Fun Link Friday: チンする、お茶する、ググる

languagelogIf you’re into quirky notes about language use, and especially if you don’t mind some jargony linguistics writing, Language Log is a great blog co-run by Prof Victor Mair and a bunch of other prominent linguists & scholars. Recent posts have discussed the conception of the “future” in various languages (does “mirai” 未来 imply a pessimistic view of something that has not come, and might never come, while futurus is optimistic, pointing to what /will/ be?), a quirk that causes the Hebrew for “Please return to me” to be mistaken by Google Translate for “please me like an alien creature,” and the etymology for the English name of a Chinese tea. Often, the comments threads on Language Log – unlike on many other parts of the internet – are filled with insightful, informed discussion expanding on the topic of the post. I often get so much more out of reading the comments, too, than only the post.

Anyway, for a little fun this Friday, Have you ever heard someone in Japanese use ググる that way? ググります、ググって、ググりたい, and so on? Here, let me Google that for you.

A Language Log post from back in October shares with us a whole bunch of other ~ru (~る) verbs invented into colloquial use in recent years, or decades, though some are apparently not so common, so be careful using them ^_^

My personal favorite is チンする (chin suru) – to microwave, to nuke something, to zap it – after the “ding” (or, “chin!”) the microwave makes when it’s done. 「あ、冷たっ! これ、チンしてくれない?」

Saboru (サボる) is apparently one of these loanword verb constructions, too. I’ve heard it just often enough that I thought it a standard word in the language… which I guess it is now, with over 86% of people surveyed saying they use it. Meaning “to skip class,” or “to skip out,” it apparently comes from the French for sabotage?

And then, the post touches upon a few words which a large percentage of people have come to think means something different from its original meaning, and therefore use it differently. I thought this was quite interesting, as I also thought 世間ずれ (seken zure) meant “out of sync with the world,” or out of sync with the normal ways of doing things, seeing things, etc. More than half of those native Japanese speakers surveyed thought the same as I did (do?), but apparently the origin of the phrase is as an abbreviation of seken o watatte zuru kashikoku natte iru 世間を渡ってずる賢くなっている (roughly: “made wiser/more clever by experience”). How about that.

About Travis

I am a scholar of Japanese & Okinawan history with a particular interest in the history of arts and culture, and inter-Asia interactions, in the early modern period. I have been fortunate to enjoy the opportunity to live in Okinawa for six months in 2016-17, and in mainland Japan on multiple occasions, including from Sept 2019 to now.
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