What the heck does that mean?

Good morning everyone,

Well, this gorgeous weather is going to continue till around mid-week. We can expect mostly sunny weather and highs in the mid to high 20s until clouds roll in on Wednesday and it's looking like we may get some rain on Thursday.

The internet has a language of its own. Words like LOL and WTF are common enough that even our grandparents know them, but others like TL;DR (“too long; didn’t read”) and SMH (“shake my head”) can still mystify people until they look them up in Urban Dictionary.

And the same thing goes for Japanese. The Japanese internet has developed a bit of a dialect of its own, and even if you can read and write regular Japanese no problem, you’re still bound to run into a few words, phrases, and symbols that leave you feeling stumped.

That’s why today we’re counting down the top five indecipherable Japanese internet slang words.

So let’s get to it! Starting off with…

Honorable Mention: “www” and ワロタ (“warota”)

Ah yes, the Japanese versions of LOL. How could we not start with these? They’re only an honorable mention because they’re relatively well known across the internet, but just in case you’ve never seen them before, here’s the breakdown:

The first one, “www,” is any number of w’s after each other. The “w” stands for warau (笑う) meaning “to laugh.”

The other one, warota, comes from the same word warau (笑う) to laugh, conjugated into its past-tense form waratta. Waratta gets changed to warata, then warota.

You can also see warosu and warotasu as alternative spellings sometimes, though they all mean roughly the same thing. And since warota and its many alternative forms are a little longer than just “www,” I’d say it’s okay to translate it as ROFL in a lot of circumstances.

#5. orz

The first official item on the list of indecipherable internet slang words is also one of the strangest: orz. What makes it so odd? Well, it’s the fact that you don’t actually pronounce it at all.

That’s right, you don’t read this one out loud as “oars” or “oh ar zee” or anything like that. Instead “orz” is essentially just ASCII art representing a person bowing down in apology/respect. The “o” is the head, the “r” is the hand on the ground, and the “z” is the bent legs.

▼ Here’s a horribly-drawn picture to help illustrate “orz.”

Just like most internet abbreviations, there are alternatives to just the plain “orz” for those who have grown tired of it. Here’s just a small sampling; see if you can visualize them in the letters:

● STO (person bowing to the right)
● OLS (person lying on the ground with hands in air)
● prz (person bowing to the left with a pompadour)

#4. 鯖 (“saba”)

Unlike the last items on the list, which an outsider would simply have no idea what they mean, this one has a normal meaning all by itself, which could result in some hilarious misunderstandings.

Saba (鯖) is the Japanese word for “mackerel.” At least, that’s what it means at the fish market, but when you see it online, there’s a chance that instead it’s referring to something else: a server, as in, an internet server.

The reason why is very simple. The Japanese word for “server” is sābā (borrowed from English), and the word for “mackerel” is saba. The two are very similar, and the fish one is two less keyboard-presses to type, so it taking over as an abbreviation was almost inevitable..

#3. DQN

If there’s one thing Japanese is rich with, it’s ways of calling someone “stupid.” As we’ve seen before in the most offensive swear words and insults, Japanese is an ice cream buffet of distinct flavors of the word “idiot.”

So now let’s add another to the list, an internet favorite: DQN.

“DQN” isn’t an acronym for anything. Instead it’s an abbreviation of the word dokyun (D = do, Q = kyu, N = n), which means something like “idiot/stupid,” especially if they do something rash or reckless without thinking, such as running red lights while driving, being corrupt in business/government, or engaging in yankii (“hoodlum”) behavior.

The word has its origin in the late nineties/earlier 2000s Japanese TV show Mokugeki! Dokyun! (“Caught on Camera! Idiots!”). It got picked up by the internet and has never left its grasp ever since, remaining as a refreshing way to call someone an idiot instead of the usual baka.

#2. 草生える (“kusa haeru”)

If using “www” or warota as the Japanese version of LOL is too commonplace for you, then here’s another addition you can make to your linguistic arsenal: kusa haeru.

At first glance the word kusa haeru has a meaning that has nothing to do with laughing. Kusa means grass, and haeru means “to grow/sprout,” so it just means “growing grass.”

The word has its origin from “www,” which if you use a little bit of imagination, looks like blades of grass sprouting out of the ground. This is especially noticeable when watching videos on the Japanese website NicoNico Douga, where viewers’ comments fly across the video.

And NicoNico Douga is where the phrase kusa haeru got its origin. It’s now used all over the internet and can sometimes be seen abbreviated just as kusa. Similar to the “server/mackerel” slang, it’s kind of funny to imagine someone reading it who doesn’t know the double meaning.

And the #1 most indecipherable Japanese internet slang word is…

1. △

Yup, that’s right. The final item on the list isn’t an abbreviation, heck it’s barely even a word. It’s just a symbol, a triangle: △

The word for “triangle-shape” in Japanese is sankakukei, and again if you use a little imagination, it can progress into a different phrase completely:

1. sankakukei (“triangle-shape”) turns into…
2. san ka kukei which turns into…
3. san ga kakkee (“___-san is cool/handsome”)

San is of course the suffix added to people’s names in Japanese, and kakkee is the masculine/tough way of saying the word kakkoii (“cool/handsome”).

So if you want to say that your favorite anime character (Luffy from One Piece, of course) is cool, there’s no need to spell out the whole phrase, you can just slam a triangle at the end of his name. Luffy

So there you have it, the top five indecipherable Japanese internet slang words. Did you know them all?

Have a great day!


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