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Beyond Polite Japanese: A Dictionary of Japanese Slang and Colloquialisms (Power Japanese Series) (Kodansha's Children's Classics) Paperback – September 4, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-4770027733 ISBN-10: 4770027737 Edition: 2nd

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Product Details

  • Series: Kodansha's Children's Classics
  • Paperback: 173 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha USA; 2nd edition (September 4, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 4770027737
  • ISBN-13: 978-4770027733
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 0.6 x 4.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #775,693 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


"An indispensable reference ... as you switch on the TV to watch a cop show or a soap opera." -Asahi Evening News


From the Publisher

Preface to the Book [slightly abridged and without original macrons)

It is not necessarily true that textbookish Japanese is the same as the Japanese spoken daily throughout Japan. Or, to put it differently, the language of the people is necessarily not the language of the textbooks. There are, of course, many cogent reasons for this, as well as some reasons that are perhaps not so cogent. In any case, the present book proposes to help you, the student, go beyond the language of the textbooks by offering a number of useful, meaningful, and interesting words and phrases that are generally unavailable in the school curriculum--at least not with the meanings given here. In short, this book aims to help the student to acquire (in a relatively easy manner) vocabulary that would otherwise require years upon years of Japanese residency.

The entry words and phrases are all colloquial or slang. "Colloquial" means, of course, that they are more characteristic of the spoken language than the written. It also means, secondarily, that their meanings have occasionally taken on slightly different nuances from what is considered standard. Many of these words have already been adopted into large Japanese-language dictionaries; others have not. The criteria for inclusion in this book are several: frequency of use, usefulness, and sheer interest. The last aspect, "interest," I feel is important, for an interest in words is a strong stimulus to learning a language.

The slang included here is, for the most part, traditional slang. It has been accepted as slang for a long time, and will likely retain that status for decades to come. This is the slang that one hears in movies or reads in novels, and thus is most likely to be reinforced through those media as well as "on the street." It is also the slang that will be most understood if the reader chooses to put it into practice. Other slang included here is more contemporary, popular among high school and university students, but even then I have tried to select items that will be long-lived.

Longevity, in fact, has set the tone for the book in many crucial ways. It seemed to me that students who want to get closer to the vernacular might first wish to start with what is fairly established rather than with what is ephemeral, transient, and fugitive. Naturally, the fleeting can be fascinating, just as the historical can. But putting first things first is not a bad rule in language learning, and so I decided to deal with more basic vocabulary in this area rather than being led astray by the less substantial.

The book has been divided into ten chapters: seven of which focus on meaning, three on form. The seven categories represented by the first seven chapters are largely arbitrary: many words could just have easily been placed in one or another of a number of chapters. Nonetheless, it still seemed better to group the words (no matter how unscientifically) according to content rather than simply listing them in alphabetical order. This arrangement, hopefully, will give the reader something to focus on in terms of content as well as provide an occasional opportunity to compare words of similar meaning.

The construction of each entry is fairly simple: I) the entry word romanized, 2) the common (not sole) Japanese orthography, 3) the literal meaning, 4) English definitions or equivalents, 5) the sample sentence or sentences in Japanese, romanization, and English translation, 6) a comment or note when called for.

All of the above is pretty straightforward. Only the "literal meaning" perhaps needs additional explanation. Sometimes this meaning can be taken literally: e.g., where notarin is "short-of-brains." In other cases, the literal meaning tries to take a step back in the evolutionary history of the word to give a prior (dead or alive) meaning which clarifies the present one. Sometimes the step taken back is a short one, sometimes longer. In other cases, the literal meaning, for want of anything better, simply attempts to give a feeling for the Japanese word or phrase, either in terms of sound or meaning, and sometimes, more ideally, in both. In whichever case, however, "literal meanings" are to be seen as nothing more than as tools for coming to grips with the entry in question; they are not to be taken as viable translations or authenticated etymologies. This is not to say, of course, that they are fabrications without basis in fact (even given the uncertain state of Japanese etymology). A look at some of the better Japanese-language dictionaries will verify this point.

As far as the English translation is concerned, it strives for equivalency rather than literal meaning. In other words, in its attempt to convey the Japanese nuances, the English concentrates on the rendering of whole sentences rather than individual words. This is perhaps inevitable in translation of this sort, since the tone of colloquial Japanese is often determined by verb endings and sentence-ending particles--parts of speech that cannot be transferred as-is into English. Thus a particular Japanese sentence might be composed of unexceptional verbs and nouns etc., but still have a strong colloquial or slangy flavor due to the conjugations and particles. A literal translation of such sentences couldn't possibly capture the meaning of the originals, even though each word were painstakingly translated. In many cases the English provides not natural renditions of the Japanese, but rather an approximation of what English speakers might say in a similar situation; here again equivalency has taken precedence over literalness. Further, some of the English idioms appearing here might be termed "international" in that they are held in common throughout the English-speaking world. Many others, though, are strongly American, as is the tone of the book as a whole. It would be nice if colloquial or slangy Japanese could be translated into a variety of colloquial or slangy English that had currency with speakers of English throughout the world, but such an undertaking at this point in time seems highly dubious, if not downright impossible.

In general, I have assumed that the reader of this book has already mastered the fundamentals of the language. Thus not everything is explained. The reader I have in mind already knows that the standard word for "to eat" is taberu, and thus I have not bothered to mention this fact in the entry for the colloquial kuu. This approach was adopted, first of all, so as not to bore the reader unnecessarily but also as a space-saving device.

