Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Let's enjoy Japanese: Using Japanese "appropriately"

Edit: 11/18/09

A pretty good word to be able to at least recognize over the course of your Japanese journey is the word 適当 (tekitou), sometimes appearing in it's adverb form, 適当に.

It has two distinct meanings. First off, it often means "appropriate," "suitable," or "proper."
Example: この仕事はあなたには適当じゃないよ。(This job isn't suitable for you)

A while ago I went to a little hole-in-the-wall yakitori restaurant with my friend Joe. We sat down and ordered a beer, and the old man behind the counter said something like

"適当にしましょうか?" (Roughly Sounds like "Shall we do it properly?")

I thought believe he was referring to the fact that his restaurant or that kind of place has a little set course kind of thing, although we didn't see it on the menu. Either that or he was offering to just let us buy whatever he felt like making. Sometimes the problem in these cases is that you really have no idea what "properly" or "appropriately" means. We shrugged and acquiesced, and the guy served us up some (very nearly) raw egg in what appeared to be some sort of soy sauce / vinegar mix. After that came some yakitori, which was a lot better than the egg. Be careful of the 適当 + typical Japanese vagueness combo.

The second meaning, which I haven't had a lot of experience with, is a more recent evolution of the word, if I understand correctly. This usage can be understood as "half-hearted," "random," or almost "sloppy."
Example: 彼は昨日の宿題を忘れてしまったから、適当にして出したばかりです。(Since he forgot yesterday's homework, he just sloppily half-assed it and handed it in)

適当(に) makes an excellent addition to anyone's Japanese word hoard. Let's enjoy!

Edit: Daniel at How to Japonese has some useful insights to add. The world of blogging is truly a boon to our Japanese studies!


  1. Maybe you were supposed to wait and dip the yakitori in the egg mixture. Haha, joke on you, Gaijin.

  2. I don't know. People don't balk at raw egg here.