Monday, January 31, 2011

Words I Dis/Like #3

Although Japanese is typically considered one of the most difficult languages for native English speakers to learn, the fact that there are katakana-ized nuggets of English scattered throughout can somewhat ease the pain at times. It can be tough to figure out exactly how the katakana works sometimes (New York = ニュヨク, right? Wrong, sucka! New York = ニューヨーク), but once you get the hang of it, it becomes a useful skill when you want to say something in Japanese but lack the vocabulary. Oftentimes just katakana-izing the English word will elicit some degree of understanding.

But there's useful, and then there's asinine. Recently I've been getting into the Twitter scene and following people who tweet in or about Japanese. There's one trend I've seen that has really annoyed me for some reason. People using "なう." Allow me to explain for a moment. "なう" is hiragana, the Japanese alphabet that is used to spell Japanese words. As opposed to katakana, which is used almost exclusively for foreign loan words, or sometimes to add emphasis to a Japanese word (a technique mostly seen in comics). The pronunciation of "なう" is the same as "now." For a while, when I saw this popping up, I was stumped. I thought to myself "Wow, that looks and sounds like 'now,' but it's in I must be missing something." But the answer eluded me, until I did a search and found out the truth. "なう" means "now." But why is it written in hiragana? Why?! Because it looks different? Cool? Because it confuses people who aren't in the know?


Have you encountered this phenomenon? Have you used なう? If you have any insights, please share! Help me move beyond my hatred!


  1. Huh, I must have dreamed looking up なう because I could have swore it meant 'about to do' something. Checking again I don't know where I got that from.

    Is what bothers you that it isn't katakana? I don't really mind people using なう (or ナウ) for 'now' since it can occasionally be practical in Twitter if you really need to save some characters for a big thought.

  2. Yup. What reason can there be, that every single loan word is always in katakana...except なう, which we will type in hiragana? It just seems like someone did it to be pretentious (or maybe by accident) and then other people started copying it.

  3. Just made my latest post with なう appended, before I read your post, hah!

  4. Damn you, Dylan.

    Haha...yeah, wasn't gonna say anything but I noticed that, David. What're your thoughts on the matter, if you have any? Do you remember where you picked it up?

  5. I think I first picked up on なう when Softbank was pushing Twitter cellphone functionality on their commercials. I kinda could tell what it meant, but hit up Google to make sure. Then just started using it on Twitter and the beNippon blog just because it was "in." But, I can see how it's kinda getting to be うぜ〜 nowadays.

  6. LOL, yep! I was wondering the same thing..."WTH is up with all this odd NAU usage?" I didn't really look to look up the slang in Japanese and just from the context I figured it meant something like, "I am [doing it] right now," so I guess I wasn't too far off...