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Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2009

BILINGUAL

How to lose your temper in Japanese


Sometimes you just want to wring someone's neck (kubi wo hinetteyaru (首をひねってやる). Oh, only figuratively, I mean. And having wrung — verbally, that is — you feel like a new man or woman, totally refreshed. This may even clear the air, or, in Japanese, sukatto suru (すかっとする), and be the basis for a passionate makeup.

But before you get to that point, it might help to show a bit of anger, to flip your lid, or punpun okoru (ぷんぷん怒る), and maybe even blow your stack, meaning kankan ni natte okoru (かんかんになって怒る). If you have ever felt this way, I advise you to keep your cool and read on.

If you don't give a hoot about anyone but yourself — and believe you me, we all know a hell of a lot of people like that, don't we — then just walk away from the other person thinking, Ato wa no to nare yama to nare (後は野となれ山となれ), which literally means, "After me, let everything turn to fields and mountains" and beautifully translates into English as "Aprés moi le déluge." You see? English has a phrase for everything.

Who among us hasn't been at a loss for words when dying to make that cutting remark, that scathing accusation to disarm and, yes, destroy the opponent?

If you spoke Yiddish, you could lash out with that quaint ejaculation, "I hope you lose all your teeth . . . except one, so you can still get a toothache!" But let's face it, with the great dentures they have these days, this phrase has lost its bite.

Say we take a concrete situation in Japan. Somebody blames you for something that is clearly their fault. Yoku iu yo! (よく言うよ!) is a simple way of saying, "You've got a lot of nerve saying that to me!"

There is nothing more you want than for the person to stew in their own juice, to be hoist by the petard of their own vindictiveness. So get your insults on the tip of your tongue and fire:

Anta wa saitei da! (あんたは最低だ!). This means you are revolting, awful, lower than a lizard's duodenum. But do not fret, because you can even get lower. Anta wa ge no ge no mata ge da! (あんたは下の下のまた下だ!) Ge is written, as you can see, with the character for "under, below." By writing it three times, you send the message that the person is the lowest of the low — they are scraping the very bottom of the barrel.

When you are fed up to the gills with someone, you can say, Mō atama ni kita! (もう、頭にきた!) This means, "I've had it up to here!" Atama ni kuru (to get mad, 頭にくる is used to express exasperation. Sometimes, just one word is enough. , said with the right fedup tone and a lengthened "o" can express angry impatience with someone or something. Another one-word expression of anger is Mattaku! (まったく!) Literally, this just means "everything"; but blurted out, it signifies that your toleration for someone is swiftly waning.

You know, even just writing these down makes me feel like a million bucks, although this is more like the size of my mortgage. Sadly, however, this sense of relief doesn't last long; sometimes stronger language is necessary to give you that cheery lift. Such vituperation in Japanese is often expressed with words that deal with death. The imperative form of the most common word for "to die" is shine (死ね). This is a true fighting word in Japanese; said with the right intonation, it is close to using the F-word in English.

A milder form of the command for someone to leave the planet is kutabacchimae (くたばっちまえ). This is a rough form of the imperative of the verb kutabaru (くたばる), which means "to croak, kick the bucket, go to greener pastures." Kutabacchimae, then, simply means "Go to hell." It's nice when two languages have this happy consanguinity.

When all is said and done, though, the best approach with pains in the neck is rarely the cold shoulder. In Japanese, cold shoulder comes out as "iron elbow," which somehow sounds more invasive. Hijideppō wo kurawasu (ひじ鉄砲を食らわす) is the phrase, and it can be rendered with a number of pithy English expressions such as "give someone the brushoff" and "tell someone to go jump in a lake."

In the end, though, I go with Shakespeare, who, in "The Taming of the Shrew," shows that you can "kill a wife with kindness." This could be translated as, shinsetsu de tsuma wo korosu (親切で妻を殺す) . . . now that has a distinct Japanese flavor, seeing as the Japanese are arguably the politest people on Earth. If polite words could kill, there wouldn't be a single person left on these islands.

All this just goes to show that when venting anger, there's more than one way to skin a cat (hoka ni ikura demo hōhō wa aru, ほかにいくらでも方法はある).



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