Getting 'yuusu' lingo 'peki-peki' a real chore for adults
October 15, 2005
Weekly Playboy (October 18)

Listening to two Japanese teens talk, you might start wondering what country you're in at the moment. Or what planet. And no one, reports Weekly Playboy (October 18), is more confused by this juvenile jargon than the policemen assigned to patrolling the areas teens frequent.

"When taking a deposition from a witness, in principle, a police guidance counselor just records what is said, word-for-word," explains a source in the Tokyo Metropolitan Police. "The problem is, half the time they couldn't figure out what kids were saying. So from several years ago, staff began compiling a list of jargon. Now they've got a real manual to go by."

The police procedure for deciphering the meanings of unfamiliar words is straightforward enough: the guidance counselor asks the kid, "Hold on, what does that mean?" and then takes down explanation.

"Cops, of course, have to deal with foreigners who don't understand a word of Japanese," says Akio Kuroki, a former MPD cop turned journalist. "But it's crazy to waste time making cops pick up teenage jargon. All they need to do is tell a kid, 'Speak in proper Japanese.' Once cops start filling up depositions with this kind of silly gobbledygook, they might as well call it quits."

New words are formed by shortening existing words, reversing their syllables or adding "ru" to nouns, thereby creating the infinitive forms of new verbs, such as in "biniru." Which sounds like the word for "vinyl," but actually means to go to a "konbini" (convenience store).

Using the same construction, "famiru" means to go to a family restaurant. "Yoshiru" means to eat at a Yoshino-ya chain restaurant. "Apiru" is to appeal to someone, "okeru" means to go to sing karaoke, and "operu" is to undergo cosmetic surgery (from "operation"). Then you have "rabiru" which means to be trapped and unable to take any action. ("Rabi" is short for "labyrinth," a maze.) Strangest of all, perhaps, is "giboru" --- to undergo a paranormal experience. It is taken from the name Aiko Gibo, a psychic who used to appear regularly on television.

Another source of new terms of late has been blogs and chat rooms on the Internet.

Weekly Playboy provides 100 examples of the latest jargon examples of which appear below.

An-pan -- not a roll filled with sweet bean jam, but an am-pm convenience store outlet. (Whose main rival is called "bun-bun," taken from SeBUN-ereBUN -- get it? Seven-Eleven.)

Chihuahua -- to borrow money from consumer finance company Aiful, whose TV commercials feature "Qu-chan," a cute miniature dog.

Daa -- short for "darling"

Getoru -- to obtain something. Combining "get" and "toru" (to take).

Haafu -- from the English "half." Means to stay out half the night, until 3 a.m.

Ikato -- a nerdy person who's out of it. Shortened from "ikanimo Todai-sei" ("he or she is really like a University of Tokyo student).

Isojin -- name of a well known brand of throat gargle, but in this case means a person (jin) who is exceptionally busy (isogashii).

Karako -- a color copy

Keiban -- a cell phone number. Shortened from "keitai bango."

M4 -- not a magnitude 4 earthquake, but an appointment to meet someone at 4 pm at McDonalds.

Maha-go! -- a command to get lost, beat it, scram. Composed from "maha" (mach, the speed of sound) and "go."

Marumera -- Marlboro Menthol Lights

Oniden -- Literally, "demon-electricity." To telephone a person persistently.

Pee-pee (pronounced peh-peh) -- to lie, or a liar.

Peki-peki -- short for "kanpeki," perfect.

Rochuu --- short for "rojo de chuu," to kiss on a public street.

Takakura Ken --- refers to a clumsy person. (The name of a famous macho actor.)

Wakame -- normally a sea vegetable, but in this case refers to straight, black hair. Probably because eating wakame is believed to promote healthy hair.

Yababa --- combined from "yabai obasan," an older woman capable of making trouble.

Yakui --- a hood, someone resembling a yakuza.

Yarahata --- a girl who reaches the age of 20 still a virgin. The word is made by combining "yaranai" (not to do it) and "hatachi" (age 20).

Yuusu --- a high school student. From the English "youth."

Zenbei ga naita --- literally, "the entire United States wept." Means nothing important.

One might be moved to wonder how the above expression could possibly take on such an unrelated meaning. After checking the blogs, your reporter came up with this explanation: When many U.S. films open in Japan, they are accompanied by posters claiming that American viewers were moved to tears. But the such films have little emotional impact on viewers here. So Japanese filmgoers have learned, apparently, to disregard such promotional claims as largely meaningless.

Be as it may, these days being able to rap with one's peers is clearly a source of pride.

"About 10 years ago, young people tended to feel a sense of guilt when they used slang; but these days speaking it gives them a sense of superiority," notes Chikara Kato, a professor at Sugiyama Gakuen University and authority on teen slang.

Kato doesn't discourage adults from mastering teen patois, but warns that such terms go stale rather quickly.

"By the time adults get around to acquiring them, kids have already moved on and coined new ones. So there's a good chance learning them is hardly worth the effort," he cautions.

(By Masuo Kamiyama, People's Pick Waiwai writer)

October 15, 2005