Finally, it is my hope that the present book will prove of use to the struggling student. All words require care in use, and the words and phrases in this book are no exception. There will be some that the student will instantly see can be put to immediate use. Others require precisely the right moment and situation, and will perhaps be more useful as part of your passive vocabulary rather than the active. All that, of course, is left to the reader's discretion.....


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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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As a sidenote, if you really want to learn slang, talk to Japanese people, a LOT!
W. Thielen
The author did such a great job at writing this that no matter when I decided to pick it up, I will just burst out into laughter.
Stephen McLaughlin
As an advanced learner, this doesn't actually effect me now but it annoyed me as a beginner.
Dustin Brantley

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 42 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 18, 2002
Format: Paperback
I would like to respond to the review entitled "Not the Best." First, the reviewer says the book is not comprehensive. Well, I have looked around quite a bit, and I have yet to find a comprehensive dictionary of slang and colloquialisms even in the Japanese language, so it is a bit much to expect this book to be that dictionary; and then there is the question of whether this book was INTENDED to be comprehensive, which apparently it was not (according to the Preface). Second, the reviewer says that the book is outdated. Well, my understanding from the Preface is that this book is meant to cover traditional slang and colloquial expressions, those expressions which are long-lived and not likely to disappear very quickly. That is, it is meant as a solid foundation for further study but also meant for immediate use in a great variety of common situations. Third, the reviewer complains that the book is arranged "in a not so easy to use format." Here, I agree, but then I cannot think of any other better format, whether alphabetical or whatever; and there is also an index to be referred to.
Overall, I wonder if the reviewer is judging the book not for what it was intended to be, but for what he was expecting, or hoping, it to be--two different things.
In my experience, which has covered a good deal of time in Japan, the expressions in this book are those which you are likely to hear quite often, and therefore form a good foundation for the study of the language. If you want to go beyond this, you are left pretty much on your own at present, and good luck to you.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By James R. Hoadley on February 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
As one of the other reviewers noted, many other books of "slang Japanese" focus primarily on vulgar vocabulary. While this book does have some pretty salty expressions, it has a great deal more depth than that, including expressions you might actually use. Also, many slang dictionaries are out-of-date before they hit the shelves. Being able to say the equivalent of "I'm a hep cat, daddy-o" in Japanese may have some humorous value, but in the grand scheme of understanding what is being said around you, it's not very useful. So this book has chosen to be quite conservative in the slang and colloquial expressions it uses. As a result, more than 80 percent of the expressions introduced in the book can be used today. It's a good first step out of the textbook and into the real world.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book calls itself "A Dictionary of Japanese Slang and Colloquialisms", and it is exactly that. Unlike some books which claim to teach the colloqual speech and then get bogged down in vulgarity and profanity, this book, though it does feature such things, also spends a good deal of time on idiomatic phrases that will prove to be far more useful in conversation. I found the categorization scheme somewhat whimsical, but it's fun to just flip through the book anyway. There is also an index in the back for fast reference.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By W. Thielen on October 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
I have to agree with "Another opinion". It is a good starting point for those who want to get in touch with Japanese slang, although it is not actual. As said in the preface, slang is something that flows and changes with time. Even in your own mothertongue, you will find that slang changes from time to time, and therefore it is hard to write a good reference book on slang.

I have read this book for 3/4th part, and skimmed through it a bit a few times. I have used some expressions in my daily conversations with my Japanese friends too, and sometimes they got surprised, sometimes they laughed a bit and told me that it was outdated, but it was still funny.

I also have to mention that this book is meant for the advanced students of Japanese, because the translations do not literally agree with what was given in Japanese. You'll have to understand Japanese to be able to decipher the sentence structure and then agree with the translation given (or not :) ) And then, only then, you'll be able to create your own examples!

As a sidenote, if you really want to learn slang, talk to Japanese people, a LOT! That really helps ;)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A. G. Freeman on February 5, 2011
Format: Paperback
I have studied Japanese since 1997 and have been to Japan 31/32 times. On some trips, it really rains hard, so I ended up watching the asa dramas (daytime/morning dramas) all day (if I go outside, I am going to get really wet, as there is nowhere to hide like in American cities). Sometimes even I need clarification on what's being said. This book uses the slang from those shows to illustrate and explain the etymology of the words. Great purchase, never regretted it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stephen McLaughlin on June 7, 2013
Format: Paperback
I've been studying Japanese for about 10 years now, but purchased this book about 8 years ago, and reviewed it recently again after passing the JLPTN2 just to see how much I remembered from this book. I noticed that I could appreciate this book much more and found Matt Fargo's humor hilarious. Reading it again cracked me up so much. The author did such a great job at writing this that no matter when I decided to pick it up, I will just burst out into laughter.
I am a big collector of Japanese language books, I own about 100 of them. This is by far my favorite book on slang that I've ever purchased.
I suggest only using these expressions with close friends in Japanese though (Even some Japanese people won't know all of the words in this book. I used some with my girlfriend before and she was like what's that? lol, just because she is too innocent though)I've surveyed online Japanese chatrooms and I would say about 99% of these words could be used for casual situations. It's a great supplementary book for slang, but I do recommend the learner should know some basics first and polite Japanese (so they don't offend people lol).
Nevertheless, a great read with many laughs.
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