Japanese particle combination: “~kaba” (〜カバ)

By | April 1, 2020

(Note: this post was an April fools joke. Please see this post for more details).

I enjoy getting deep in Japanese grammar not only because of the challenge but because it helps me have a deep understanding of whatever I am reading or listening to. It also provides a good foundation for doing accurate translations.

This time I want to go over a particle combination that is considered slang, in fact it’s so new that even some Japanese natives may not be familiar with it. You may hear it used among Japanese teenagers, though.

The か (ka) particle is one of the simplest particles in Japanese and is used to indicate a question. The particle combination かな is used to mean the speaker is wondering about something. For example,

  • 今日は何しようかな (kyou wa nani shiyou ka na)
  • I wonder what I should do today…

It turns out that かば means almost the same thing as かな, except it has a little bit of a nuance that you are “cool” or in the in-crowd.

  • 今日は何しようかば (kyou wa nani shiyou ka ba)
  • What I gonna be doing today, fool?

Notice I’ve adjusted the English translation above to try and reflect the nuance of this combination, though it’s not a perfect match.

The word origin on かば is a little unclear. Some say it derived from a regional dialect, others say it has something to do with the fact that かば also means hippo (河馬). Others say it derived from the word かっぱ which means a water imp. There are even other theories about horses and deers which I won’t go into now.

By the way, if you write this particle in katakana (カバ) it has an even more hip feel to it. And if you speak it in katakana you’ll get a similar nuance.

There are a few other ways this particle combination can be used in ways that かな can’t, and I’ll write a followup article on that tomorrow so be sure to check back.

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2 thoughts on “Japanese particle combination: “~kaba” (〜カバ)

  1. Daniel

    Thanks a lot! keep it up. I’m currently in Niseko learning Japanese as fast as I can.

    1. locksleyu Post author

      Thanks! Best of luck learning and let me know if you have any questions.


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