Sunday, May 29, 2011

Laurel and Hardy

Japanese: 蚤の夫婦
Reading: nomi no fuufu
Meaning: a couple in which the wife is bigger than the husband
Literally: a flea couple

When I first read this expression I knew why it was so immediately, but still thought it's amusing that this expression exists since I haven't heard something similar in English (or Hebrew).
The reasoning behind this is that in nearly all flea species, the female is larger than the male.
There you go, a nice expression and a piece of trivia, all in one!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Meaning of Clay

Here's another amusing Kanji meaning for a word.

Japanese: 粘土
Reading: nendo
Meaning: clay
Kanji: sticky + soil

Well, maybe amusing is not the right word.
But I'm starting to like the way Kanji can make words read small and mean big, if you know what i mean. More on that in a later post.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Meaning of Egg

I like how Kanji (the Chinese characters) can give nice meanings to words. This is a pretty basic word and I knew it a few days after starting to learn Japanese but only recently learned this way of writing it with Kanji.

Japanese: 玉子
Reading: tamago
Meaning: an egg
Kanji: ball + child

And come to think of it, an egg is exactly that - a ball containing a child.
I think it's elegant, this whole meaning into words using Kanji thing.

This word also has it's own Kanji (卵) and honestly, I have no idea when to use which one and whether or not there's a difference, I just liked the ball-child combination for the word.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hand Bag for... your Hand

I'm sorry if sometimes it seems like I write about stupid little things, but this stuff amuses me and that is all that it takes to make it in here. This time, it's just a word. The word for a glove in Japanese is...

Japanese: 手袋
Reading: tebukuro
Meaning: a glove
Kanji: hand + bag

"This is a special bag that we have here, that can contain only ONE hand and nothing else. It fits perfectly! Give it a try!"

While in English a handbag is a bag you carry by hand, in Japanese, a hand-bag is a bag FOR your hand. Of course they have another word for the English handbag meaning.

Japanese: 手提げ袋
Reading: tesagebukuro
Meaning: handbag
Literally: hand carried bag

So, here I was, all cocky and smart-assy, thinking to myself, "Hey, so why does the word for a sock doesn't follow the same logic?" 

Japanese: 靴下
Reading: kutsushita
Meaning: socks
Kanji: shoe + below

So I checked the dictionary and it turns out it freaking DOES! Only it's another word, for the more traditional Japanese socks. Ta Da! 

Japanese: 足袋
Reading: tabi
Meaning: Japanese socks (with split toe)
Kanji: foot + bag

And everything came together nicely. Don't you think?
Me like!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Abbreviation Hall of Fame

OK, so we know Japanese like to abbreviate, but this one... oh boy, this one.

Here is a standard greeting Japanese people say at New Years (meaning not really important for the purpose of this post).

Japanese: あけましておめでとうございます。今年もよろしくおねがいします。
Reading: akemashite omedetou gozaimasu. kotoshi-mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu.

As you can see, quite a mouthful, but have no fear! Japanese people abbreviated the heck out of this expression and now you can say it ALL just by saying...

Japanese: あけおめことよろ
Reading: ake-ome-koto-yoro

In contrast to the other more standard abbreviations, this is used more colloquially, but still, they pretty much performed a ZIP compression on that expression.

Expression Compression ...hey, I even rhymed in this post :P
Me like!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Contact Me

Don't be a stranger!
If you have any suggestions for amusing Japanese Shticks, or if you just want to shoot me a message for whatever reason, send me an email to:

nihongo dot shticks at gmail dot com

Or you could always just leave a comment on this post.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Living in a Bubble

For some reason I really like expressions that have to do with nature/animals. We already had a Monkey expression and I know of some Horse expressions, but today, we honor the Frog.

Japanese: 井の中の蛙
Reading: i-no naka-no kawazu
Meaning: a person who is ignorant of the real world, similar to the English expression "to live in a bubble"
Literally: a frog in a well

But why a frog in a well?
Actually this is a short version of the longer expression, that will explain everything.

