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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Opposites

One of the best tools for getting by in conversation in a foreign language is knowing how to ask about opposites.

When you don't know the word, for say "dark," but you remember 明るい is "bright," you can not only improve your vocab, but keep the conversation going with just a quick pause to ask 「あれ、明るいの反対は何だったっけ。」

A problem that I've come across in Japan though, is that my conversational partner isn't always the best at helping me find the right word.

I suspect this is because the Japanese language doesn't put as much emphasis on identifying concrete opposites as English does. I seem to remember doing opposites worksheets in school, and playing opposite association word games with my brother when we were little.

But if you've lived in Japan for a long time and tried the "opposite" approach, I guarantee you have had a similar exchange:

Japanese person: あの子、酔っぱらっている?
Is that girl drunk?

Me: いや、いつもそんな感じ。あれ、ちょっと待って。。。
No, she's alway like that, even when she's totally... uh .... Wait.
「酔っぱらっている」という言葉の反対って何?
What's the opposite of drunk?

Japanese person: 酔っぱらっていない。
Not drunk.

And they're not joking.

I've also had more than one conversation where people have told me that the opposite of homosexual is "not gay" or even 普通 ( ふつう;normal) which is all kinds of problematic in terms of labeling.

So I don't know how often it'll happen, but anytime I come across a HARD-WON new opposite set, I'll try to share it with you.

The two we've covered so far are:

酔っぱらっている
よっぱらっている
drunk

vs

素面
しらふ;すめん
sober
and

同性愛者
どうせいあいしゃ
the technical term for homosexual

vs

異性愛者
いせいあいしゃ
heterosexual

And the one that I came across recently that sparked this post is:

喉が渇いた
のどがかわいた
thirsty

vs

喉が潤う
のどがうるおう
to be quenched

Have you had any of these experiences you could tell us about?

1 comment:

Principessa said...

Oh this is helpful! Thanks!