ありよりのあり!?フロリダ!? センス溢れる「若者言葉」 Schoolgirl sensibilities and the art of slang


On September 21st 2016, Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs released the results of the 2015 survey of the national language. Their findings show that the majority of people now shorten the conjugation of verbs in everyday speech by dropping the syllable “ra” from them. For example, the verb “Mirareru” (to be seen) becomes “Mireru,” or “Derareru” (to be available) becomes “Dereru.” While these grammatically incorrect short forms are nothing new, this is first time their use has surpassed that of proper syntax since the survey’s inception in 1995.




Our language is evolving

Japanese is regarded as one of the world’s hardest languages to master. While English has verb contractions, subtle differences like dropping “ra” from words don’t really exist. The fact that Japan has three writing systems--Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana--doesn’t make things any simpler. The language can even be tricky for us Japanese. Just listen to the way our kids speak to see what I mean. I struggle to understand conversation between teens or their social media posts despite being a native speaker born and raised right here in Tokyo. Just when I start to get a grasp on the lingo, it’s already being replaced by completely new slang.

Not long ago I went to a party with some college kids in attendance and overheard them say something that flabbergasted me. “Maji Manji (Seriously Swastika).” You could almost see the giant question mark floating above my head as I pondered who came up with such a ridiculous saying and how it managed to catch on.


Considering how sloppy we’ve gotten with verb conjugations it wouldn’t surprise me if we were to see some of these phrases pop up in dictionaries some day. A classic example of this is the word “Yabai.” The actual definition is “Dangerous or Harmful,” but that’s never how it’s used anymore. If something is cool, cute, tasty or fun, you can bet that it’s referred to as “Yabai.” In fact it can mean pretty much anything you want it to.
A lot of our slang also revolves around vague nuances and mind-boggling abbreviations. Here’s just a tiny glimpse into a typical conversation.




“Ari Yori no Ari”

A: Hey, wanna hit up karaoke later?
B: Ari yori no ari!

Ahhh, “Ari Yori no Ari.” In this case the word “Ari” means something like “OK” or “fine,” and “Yori” means “more than.” So “Ari yori no ari” becomes “More OK than OK.” In other words, “Sure!” If we switch it up with “Nashi (no way) yori no ari” we get a less enthusiastic but still affirmative response. That’s pretty deep when you consider all that’s being conveyed in just 7 hiragana characters.




“Florida,” “Kibitsui,” and “Ryo”

A: You wanna go to that cafe sometime?
B: Oh yeah!
C: Sure, but when?
A: I dunno, how about this weekend?
B: Ah, this weekend is “kibitsui” for me.
C: Sorry, that’s “Florida.”
A: “Ryo.”

Look, I packed three millennial slang words into one dialogue! Any guess what they mean? Let’s start with “Kibitsui.” This is a mashup of the words “Kibishii (difficult, brutal)” and “Kitsui (rough, hard).” Then we have “Florida.” Somehow the phrase “Ofuro ni haittekuru kara, ridatsu suru (I’m outty ‘cause I’ve gotta take a bath)” got abbreviated as America’s Sunshine State. I don’t know why, but this feels so high-brow to me. Lastly there is “Ryo.” “Ryokai” means “Understood” and this is a simple shortening of that.

ユニークでよく考えられている現代の「若者言葉」は、無数にある。どのようにして生まれたのかは謎に包まれているが、女子高生を中心とした世代を中心に広まり、使われている。「若者言葉」が根を張り、広く使われるようになったら、文化庁の調査で、正しい表現よりも利用される言葉として発表されることもあるかもしれない。そうなることは、ありよりのあり? なしよりのなし? どうなのだろう……(笑)。

There are countless other clever expressions that kids cycle through, too. Nobody knows how or where they get started, but they all seem to stem from high school girls. Who knows, on a future language survey these words may be more widely recognized than some of our standard phrases. It’s totally “Ari yori no ari.” Or was that “Nashi yori no nashi?” Yeesh… (lol!).
Language changes with the times. Our langauge as we know it will become archaic sooner or later. Only a fool would try to resist these changes, but I hope that the beauty of the current Japanese language doesn’t get lost in the transition.


関連記事はありません。There are no related articles.