Japanese: 井の中の蛙大海を知らず
Reading: i-no naka-no kawazu taikai-wo shirazu
Literally: a frog in a well is not aware of the ocean

This is used to encourage someone to get a wider perspective.

Aaaa-nyway, to avoid poluting a perfectly great expression with my stupid comments, I will cease typing now.

Wait... Me Likey very much(y)!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Talking about abbreviations, get a hold of the governor's name.
That is one tough cookie even for English speakers.
How many do you think can actually spell that?

And so, I wasn't surprised to find out Japanese people abbreviated his name as well. What was indeed amusing to find out is just how well did they do it :P
First, check out the full name:

Japanese: アーノルド・シュワルツェネッガー
Reading: aanorudo shuwarutseneggaa

No doubt a tongue twister.
And now, the nickname Japan gave the governor!

Japanese: シュワちゃん
Reading: shuwa chan

This is amusing on two layers!
First, they took that mountain of a name and reduced it to only two syllables!
And to top that, they gave him the suffix "chan" as if he was some cute little girl! :P

They totally made a school girl out of his name, and in contrast to the huge mountain of a man he used to be, that's amusing.
Me like!

Friday, May 13, 2011

THAT is empty handed!

In English, "empty-handed" means having acquired or gained nothing; "they returned from the negotiations empty-handed". The literal meaning of course is with nothing in their hands.
The Japanese version of this expression took that concept to the extreme :P

Japanese: 手ブラ
Reading: te-bura
Meaning: empty handed
Literally: "hand bra" as in using only one's hands to cover one's breasts.

The concept of someone coming back with her hands used as a bra not only shows that she didn't bring anything back but most likely everything she had was taken away, and I do mean EVERYTHING. Those are some poor negotiating skills on her part :P

Nice, very much visual, expression.
Me Like!

Update, see correction in this link.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Japanese people very much like to abbreviate words they borrow from other languages and sometimes even their own expressions and words. Because Japanese uses a syllabic script while other languages use alphabets, words borrowed from other languages tend to be even longer in Japanese and so the tendency to abbreviate them is understood.

Take the word for a Personal Computer for instance:

Japanese: パーソナルコンピューター
Reading: paasonaru konpyuutaa

This is shortened to only:

Japanese: パソコン
Reading: pasokon

Which can be understood, even in English it's shortened to PC.
But in Japanese you find that abbreviations are much more common than in English.

Let's see if you can guess the next one :

Japanese: ファミレス
Reading: famiresu

Any guesses?
That's a Family Restaurant for you, right there!

Japanese: ファミリーレストラン
Reading: famirii resutoran

This next one fooled me the first time I laid my eyes on it.
I had no idea what it's supposed to be... you try!

Japanese: パトカー
Reading: patocaa

Any guess?

Now don't you cheat and read the next line!

Ok, you give up? Here it is...

Japanese: パトロールカー
Reading: patorooru caa

Which is a patrol car.
But patocaa just seemed to me at first like some kind of a sledge hammer or something...

There are a lot of those abbreviations.
If you have one which is really hard to guess,
please write it up in a comment!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Death by Tofu

I wasn't sure I should post these two very lovely curse-expressions because they are very rude and obviously should not be used, ever.
Nevertheless, the sheer beauty of the way those curses are integrated with the Japanese cuisine might be sufficient to give them a dedicated post, keeping in mind we use them for amusement purposes only.

Without further ado,

Japanese: 豆腐の角に頭をぶつけて死ね
Reading: toufu-no kado-ni atama-wo butsukete shine
Meaning: curse-expression
Literally: bash your head against a corner of a block of tofu and die

Interestingly enough, tofu is soft so there is a debate about whether or not this way of dying is actually possible. Maybe even in cursing, the Japanese people are still avoiding directness and so the method of dying is left obscure...

