Japundit » Geek terms in Japanese

Friday is a weekly gossip and news magazine published in Tokyo, with a nationwide readership in the millions. In a recent summary of its latest issue, longtime American expat Mark Schreiber writes in the Japan Times that there are a bunch of new geek terms in Japanese gaining popularity, noting that: “Otaku [geeks] have become plentiful in Japan and it seems they are fast developing a language of their own. To penetrate this linguistic barrier, Friday provides readers with a useful lexicon of current otaku jargon.”

Geeks, as is well known, seem to take delight in overdosing on “cute.” So let’s say you’re walking down Center-gai, the main drag in Tokyo’s funky Shibuya district, and you see one, or several, gals prancing down the street in plush pajamas that make them resemble the Pocket Monster Pikachu on steroids. A normal person might say, “That’s weird.” But you, as a bona fide otaku, immediately recognize this charming young person as being a kigurumin. The word is a composite from kigurumi pajama, sleeping wear resembling a stuffed toy or cartoon character. By adding an “n” at the end, it becomes min — a suffix found in kokumin (citizen). So that gives you kigurumin — the tribe of people who wear cutesie pajamas on the street.

Isn’t this fun?

Another new term is terawarosu, meaning a belly laugh. In proper Japanese, to laugh is warau. But when a Japanese in a blog or chatroom wants to show he finds something to be hilarious, he types warosu, the Net equivalent of “LOL (laughs out loud).”

“Tera” is from terabyte (1 trillion bytes), the next step up in data volume after “giga” (1 billion bytes). So terawarosu — and it’s a real mouthful — would be like the English “ROTFL (rolling on the floor laughing).”

Some of the numerous examples in Friday’s selection included the following:

* Bonsai — no connection with dwarf pines, this means a motorcycle or a car festooned with accessories or ornamentation.
* Chinsodan — an alternate word for bosozoku (hot-rod gangs). Literally means “weird running group,” and serves as a putdown, since many young people regard the term bosozoku (”violent running tribe”) in a positive light.
* Dentotsu — an abbreviation of denwa totsugeki shuzai — to attack by telephone. This means to inundate a company or organization by telephone with complaints or requests for information.
* DQN — pronounced do-kyun. It’s an abbreviation of mokugeki dokyun. Used when a bad guy makes the scene, as in “Uh-oh, here comes trouble!”
* Hesoten — laid-back, secure, happy. Literally means sprawled on one’s back with one’s belly-button pointing skyward.
* Haniwa rukku — High-school girls, particularly in northeast Japan, have taken to wearing sweat pants under their short uniform skirts to discourage the ubiquitous camera peepers. By so doing, they resemble the garments on haniwa, the clay figures placed around prehistoric grave mounds.
* Nichannera — someone who frequently puts posts on Ni-channel, one of Japan’s most popular blogs.
* Nonai kanojo — literally “brain-inside girlfriend.” It means the girl of one’s fantasies — a virtual partner who does not actually exist. The opposite would be riaru (real) kanojo.
* Ookina otomodachi — on TV shows and at public events, the MC calls children otomodachi (friends). So adults become ookina (big) otomodachi.
* Shiroi iyahon — white earphones. Used to refer to a person with an iPod.

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