Now Featuring 1級 Grammar, Everyday Japanese That You Won't Find in the Book, and Language and Cultural Trivia!

Friday, February 27, 2009



We spend a lot of time telling you ways to fancy up your Japanese. TOO MUCH TIME! It's always "Ancient Chinese history" this and "archaic grammar" that. Well you know what? All your nancy-pancy conjugations aren't gonna do you a lick of good when THIS guy tears through the sliding door of your dojo and challenges everybody inside.
「ほら!何やってん、オメー!?」 he slurs through his perpetual sneer as he starts pushing you around. Indeed, the situation has gotten pretty やばい - the hyper-casual (or often outright insulting) ways of ヤンキー語 will be the only way you get out of this unscathed. If you consider being forced to buy him some アンパン "unscathed."

What follows are some basic guidelines to either understanding this brand of speech (which is quite common on tv shows, anime, etc) or using it yourself (which can be either endearing or completely inappropriate. Use with caution!)

あい・い => え

This point confused me to no end when I was first trying to learn some rougher ways to express myself. For example, I learned that "shut up!" was "うるせー!" from watching anime, but "うるさい" based on textbooks. I didn't realize until much later that they were the same word, except the former was altered to make it a more bad-ass manner of speaking. This rule applies to an almost unlimited number of cases: "じゃない" becomes "じゃねー", "すごい" becomes "スゲー", and so on. It can even apply to words that end in other vowels as it did above, changing "おまえ" to "オメー". Adjectives are the most common victim of this slurring. Think of it as adding "so damned" or something similar before the text you're talking. "スマブラがなんておもしれぇ!" becomes "Smash brothers is so much goddamn fun!"

いる = ん

This one applies mostly to verbs, and is reflective of an underlying rule of ヤンキー語 - much is either shortened or changed to enable easy speaking. Don't believe me? Just give it a try with almost any of the examples I've given so far. "え" is probably the easiest of the 母音 (vowels), and "ん" is a step easier than "いる".

As a quick example of the above: "ガタガタいってんじゃねぇよ!" "Quit your goddamned babbling!"

人(ひと) = いつ

Best employed with phrases like 「誰、そいつ?」, or "Who the hell is that guy?" It can also be used in the phrase "どいつもこいつも", which can be loosely translated as "every-f***ing-body". As with all Japanese, tone and context will determine the severity of your speaking. Still, remember that this - like most things I'll cover here - are not something you want to use in a professional setting. I once developed the bad habit of using language like this almost exclusively for a period of time, to the point where normal ways of speaking began to elude me. I was in the middle of class and wanted to indicate one of the students, but - not knowing his name and wanting to do more than grunt and point - gestured with an emphatic "そいつ!". Though this got a lot of laughter from the kids, the teacher was noticeably flushed. I've since used it in other classes, but affected the ヤンキー voice while doing so to make clear it was a joke.


A lot of you are probably thinking - ほら? Isn't that pretty tame? Well that's because you're not saying it right. Another part of speaking this way is rolling your "r"s, or 「巻き舌で言う」. If you roll your "r"s just a bit each time you say "ほら", you'll have the Japanese (rough) equivalent of interspersing your speech with "hey" or "yo"... although a good sight ruder, depending on circumstances.

These, as I see them, are the fundamentals of ヤンキー語文法. If you just couple this with wanton use of the rudest imperative you know (ほら!アンパン買って来い!), you'll have a good start. The following video does a pretty good job of unifying all of these points while being completely hilarious at the same time. For the full effect I recommend watching the whole video, but those eager to figure out what a "young key" is, just hit play, and enjoy!

On a final note - if there is interest, I'll post some links that will let you expand your ヤンキー単語. Just like English, Japanese has a few colorful expressions that pop up a lot in this mode of speech. But that is a post for another time, even if the place is right on.


SashTheRed said...

Indeed a funny video :)
If you can, I'd love to know more vocabulary like this. It's kinda fun. But generally, this "japanese that doesn't appear in textbooks" is an excellent corner :)

Emi said...

It's so funny! The site made me laugh. Before talking about ヤンキー語, I'd say we have to think about this first: ヤンキー語 doesn't sound sophiticated AT ALL. When you use them, you need to prepare falling into contempt in a certain situation. (^^;)
By the way, we say 「どいつもこいつも」, not 「こいつもどいつも」.

In ヤンキー語、wordings can be changing to our ears. For example,
「言ってる」 can change 「つってる」in other cases.
Oh, for pity's sake, please don't be familiar with these expressions...

Defendership said...


It is pretty fun stuff, especially copmared to the rigors of ultra-formal Japanese. But just remember what I (and now Emi, too!) mentioned: all things in moderation...and not to your superiors ;)


Thanks! I just changed it! I always get it switched around... and thanks for going through the effort of writing down a few good examples! While it might be fun/easy to say, writing it can be tough. For a foreigner speaker, anywhere, where you have to put in all kinds of "っ" to make it accurate.

Claytonian said...

The more you learn, the more you let it slip out >:D

Nirav said...


By the way, did you know there's a new はじめの一歩? 鷹村さん still says all kinds of crazy shit, so I definitely recommend it for more やんきー語の勉強。

SashTheRed said...

I'm aware that it's not used in formal situations... And actually neither in non-formal, unless it's with close friends who understand you're kidding. And usually I don't become that close with Japanese people... cultural barrier... Actually, I read an interesting book recently, called "Like a Woman: Diary of a Language Learner in Japan". Although the title sounds very weird and feminist (and eventually it is in some ways), the story is quite interesting because it reveals you to different notions of Japanese silent language and meaning, and made me understand a few cases in which I personally was wrong among Japanese society and made me understand why I haven't really met up with these people since.... Hmmm...
Ok, I'm done. Sorry for the flaming.

えいみ said...

I don't know why but I love this kind of language... more, more, more please!! :) でも確かに、ほとんどの日本人の反応は良くないね。。 "Uhh, Amy, that doesn't sound 'cute', you know" and "cute girls do not say that." Sigh. But it's so FUN!!