Another similar death-wishing-using-Japanese-cuisine expression is:

Japanese: うどんで首吊って死ね
Reading: udon-de  kubi tsutte shine
Meaning: curse-expression
Literally: suspend your neck using Udon noodles and die; hang yourself using Udon noodles and die

Once again we see that the curse "receiver" is given a really hard task as I don't suppose noodles are strong enough to be able to hang yourself from, especially not cooked noodles.

But creative thinking, it is!
Me like!

(Just don't tell anyone where you learned this...)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Your Face, Again!

The last entry, dealing with recognizing people by their faces reminded me of the English expression "What's his face" used to refer to someone whose name you have forgotten. This in turn reminded me of a Japanese word I've seen but haven't quite payed attention to... yet.

Japanese: 誰かさん
Reasing: darekasan
Meaning: a certain somebody (usually it's obvious who is being referred to)
Literally: Mr. Someone, Mr. Somebody

I thought that this word might mean "What's his face" but it turns out that it doesn't. When you use "What's his face" you know who you have in mind but can't relate the information across to anyone else because you don't remember that person's name. Then usually you start a describing game until someone goes "Brad Pitt" and you go "YEEESSSS! THANK  you!"

It turns out that with 誰かさん, the identity of the person is known to everyone and it's just a playful or cynical way to refer to that person. This is actually translated to English as the simple "someone/somebody" but has that special nuance that comes across in those types of sentences:

<looking at your chocolate covered kid's face>
"SOMEONE has been eating my chocolate..."

<and off to a COMPLETELY different scenario>
"SOMEBODY has been a bad girl... come over here!"

<on the more cynical side>
"Well, if a certain SOMEONE would have listened to me, we wouldn't have been stuck in the middle of the woods after sundown, now, would we?"

As for a Japanese word/expression meaning "What's his face", I didn't find one. If you know something that could be considered a translation for that, please let me know!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Face Recognition

A friend of mine doesn't have to enter a username and password combination in order to log into his laptop. His laptop just recognizes his face and lets him in. New technology, right? well, yeah...but people have been doing it long before computers did.

Japanese: 顔パス
Reading: kaopasu
Meaning: free admission for being well known
Literally: face-pass

The translation above is straight from the dictionary but as we all know sometimes the dictionary is not quite right. As I understood it, it doesn't have to be free.

For instance, say you buy a monthly ticket to the train you ride on everyday to commute to work. At some point, the person who is supposed to check that you have a ticket will recognize you (because you ride the train every day) and know that you already have that monthly ticket. Will he ask to see your monthly ticket again? Probably not. You passed the ticket checking procedure on account of him recognizing your face.
Hence, Face-Pass.

Same thing goes for if a club has some age restrictions. They check your ID card at the entrance to make sure you're above or below a certain age. If you become a regular, they'll know you (and your face) and probably don't check your ID card anymore. Face passed this one as well.

"It's not fair! How come YOU don't have to show an ID?"
"I FACE passed, man. In your FACE! "

I think it's a cool word!
Me like.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mr. Weather

This is amusing!

Japanese: 天気屋さん
Reading: tenkiyasan
Meaning:  a moody person; temperamental person; fickle person.
Literally: (kinda) "Mr. Weather" as in his mood changes/is unpredictable like the weather.

Don't go all... weather-y on my now, dude! focus! :P
Me like.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Dessert Anyone?

Japanese: 甘い物は別腹
Reading: amaimono wa betsubara
Meaning: equivalent to the English expression "there's always room for dessert"
Literally: I have another separate stomach for sweet things.

"Oh man! I can't breath... " <unbelting...>
"Well you didn't have to eat to explostion... you revolting pig"
"Na... a few days and I'll be hungry again. <hiccup> Hey, is that chocolate cake over there?"
"I thought you can't breath..."
"It's OK dude! I have a completely different digestive system for sweet things! Room is not an issue. I repeat, <hiccup> NOT an issue."