7 Native Expressions of Japanese Slang ‘baka’!

7 Native Expressions of Japanese Slang 'baka'!

Anyone who spends any time in Japan and around Japanese people is likely to hear the word ‘baka’ crop up from time to time. However, for foreigners trying to learn to speak Japanese fluently, knowing when or if its use is appropriate will require great sensitivity to the contexts in which it might occur.

Baka is usually translated as meaning ‘idiot’, ‘fool’, or ‘stupid’, so you can see immediately how offensive it might be. However, due to the lexical paucity of Japanese, ‘baka’ can also mean a wide variety of similar, though less insulting expressions, as we shall see in the following examples. Nevertheless, be aware that ‘baka’ is still a distasteful expression to many people… myself included.



 

7 Native Expressions of Japanese Slang ‘baka’!

 

1. Among Friends

Quite often people insulted each other, usually with great affection. Expressions in the UK like ‘twit’, ‘dickhead’, ‘prat’, ‘dipstick’ and ‘wanker’, seemed as important a part of merry banter as ‘baka’ can among close Japanese friends when they make fun of each other’s actions, mistakes or peculiarities.

 

2. Among Family

If you are enjoying a homestay in Japan, or spend time with the family of a girlfriend or boyfriend, you will be less likely to hear Japanese slang from their parents until you know them better. But ‘baka’ is often used among families, both as affectionate banter or mild criticism, especially between siblings.

 

3. Stupid People

On neutral ground, it is natural for people to express annoyance or incredulity with public figures, and ‘baka’ seems most apt when talking about controversial, greedy or immoral politicians, or celebrities who get busted for drugs at airports, etc. But always avoid using ‘baka’ to talk about people you know behind their backs!

 

4. Baka as a Prefix

Of course, not all politicians are crooks; some are ‘bakashoujiki’ or ultra-principled. Similarly, an entertainer may be ‘baka-uke’ or extremely popular or incredibly funny. In this way, ‘baka’ is sometimes used to strengthen a following adjective, or add an extraordinary quality, such as ‘bakadekai’ or super massive. Generally, you won’t learn these kinds of linguistic fashions in your Japanese lessons or from a textbook, but you should be aware of the Japanese slang your friends commonly use and whether they are suitable in a wider context.

 

5. Single Mindedness

In Japanese slang, ‘baka’ is sometimes used to describe people with very narrow interest in one subject, to the exclusion of all else. ‘Aitsu wa sakkah baka dakara’ means ‘he’s football mad’. There are many similar expressions, so be aware when you hear them and ask your friends what they mean and if they’re acceptable for you to use.

 

6. Admonishing Yourself

Baka is sometimes used to express feelings of embarrassment, regret or annoyance with oneself to varying degrees. English expressions such as ‘I’d forget my head if it wasn’t screwed on’ or ‘what a fool I am’ can all have their ‘baka’ counterparts. However, calling yourself ‘baka’ to a shop assistant just because you left your wallet/purse at home might seem unnecessarily harsh, so avoid the practice with total strangers!

 

7. To Express Annoyance with Something

Technology fails, mechanisms break and products might not be well designed, in which case, you may feel justified to yell ‘baka!’ as you throw that game controller across the room or lament the latest PC operating system. I’m not sure this is such a positive use of the word, but if it makes you feel better…

 

Conclusion

Perhaps fortunately, Japanese lacks profanities, certainly when compared to English, and the few really offensive expressions which do exist are usually restricted to small sections of the population, such as gangsters and naughty schoolboys. Japanese slang expressions can sound ludicrously bizarre in translation, and their uses are often shrouded in vagueness, so learning them is a dead end for most foreigners. Besides, your Japanese friends will be more interested in learning how to curse in English!

But the widespread use of the word ‘baka’ is something the student of Japanese will not be able to avoid, so always approach it with care and consideration if you don’t wish to cause offence.

 

7 Native Expressions of Japanese Slang ‘baka’!

1. Among Friends
2. Among Family
3. Stupid People
4. Baka as a Prefix
5. Single Mindedness
6. Admonishing Yourself
7. To Express Annoyance with Something