Easily misunderstood Japanese word: でぶしょう (debushou) is not about being fat

By | July 2, 2017

Recently, I was having a conversation with someone in Japanese and the word “でぶしょう” came up.

In my mind I put together the word でぶ (debu), an insulating word for “fat”, and しょう (症), which can act as a suffix that means a sickness or condition, like in the word あがり症 (agarishou) which refers to someone that gets nervous easily.

However, no matter how I much I thought about it, I couldn’t seem to make a connection between “the condition of being fat” and the conversation topic, which was about someone who didn’t leave the house too often. I had meat the subject being talked about knew they weren’t fat, which made things even more confusing.

I was in an environment where I was comfortable enough to ask directly what it means, and I was told it refers to someone who likes to stay at home. Hearing that explanation, I then thought of “de” coming from “出る” (‘deru’, to go out) and “bushou” from 不精, which is a word whose meaning I didn’t quite remember. (later when I checked I discovered it means “laziness”) So the word “debushou” would be properly written as “出不精”. Unfortunately, we don’t speak with kanji, otherwise I wouldn’t have had such a misunderstanding (:

There are a few other expressions that use 〜無精, such as 筆不精 (fudebushou), which means someone who is not good at writing letters or corresponding.

While I was writing this article, I remembered the word “でぶせん” (debusen), which I had heard in some conversation but never confirmed the meaning. I thought “sen” was “線” meaning “line”, but when I checked I was completely wrong.

The proper writing of this word is “デブ専”, where the kanji “専” is used in words like “専門” (senmon) which means “speciality”. So “debusen” means, put blatantly, “someone who likes fat people”.

As a result of this little misunderstanding, I learned two new words. You can call this “一石二鳥” (isseki nichou), which as you can probably guess from the characters, means “two birds with one stone”.



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2 thoughts on “Easily misunderstood Japanese word: でぶしょう (debushou) is not about being fat

  1. Sam

    This post was quite interesting. I’ve had these kind of problems myself.
    I prefer these sort of posts to your book reviews… mainly because I struggle with reading

    1. locksleyu Post author

      Thanks for the comment. I try to keep balance between grammar articles, book reviews, and translation stuff, but it’s hard to do sometimes. Will try to keep writing articles like this that can help a wider audience.

      With respect to reading, is your difficulty with mostly Kanji, grammar, or something else?


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