Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Local Japanese Slang Words

My friend Harri sent me this in an email.  Thanks Harri!

Some of these words are actual Japanese words – but kinda slang in the way we use(d) them.  

benjo = bathroom or toilet.  “I come back, I going benjo“.

bocha = bath or bathe.  “I going bocha now!”

Habuteru or habut = pouty or grumpy. “Eh, how come your kid stay so quiet?  She usually talk, talk, talk”. “She stay all habuts because I told her we not going Castle Park after”.

Bobora – This is a tricky one.  We grew up calling the Japanese tourist boboras – back in the day when they had daikon legs (yet another one!) and wore slippers with the big plastic flower on them.  But our parents referred to pumpkin as bobora.  But go to Japan and ask for bobora and I don’t know what you’ll get – besides a funny look.

Skosh = Little bit.  “I’ll just have a skosh“.  Now, this word is derived from the actual Japanese word “sukoshi” which means little bit – usually as in measurement.  The weird part is that this slang has been picked up by the English language.  It’s even in the Webster dictionary meaning a small amount.

Kukai = doo-doo.  “Aww man!  I went step in dog kukai“.

Butsu-butsu = a small sore.  “I got a butsu-butsu on my leg”.

Kakio = many sores. “Poor thing, she get all kakio leg”.

Shibiri = pins and needles such as when your leg falls asleep.  “Aiya, I get shibiri leg”.

Totan = corrugated metal. “That house get totan roof – noisy when it rains!”.

Kamaboko House = Quonset hut.  “Wow, check out that kamaboko house“.

Hanabata = wet, slimy boogers.  “Eh, your hanabata is about to drip”.

Hanakuso = dried, hard boogers.  “Stop flicking your hanakuso!”.

Hold chochin = When someone tags along with a couple who are on a date.  “So what, you going hold chochin for them?”  Chochin is a lantern.  Way back in the day, a person would walk behind someone holding up a lantern on a long pole over the person’s head to give them light.

Buddhahead and Kotonk = Interesting story about these 2 slang words.  We refer to a kotonk as a Japanese person born on the mainland.  However, when I was looking up the origin of Buddhahead, found out that the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was made up of Japanese Americans (JA’s) from both the mainland and Hawaii.  Well, the Hawaii JA’s called the mainland ones Katonks.  So the mainland JA’s called the Hawaii ones Buddhaheads.  The word Buddhahead may have started out at “butahead” (pig-head) but somehow evolved into Buddhahead.  This, being the Nisei generation.

I think our generation considers a Buddhahead as an old-fashioned Japanese man who expects the wife to wait on him hand and foot.  The Buddhahead will sit at the table and wait for all the food to be served to him.  When he wants more rice, he’ll just tap his chawan with his hashi to let his wife know that he wants more rice.  The same goes for wanting more tea.  And when he’s done, he’ll just get up and walk away from the table – while the wife cleans up after him.  Other similar names for this kine of person is “Samurai” or “Shogun”.


kobi said...

That's quite the list. Hardly use those words anymore or pidgin for that matter since I live on the mainland. I heard the word katonk originated from the fights that occurred between the Hawaii JA's and mainland JA's. Since the Hawaii JA's were better fighters "katonk" was the sound the mainland JA's heads hitting the floor.

jalna said...

OMG Kobi, that is so interesting!! I always wondered.

Honolulu Aunty said...

katonks are really so very different from the local japanese, yeah? they get offended more and tend to stand up for their rights more since they were a minority on the mainland. but once they learn to chill out and start to realize how good and safe we have it here, they love it.

one of my favorite jpnse slang word is "hamajang" - all messed up. right now, I stay all hamajang.

Unknown said...

Aaaah, brings back so many memories. The PC sentiment has made it more difficult for us to use some of these words (except with very close friends).

Anonymous said...

I think bobora is based on the Portuguese word for pumpkin, abobora. Also kakio is a Hawaiian word for itchy skin, mange, etc.
My dad was in the 442 and he told me they would call the mainland born JAs kotonks based on the sound it would make of a coconut hit their head (meaning empty head) and the kotonks called them Buddha heads because they were looked at as being stubborn.

Hanakuso, if you take it apart, Hana is nose in Japanese and kuso means sh** in Japanese.
My Baachan was the only one in her immediate family to immigrate to Hawaii, so in the early 70s her three sisters who stayed in Japan, came to visit her here. My Baachan was telling them in Japanese about her life experiences at Ewa Plantation, when my mother noticed that my Baachans sisters were looking a bit confused, my mom then pointed out to my Baachan that she wasn’t speaking completely in Japanese and my Baachan was puzzled and my mom said she used words such as “buta kaukau”‘ “makule”‘ and “pau Hana”. We all had a good laugh.


Chet Colson said...

I like how Filapinos instead of saying "she cannot breathe" they say "chicken nut bread" or how "tenacious" they say "tennis shoes".

jalna said...

I like "hamajang" too, Aunty!!

For real yah, Lorna.

I love your stories, Izsmom!

Funny, Chet.

K and S said...

I remember using some of these in front of satoshi and got laughed at since some are not japanese words used today:)

jalna said...

That's so funny, Kat!

Leslie's pics said...

so funny the examples!! stop flicking your hanakuso!! ;-D

Kay said...

This was so much fun! I've heard it called Chochin Mochi.
For the longest time, I didn't know skosh came from sukoshi.
I've never heard of kakio though.

jalna said...

Hahaha, Les!

Kay, Izsmom commented and said that kakio is hawaiian for itchy skin, mange, etc. I always thought kukai was Hawaiian too.

Mimi said...

Cannot find the origin of 'hamajang' anywhere. It kind of seems like a lot of the words in the original list are Hawaiian (or Portuguese) - and hamajang almost sounds Filipino to me. Growing up in Kapalama, I was bilingual by the time I got to first grade, tanks goodness. Odawise, no frans!

Unknown said...

Kakio and kukae are Hawaiian.

Unknown said...

Also, many of those words (bocha, benjo) are country bumpkin words. If you use them in modern Tokyo, you'll be laughed at.