In today’s post, I’ll be introducing a phrase you’ll not likely to learn in a Japanese textbook or class.
Japanese, like English, has it’s fill of words to describe someone being mentally slow. You’ve surely heard of “baka”, but there others such as “manuke”, “noroi”, “usuratonkachi”, or even “kyouki”. Each of these has their own nuance and history.
I’d like to add another related word to your lexicon – “kuru kuru paa” (くるくるぱあ）.
The “kuru kuru” part of this word indicates something spinning around and around. I’ve been told it has a faster, lighter feel than “guru guru”, though besides that they have similar meanings.
The second part, “paa” has a few meanings. First of all, it means “paper” in the children’s game “rock, paper, and scissors”. In fact, that game is called “guu choki paa”. It also refers to loosing all of one’s money and possessions, or the effort that went towards some task was done in vain, with no tangible result. It’s final meaning is pretty much the same as “kuru kuru paa”, expressing slowness or lack of thought.
The reason “kuru kuru” is part of this expression is a bit unclear. I did some research and found some interesting information, but nothing authoritative. For example, the expression was apparently around since the 1940s to 1950s, and has been used by Japanese comics in their routines. There was even one theory that tries to explain this word using stories from the bible and history from ancient Egypt. It’s notable that there is a gesture in America (not sure if this is understood by other countries) where one points a finger to the head and swirls that finger around which also indicates lower intellect.
If it’s not already clear, this expression is not one you should use except in the closest company, as there is a risk being rude or upsetting someone. I mention it mainly just so you can recognize it if heard in a conversation, and also to help keep your studies interesting.