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!


  1. I think a form of 何とか might function for that. Though usually, I've seen it as a suffix to the first part of, for example, a name. So if you had a person called Watanabe, you would end up with 'Wata-nan-to-ka'... sort of 'Wata-what's-his-face'.

    I can't think of anything that might stand alone, but I'm hardly an expert.

  2. Wouldn't that be translated simply as "Wata-something"?

  3. Yes, no doubt it could be, that would be the simplest translation. But the times I heard it, it had a certain dismissiveness about it which to me reminded more of the 'what's-his-face' thing. One could argue about nuances, of course. :D

  4. I'm not arguing, I really am just learning :)
    So to sum it up, this 何とか has the feel of "what's his face" but usually comes as a suffix (to a half of something) rather than a stand alone word.