Let’s Speak Dialect in Japanese! 10 funny phrases in Nagoya!

Let's Speak Dialect in Japanese! 10 funny phrases in Nagoya!

Most foreigners learn ‘standard’ Japanese, but every region of Japan has its own local dialect (ben), as this short series of articles explores. Around halfway between Tokyo and Osaka is Nagoya, a City with a dialect that reflects its geographical location by having intonation similar to Kansai-ben, but accent similar to Tokyo-ben.



 

Let’s Speak Dialect in Japanese! 10 funny phrases in Nagoya!

 

1. Here, Kitty Kitty!

Nagoya-ben uses a lot of “mya/nya/gya” sounds, which sounds funny to people from other parts of Japan. In fact, it’s often remarked that Nagoya people sound like cats, especially when they pronounce Nagoya as “Nyaagoya”. I’m not sure if ‘Nyaagoya’ people appreciate the joke, so it’s probably better not to repeat it!

 

2. Cat Food

All local dialects develop divergent pronunciations, but one example of ‘Nyaagoya-ben’ is rather puzzling to me: deep fried shrimp (ebi). In standard Japanese, “ebi furai” refers to breaded, deep fried shrimp, where “furai” (fry) is a loan word. But in the Nagoya dialect, this has become “ebi furyaa”!

 

3. What It Is

Nagoya-ben identifies things differently to standard Japanese. I might say “Kore wa ebi furai desu” (this is deep fried shrimp), but in the Nagoya dialect it would be “Kore wa ebi furyaa dagaya” or “Kore wa ebi furyaa dagyaa” or even “Kore wa ebi furyaa dagane.” In general, “dagane” is a softer, more feminine expression.

 

4. What It Isn’t

Again, in standard Japanese, I might say “Are wa ebi furai ja nai” (That isn’t fried shrimp), but it would be “Are wa ebi furyaa ja nyaa” in Nagoya-ben. I think you’ll agree, there’s a certain poetry to both.

 

5. Surprise

The final particle “gaya” is often tacked onto the end of statements to express surprise or admonishment, as in “Yuki ga futtoru gaya!” (Oh, it’s snowing!), or “Ikan gaya!” (You should know better!).

 

 

6. Let’s Do It!

Statements ending “…myaa” are for making suggestions, as in “Ebi furyaa wo tabeyo myaa!” (Let’s eat fried shrimp!), and if you’re sick of fried shrimp, you can substitute “Misonikomi udon” instead! Not hungry? So, how about “Sakkā wo shiyo myaa!” (Let’s play football), or “Nyaagoya-jō e iko myaa!” (Let’s go to Nagoya castle).

 

7. Let’s Not

Using the structure “…n toko myaa” (Let’s not…) might not seem that useful. How often would you need to say “Ebi furyaa wo taben toko myaa” (Let’s not eat fried shrimp), unless you were being sarcastic? However, it might be reasonable to say “Kyō ni Nyaagoya-jō e ikan toko myaa” (Let’s not go to Nagoya castle today) if you’ve changed your mind about an existing arrangement.

 

8. Really Very

In standard Japanese, the adverb “totemo” is used to intensify a following adjective, as in “totemo atsui” (very hot). The adverb “doeryaa” performs the same function in Nagoya-ben.

Tokyo-ben: “Tokyo no natsu wa totemo mushi-atsui desu ne!” (Tokyo summers are really hot and humid, aren’t they!).

Nagoya-ben: “Nyaagoya no natsu wa doeryaa mushi-atsui ga nee!” (Nagoya summers are really hot and humid, aren’t they!). At least we can agree on something!

 

9. You and Yours

Students of standard Japanese will have learned the pronouns “anata” and “kimi” (you), but in Nagoya-ben “Omyaa” is preferred. The question “Omyaasan, nani yattoru nō?” (What are you doing?) differs in several ways to the standard Japanese “Nani o shite iru no desu ka?”, not least of all because standard Japanese omits personal pronouns wherever possible.

 

10. Bye Bye

Students of standard Japanese will already know the casual farewell “Jā ne!” that friends exchange at the end of the evening or when leaving for home, often suffixed with “Bai-bai” (Bye bye). In Nagoya, it seems, “Bai bai!” is much preferred, though prefixed with “Honjaa” (well then) as in “Omyaasan, kaeru? Honjaa, bai-bai!” (Are you going? Well then, bye bye).

 

Conclusion

Whatever dialect of Japanese you’ve learned or been brought up with, there’s little of Nagoya-ben that can’t be understood from the context in which it’s spoken. But if you wish to master the unique ‘Nyaagoya’ way of speaking, listen carefully and make sure you have a dish of cream to accompany your ebi furyee! Meow!

 

Let’s Speak Dialect in Japanese! 10 funny phrases in Nagoya!

1. Here, Kitty Kitty!
2. Cat Food
3. What It Is
4. What It Isn’t
5. Surprise
6. Let’s Do It!
7. Let’s Not
8. Really Very
9. You and Yours
10. Bye Bye