticks :)