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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Japanese Language Trivia of the Day:

This week I'm celebrating having come one step closer to Nirav-like awesomeness in the following way: I've finally achieved お得意さん status. While お得意さん (おとくい; otokui) means "regular customer, or valued client" the Japanese nuance of it is a little bit stronger. I think that it implies more of a sense of friendship or value than a word like 常連 (じょうれん;jouren) which also means regular customer.

The お得意さん is someone who's pretty damn 仲良し with the owner of a restaurant or bar, and Brett and I have noticed that there are two kinds of 常連. There are the those who know the owner through their patronage, and those who are friends with the owner outside of the business establishment. The latter is more likely to be an お得意さん than the former.

We've met a lot of the former、and most of the time, they're えらい調子乗っている. They'll start a conversation with us, ask all the typical questions for foreigners, offer us a drink saying that they "know the owner well," and pretty soon they've got the staff running to get their "キープ" bottle, ordering things that aren't on the menu, and generally bossing the boss around to show off how special they are/how much they know. In my opinion, these kind of 常連 aren't any different from the clients at a snack bar (hostess bar). The owner puts up with them and acts like he likes them because their money is made of money.

In Saga, there's a chain of 焼き鳥 restaurants called かちがらす ( a crow-like bird, maybe a magpie?), and they serve THE BEST カルビ in Kyuushuu. We've been going there for the entire time that we've been in Saga, but only in the last few months have I gotten to know the owner. The かちがらす本店 isn't a very busy location, so one night I was sitting at the bar, chatting a bit, and the owner decided he wanted to close up his shop early and take off to go drinking somewhere else. I got invited along. After that, I brought him some お土産 as a thank you, and now, everytime we go, we get tons and tons of free food (ox-tail, side salads, bizarrrrrrre fish), and every couple of weeks, the dude calls me at home to say "No customers tonight; come hang out."

So in addition to the definition of 常連, and a small hint about how to go about gaining favorable 常連 status (give お土産! They never expect it from customers, let alone foreign customers), the real piece of language trivia I wanted to share was something I finally got to use on the last occasion I was enjoying a meal at かちがらす。

ごちそうさま です!
gochisousama desu!

I know, I know... You're going "WTF, Daily Yo-ji? Did you just put 「ご馳走様です」 in a trivia post? Are you retarded?"

「ご馳走様,」 as everyone knows, is what you say when you finish a meal, it means everything from "Thanks," to "That was great," to "I'm done," to "It was a glorious feast!" Along with 「頂きます,」pre-eating, it's one of the most basic 決まり文句 this side of 「お元気ですか.」

The reason it counts as today's trivia is because of its other usage, which I recently learned, and if you all knew this one already then, to answer your previous question, yes, we are retarded.

Contextual Translation:
1. TMI (too much information!)
2. WHOAH, that'll be enough of that.
3. STOP talking please.

Playing off of the "I'm all done, thanks" nuance it contains, ご馳走様 is Japan's version of telling you they don't wanna hear it, for whatever reason. My girlfriend's mother jokingly says it when I'm saying something saccharine-sweet about Yuri. Japanese people will use it to let you know that your 自画自賛 is not appreciated.

I'm planning on using it to deal with the 文化違い whereby adults find it appropriate to discuss things like diarrhea and vomiting as parts of casual conversation. Oh, and it would be great for the tendency of adults to announce things like 「おしっこしたいな」, which in English, doesn't get put so directly in mixed company. 「ご馳走様です」 might tell my Japanese friends that I don't really want to talk about those things more effectively than my current 皮肉れている response, which doesn't work as well in Japanese as it does in English: 「おめでとう。お前クーキー欲しいか?」

Here's the context I originally used it in, when another 常連さん at かちがらす were discussing the differences between Japanese and American bread:

Me: ただ僕の感覚だけど、日本人はフワフワなパンが好きじゃないですか?アメリカのパンはね、中がフワフワで、耳がカリカリで、本当にいい食感です。
It's just my lowly observation but, don't Japanese people enjoy really soft airy bread? American bread is more likely soft and light on the inside, but with a crisp or crunchy crust. It's a great texture.
Him (drunk, 60-something): 外が硬くて、中がやらかいか?
The outside's hard, but the inside's soft?
Me: ええと。。。 その感じ。
Awwwww, man.... yeah.
Him: 俺のちんちん一緒やん!
Like my dick! OH!

Everyone together now: ご馳走様!

Anyone else have an experience where you used this or wished you had used this to escape awkwardness?


darryl said...

haha good story

Nirav said...

mmmmmm kachigarasu....


ohhh man....

Claytonian said...

I can attest to the power of giving food to your local Izakaya owner. Endeared to him for life you will be

SashTheRed said...

Good lesson. I didn't know this nuance :)
By the way, you used some words there I didn't know. What's おしっこしたいな? And what's 皮肉れている? Something with irony?
Thanks a lot


AzzidisRidden said...

おしっこ + したい = I have to pee.

"I've gotta take a leak," or "I gotta piss," are common enough in English, but it's hard to imagine any native English speaker saying at as much, and as casually as Japanese adults do.

You're right on with 皮肉れている. It's cynical or sarcastic, but I've also heard it used to mean like... devious, or underhanded.

Nicholas said...


anyway. This comment was used when two of my Japanese friends who were dating, kissed in front of a group of us at an enkai. Sort of like a PDA, which is rare in Japan.

Anyway, three different people said


I was confused at first ... but then it made sense.