Expressing strong feelings in Japanese, a language with less curse words

By | February 6, 2014

Once someone who was informally teaching me Japanese mentioned that in Japanese there are not that many strong curse words in everyday language. If you watch certain anime or dramas you might occasionally catch overdramatic words like “ちくしょ!” (negative expletive, literally ‘beast’) or “きさま!” (second person pronoun used as an insult)  but those are very rarely used in the real world and you shouldn’t use them yourself either.  Sure, there are a handful that do get some usage, such as “くそ” (shit [literally]) and ”ちぇ” (darn), but they are few and far between.

The purpose of this post is not to teach cursewords to you (though I just mentioned a handful), but rather to emphasize how certain other seemingly innocent-sounding words can be put together to carry a strong feeling, given the proper tone of voice is used.

Here is one of those:

  • 何なんだよ!
  • What the heck !

This is an abbreviation of 何なのだよ which uses the の particle (which I discussed here).

You can add a subject to this such as in this example:

  • これは一体何なんだよ?!
  • What the heck is with this?!    or   What in the world is with this?!

(Feel free to substitute ‘heck’ with a stronger English curseword in your head if you like)

一体 is a strange word that literally means “one body”, but is used in expressions like this for emphasis, and can be translated as “… in the world …”.

Here is another interesting expression used to express anger.

  • マジかよ!?
  • You friggin serious!?

Here the particles か and よ are used in combination to express asking a rhetorical question with anger or annoyance. You can imagine someone saying this when they were told they failed a test. Another common use of this pattern is this expression:

  • またかよ!?
  • Not again!

Another emotion-packed particle combination is のか, and can be used in the following way:

  • また負けたのか?
  • You lost again, huh?

This has a rough, masculine feeling to it and I’ve heard it more often used by men. It isn’t a direct insult but I wouldn’t use it with your superiors.

なんか is a word you can use after a noun to emphasize a strong feeling about something. Though literally it means “something”, it can be used in the following way:

  • 雪なんか大っ嫌い!
  • I totally hate snow!

Note that “dislike” is normally pronounced as だいきらい, but here the extra pause in the middle is added for emphasis. Another word with similar usage is なんて, which can also be put after a verb.

I’ll give one more example of two words used to express strong emotion.

  • そいつ、また俺の邪魔をしやがった!
  • That guy interfered with me again!

そいつ, which I mentioned briefly in my last post, is a pronoun which means “he/she” with a negative or rough connotation.

〜やがる is a verb which you can add to the pre-masu form of another verb to express anger about an action.  This one is a bit extreme and I’ve only heard it a few times in real conversation.

These expressions are all good to learn and use on occasion, just be sure to not overuse them as it will make them lose their power. Also be careful about using these around those above you in social status (先輩,先生), it’s best to restrict their usage to with your peers.

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