Japan's Must-Read Magazine

Stuff They Don’t Teach You In Japanese School

“What you’re really saying”

Heta kuso
One cool thing about Japanese is that you can say the word “shit” in a wide variety of situations, and no one finds it offensive. Although it’s extremely casual, the word kuso is not in itself offensive. Use the very common expression heta kuso and you are calling someone “an unskillful piece of shit” and say kuso atsui when you want to express that “it’s shit hot today”.

Konnichi wa

It might seem strange to greet someone by saying “Today”, the exact meaning of konnichi wa. Originally, people would say something like konnichi wa atsui desu ne (It’s hot today.), but the greeting got shortened into its present form. Sort of like “Good Bye” used to be “God Be With Ye”.

Tsumranai mono desu ga

When you give a gift in Japan, no matter how expensive, no matter how much trouble you went through to get it, it’s customary to say something like tsumaranai mono desu ga, which literally means, “This is a boring thing”.

Osore irimasu

This odd expression is an extremely polite way to say “excuse me” or “pardon me” but literally means “I enter into dread”. You’ll probably hear it at the coffee shop when they take your tray from you as you’re leaving.

Omae
Some of the Japanese language’s rudest expressions are actually extremely polite phrases and words, that, when used sarcastically or out of context, are as rude as the crudest English anatomical swear words. Calling someone omae, the Japanese equivalent of “you asshole”, may get you into an ugly situation, but it’s actually an extremely polite form of ‘you’, which was once used to address one’s superiors. It literally means “The honorable front”. Similarly, temee, which means “before the hand” and kisama (your honorable self) are so polite they’re rude.

Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu

Before you leave the office at night, you’re supposed to say osaki ni shitsurei shimasu, which means, “I am being rude for leaving before you”. But are you really being rude? If you’ve put in a hard day’s work and think that going home at a reasonable hour is okay, then why not see what reaction you get to osaki dakedo shitsure shimasen (I’m not being rude for leaving before you.”)

Nodo Chinko

In Japanese, the uvula, the little piece of soft tissue that hangs down at the entrance to your throat, although technically referred to as the kougaisui, is better known as the nodo chinko, or “throat penis”. FYI.

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