Why are the Japanese so insensitive to swearing in other languages?

In just one week I’ve heard someone saying “Merde” in a NHK programme for primary school kids, seen “Jesus Christ!” coming out a speech bubble on Yamanote line train posters, and become aware of this incredibly profane T-shirt on local station Kanagawa TV. Is it just because there is very little concept on swearing in Japanese, or just the incredible ability of the Japanese to filter out most of what is going on around them, especially text in foreign languages?

Why is baka often written in katakana?

Someone ended up here yesterday after googling this question. The answer wasn’t here then (sorry), so I hope you try again today!

Japanese language books usually concentrate mainly on the use of katakana for words borrowed from foreign languages like パリ (Paris), and then might go onto mention more specialist uses like animal names in science. In Japan and even more in manga and anime, however, the most notable use is often katakana just for emphasis or to make a word stand out. As it says in the book Japanese English: Language and Culture Contact (recommended, even for non-linguists), katakana is probably best thought of as the Japanese italics. When baka is written in katakana rather than the more “proper” hiragana (ばか) or kanji (馬鹿), it is an example of this “italics” function.

The big list of my Japanese faux pas

Giving the impression I thought the UK was safer than Japan
I think I mentioned no earthquakes, tsunami or bears, and therefore squashed the great national myth about Safe Japan Read the rest of this entry »

What the Japanese really mean today

As usual with my “What the Japanese really mean?” posts, the idea is that you read the Japanese and literal translation and then try to guess what they mean in English before scrolling down the page to check. Have fun (I did)!


Japanese- Wanpatan
Literal translation- Japanese pronunciation of the words “one pattern”
Meaning Read the rest of this entry »

Why is baka (馬鹿- stupid) written with the kanji for horse plus deer?

“legend having it a foolish king of the ancient Chinese Qin dynasty, upon seeing a deer, fatuously said ba instead of ka, and was the first to have earned himself the nickname baka” Read the rest of this entry »