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Japanese insults

Live from the French agriculture fair

03/20/2008

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I think I've already mentioned it: the Japanese have a strong interest in France. This includes French politics as well. They followed our 2007 presidential elections very closely, showing not only the two major candidates on TV, Nicolas Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal, but ALL of them.

That said, I'd never have thought that, across the globe, they would display what happened a few weeks ago at the annual agriculture fair. In case you haven't heard about it, just google with keywords such as "sarkozy", and "agriculture fair". Or even better, make a search on youtube. If you're really too lazy to do so, I'll sum it up briefly: while he was visiting the agriculture fair, a man refused to shake our president's hand, saying "don't touch me, you'll dirty me". Sarkozy then lost his temper and replied something along the lines of "then get lost, stupid jerk". Now my "bad English" isn't very good and I can probably not express the exact nuances, but in French it was quite rude.

Anyway, a few days after it happened, I was spontaneously asked several times: "What did Mr. Sarkozy said???". It seems that they showed the scene on the news...but without translation! I wonder what they said...I had seen the sequence on youtube, but my problem was to find the right words and nuances to translate to Japanese.

Indeed, contrary to French and English that have lots of bad words, Japanese is quite poor in this regard. There is no equivalent to "son of a bitch" or "fucking retard"...I mean nothing! Well I'm exaggerating a bit: there seem to be a handful of strong insults, but they're just not actually used. In actual practice, the "best" you can get is something like "idiot". Yes I know, seen from our western cultures, it just sounds funny, but anyway you rarely get to actually hear insults in Japan. I don't exactly know why but it might be related to two important cultural principles, which are not specific to Japan but generally seen in Asia:

  • never lose one's temper
  • never make someone lose face

Both aspects being very closely related to each other.

No matter how weak Japanese insults are perceived by a Westerner, used with the proper intonation, they can really hurt someone in Japan...but wait a minute: that's the point of an insult, right?

There's one word I particularly like:busaiku (不細工), which just means "ugly" and can be applied indifferently to men and women. Not strong at all, even in Japanese. But if you analyze the characters, you realize that the original meaning is "lack(不) of details(細) in the construction(工)"...I just love it!!!

I actually made a small survey, and I got lots of different answers!!! People don't seem to know the same expressions, the nuances are not perceived the same way, etc. Moreover, looking up on Internet I even came across other insults, for example in this video which features expressions I'd never heard before (except the last one). Hard to get an objective view!...

Category: Culture

1 comment(s)

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Comments

By Eno on 04/27/2009 at 10:04:23

En ce qui concerne les insultes, je connais Baka, bakabakashi et aho. Désolée si j'ai pas clavier qui convient mais voilà 3 versions pour dire "abruti, idiot ou con".

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