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Friday, March 6, 2009


More Japanese That Ain't in the Textbook

~Feelings, Nothing More than Feelings~ Part 2 of X

I know its been a few weeks (ok, a month?) since the first part of this series, but I'm a busy man, and there is all KINDS of 日本語 that's not in your 教科書 that needs to be addressed. If you've forgotten in the intervening period, this is a continuation of my last Kyoukasho Ni Notte Nai Nihongo (KN^4) post, which you might want to take a glance at as a refresher.

Today we are going to look at some 熟語 that make use of the 気 character and their relationship to other words of similar meaning. Many of them do overlap in certain ways, but I hope you'll come away from this with at least a rudimentary idea of the different nuances they all carry.


If you are anything like me, this is the first word that you learned that meant "feelings." It is both useful and common, but its meaning and usage can be kind of nebulous. The best way to think of it is your feelings as a response to some kind of external stimulus. You might get into a hot onsen and think 「気持ち(が)いい!」, or you watch someone getting facial plastic surgery and think 「気持ち(が)悪い!」 (modern slang: きもい). Check out this neko being caressed and really enjoying it:

気持ち doesn't necessarily have to be a physical reaction; it can be just a general emotion, too. Watching TV or movies, you might hear lines like 「私の気持ちはどうなの?」 ("What about my feelings?") or things like that. I know that I, personally, would one day like to be able to say, 「もてるってやっぱ気持ちいいな!」 ("It feels great being popular with the girls!"). Dare to dream, me, dare to dream.


It can be really confusing trying to differentiate 気分 from 気持ち, but I think that one way of thinking about it is that it's more about internal stimuli than external. For example, let's say that you are feeling nauseous, you would probably say 気分が悪い rather than 気持ち悪い. That's because, though your nausea might have been caused by something you ate, it is now really an internal thing (literally!). Used on its own like this, 気分が悪い is generally a health-ish kind of thing. (This is another post, but I think that Japanese has an unbelievable amount of words and phrases that describe how one's digestive tract, from the stomach all the way down to the colon, feels.) Not saying that you can't say 気持ちが悪い for your health ever, but 気分が悪い, I think, works better. (For more info, check out the comments to this post.)

気分がいい, I think, isn't quite limited to health. It's used for anything that makes you feel good in a general sense, as opposed to what I see as a more pinpointed response to external stimuli represented by 気持ちがいい. Think about it this way: you might find that sitting outside in the sunshine in specific to be 気持ちいい, but when the weather in general is pleasant, your entire 気分 becomes いい. Or maybe you just won the Superbowl - that would probably make your 気分 pretty いい as well.

JB always makes me feel pretty good.

The internal/external distinction becomes a little harder to maintain when you think of other uses for 気分, but I think that the general/specific one holds up fairly well. In English, we use phrases like "king for a day." You aren't actually the king, but you do something (like go to an expensive hotel or restaurant and get waited on hand and foot) that makes you sort of feel like a king. This kind of feeling is summed up in Japanese as 王様気分. You might also see お姫様気分, or really anything you could ever fantasize about being. You could get dressed up like a geisha and be 舞妓さん気分, or you could get a chance to throw a pitch at a professional baseball stadium and be プロ野球選手気分. In all of these cases, you get treated in a certain way that simulates something else, and for a while, in your little fantasy world, your 気分 changes from that of an everyday person to a rockstar, or queen, or whatever it is you want to be. It's your own internal change that makes it relevant.

(often pronounced

This isn't really a hard word to understand, but it is kind of fun, and certainly in common usage, so you should all try to remember it if you don't know it already. This is used to describe the atmosphere, aura, ambiance, or general air of a person, a store, a restaurant, or whatever else you like. Here are a few example sentences to help you get a feel for it:
You've got the same air about you as your father.
I LOVE the atmosphere in yaki-tori places like this.

A long haired version of myself visiting one of my favorite yakitori places


This is a rather complicated word, one with a number of different meanings. I'll try to hit as many of them as I can. In general, it means condition, shape, or convenience. This brings us to the most relevant usage, one's specific (often physical) state. You might get asked, 「具合どう?」, or "how are you doing/feeling?" Or if you aren't feeling well, you could say 具合が悪い, and it could mean a number of things - you might have a stomach ache, or a headache, or you might just be feeling unwell in general.

What's wrong? You don't look so good.
Yeah, I'm not really feeling well...

That's not the only usage, though. It can be used to describe the convenience, or inconvenience, of a specific situation as well. Especially when it comes to talking about convenience, in addition to 具合 being いい, you will often see it described as うまい. (That's another word that needs its own post...)

He came over at kind of an inconvenient time for me.
Luckily, apparently we're going to have clear skies tomorrow.

It can also be used to describe how well (or not) something is working:
My computer is messed up.

It might also be used to describe the ease or convenience (or lack thereof) of a using a specific tool, piece of equipment, or what have you.
Is your new electronic dictionary easy to use?

Another usage of this word is somewhat similar to that of 加減, which Jeff touched on in an earlier (actually the very first EVARR) 教科書に載っていない日本語 post. When used in this way, it means something like "level" or "amount."
What's a good level of done-ness for steak?
It [let's say some kind of food] came out just right!
I can't believe you made it this far in 2 days. That's amazing progress!

That does it for today's post. There are many, many more words like this that I think you should know, but this post is already long enough, so they'll have to wait for next time. Specifically, I'm thinking of doing a more in-depth examination of 加減, and having a look at 調子, 機嫌, 都合, and 様子. If there are any more that you really want explained soon, feel free to speak up in the comments! Same for if you want any clarification, or if you want to add to or correct anything I've put up. Definitely also let me know if you are finding any of this at all useful. On the other hand, if you've had enough of the ~Feelings~ series, well, poo on you (but seriously, let me know about that, too).


RYUICHI said...

Wow, Nirav's explanation is great!
He's not known as "Kenshiro" for nothing.
(Does it make sense?)

Vince said...

Hey there. Just wanted to tell you guys how amazing this blog is. I've been reading it for a couple a months now, going over all the past 2-kyuu posts and now the 1-kyuu's, and I just think they were SOO helpful. 教科書に載ってない日本語 is also one of my favorite series on this blog.

Anyway, keep up the good work. I'm sure there are a lot of other quiet enthusiastic followers like me around.

P.S. For next post, I'd be interested in hearing about 加減 and 様子 particularly.


AzzidisRidden said...

Thanks for the comments, Ryuichi and Vince. I want to second Vince's request for info on 様子 and maybe さま?

Nirav said...

Ryuichi: That works just fine! "He's not called Kenshiro for nothing!" works too, and sounds maybe a bit more conversational.

Vince: Good to hear! Are you planning on taking 1Q this year? Also, keep an eye out for 加減 and 様子, both of which I will be sure to include for next time.

Jeff: Got it. I'll even include ざま as a bonus.