Mar 10 2011

Your Mother…

Published by at 8:51 pm under Teaching

Today was my second-to-last day with my current group of students, almost all of whom are Japanese (along with one Saudi, one South Korean and one Taiwanese, and a couple who are Chinese living in Japan).

In one class, my student was giving a presentation on American taboos, so I let him say “fuck” as much as he needed. He taught me an insult in Japanese: one involving your mother. But it’s not what you think. Omae no kachan debeso: Your mother has an outie. On the insult scale, it’s about in kindergarten.

Earlier today, one of my American colleagues taught me how to say “I’m gonna kill you” in Japanese. I decided to try to say it while my students stood nearby. You should have seen them wheel around, looks of shock on their faces. Quite a glorious moment. After they got a grip, they helped me pronounce it better and add some syllables to make it more threatening: bukkorosuzo. You have to accent the “ro” if you’re going to be effective. They helped me say it again and again and again until I got it right. “YES! That’s IT!” they encouraged.

Another student taught a Japanese proverb that translates to “The nail that sticks out will get hammered.” At first I thought it was like “the squeaky wheel gets the oil,” a distinctly American concept. But no: it means the opposite. If you stand out from the crowd, you’ll get driven into the ground: a distinctly Japanese idea. Fascinating stuff.

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Your Mother…”

  1. M says:

    What a utile Japanese thing to know! That paragraph made me giggle.

    “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down” is I’ve heard that proverb. I JUST came across that yesterday, in the rahtah-good book I’m reading: The Geography of Bliss. Which you may read soon after me.

  2. M says:

    *is HOW I’ve heard that proverb.

    “respeo Institut”

Leave a Reply

Bad Behavior has blocked 146 access attempts in the last 7 days.