Thursday, October 7, 2010

Words I Dis/Like #1

Occasionally someone (usually Japanese) will ask me what Japanese words I like. Even though I think it's kind of an asinine question, it's one I have seriously entertained. Maybe because I like studying Japanese; maybe because I like language in general. Well in this post, I wanted to tell you a word that I dislike. But first I'll give you a freebie. Here's a Japanese word I like:


Here, have a look at the ACL entry. 「びみょう」is one of those words with a lot of applicability that doesn't translate well into English, as there are a ton of situations where it can be used and no single English word covers it all. The printer's acting up and sometimes doesn't work? That's pretty 微妙. Looks like it might rain tomorrow, even though you have a baseball game to go to? Ah, 微妙. Encounter a Japanese expression that's hard to understand (because of some subtle meaning or nuance)? 微妙. And that's just a taste. Use it often, use it well.

Now for the word that I don't like. This is one that Loco mentioned in a couple blog posts somewhat recently. That would be:


「えらいひと」usually means something like "VIP" or "bigshot." Someone who gets a lot of respect and (supposedly) deserves it. Why do I dislike this one? I'm not quite sure. Got nothing against 「ひと」or 「えらい」 separately. I guess I just have some kind of (unexplored) resentment towards the meaning. In Japanese society, there seem to me to be a lot of big cheeses who just kind of toss their weight around and are highly respected regardless of how they act. Sometimes this is because they hold a well-respected position, and often it's because they (also) have a lot of cash. Money buys respect. Of course there are people like this in any country, but in Japan often these folk not only feel like they have some kind of entitlement, but other people seem to feel so, too. These are people who are used to having their asses kissed. Now I'm sure there are plenty of えらいひと who have worked hard to be where they are, but whether it be some kind of jealous resentment or good old fashioned classism, I just can't help but feel somewhat irked when I hear someone talking about one of these big fish. 


  1. I like the word 雰囲気, and the construction 雰囲気醸し出す. Very good for impressing Japanese people that you know it. Funny pronunciation, a good way to test whether people really know how to pronounce ん.

  2. Ah yes! 雰囲気 is another good one. Didn't know 雰囲気醸し出す though. 勉強になった!