Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Let's enjoy Japanese: Kind of

Here's an interesting grammar pattern that I've recently come across. So far as I can tell, it only works for い adjectives, and not all of them at that.

Take the adjective, drop the い and add め. And what does the resulting word mean? It means "Kind of~."
As in it's more than a little of something, but not that much. Someone I asked used the example of a skirt. If you said a skirt was 長い, maybe it would be down to a girl's calves. If you said it wasn't 長い, maybe it would be above her kneecaps. If you said it was 長め, maybe right below her kneecaps. Kind of long, but not that long.


For example:

長い - 長め - Kind of long
厚い - 厚め - Kind of thick
細い - 細め - Kind of thin
辛い - 辛め - Kind of spicy

Unfortunately, there are certain words that this pattern isn't used for. For example, 寒め (cold) and 暑め (hot) aren't commonly used. According to three teachers I consulted with, there aren't any set rules (at least not anymore), and certain words that don't use this pattern have begun to change in recent years. The example they cited was 難しめ, which isn't traditionally correct, but seems to have come into periodic used in recent years with younger people. 分かりにくめね。

This is the kind of grammar that I would recommend using cautiously if you want to be understood. If this one is new to you, I recommend listening for it now that you're equipped to understand what it means, and if you're so inclined to use it, do so with the words you're seen or heard used by those who are fluent or native.

If anyone has anything to add or knows some rule for this pattern, please leave a comment.

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