JLPT BC 65 | WTF is KY?

KY-JapaneseI’m pretty sure this doesn’t matter to a whole lot of you, but I finally got all my computer issues fixed. What this means to you is that I will hopefully be able to respond faster to things and also be able to create better content faster. So be looking for more videos and other goodies coming down the line in the future.

I finally finished the book I was reading: 会話がとぎれない!話し方66のルール It contained a lot of useful tips on how to have a good conversation and was great practice for vocabulary and overall reading skills/speed.

But, I need something more challenging in order to get use to N1 (hopefully) reading. And the grammar and the style of the book wasn’t quite that level. It wasn’t a cakewalk, but it was simply too easy compared to the essays you find on the test.

So, I went to my trusty Book Off store and picked up another book. I’m not sure what category you would put it in, it’s kind of a modern philosophy book, something along the lines of what Seth Godin in the states writes.

This is by 糸井重里 (Itoi Shigesato) and is called ほぼ日刊イトイ新聞の本(Almost daily Itoi Newspaper, The Book). Which apparently is quite popular in Japan, ranking #173 on Amazon out of all books. Anyway, the material in this little book is absolutely priceless, very similar to what you will see on the N2 and N1. If you are in Japan, I encourage you to pick it up (It’s only Y620 shipped!).

For those outside of Japan, you can of course check out tenso.com, which will reship it for around Y1400 or so. Pricey, but not impossible. And you can always pick up a used copy to save a little yen or pile on a few more JLPT books to make it worth your while. Or, who knows if there is big enough interest I might give it away in a contest. Anybody want a book? (after I’m done reading?)

Abbreviations are Everywhere

Abbreviations are pretty much apart of any language out there. We have more than our fair share of abbreviations in English. We’ve got PC for personal computer, ATM for Automatic Teller Machine, … the list goes on and on.

Shortening is also done in Japanese, but in a slightly different way. For example, personal computer becomes pasucon and remote control becomes remocon. In standard Japanese at least, they don’t use that many letters when doing the abbreviating. They choose instead to do a different kind of shortening, simply cutting the first part of the two words off and combing them to make a new word.

WTF is KY?

So, you are probably thinking that that is all old hat. After all, everybody knows that pasucon means personal computer. But what about KY?

I recently overheard a conversation amongst some colleagues and they used the phrase KY. I was really baffled by the whole thing because well KY brings up a slightly different image than what they were obviously talking about. So, I got a little curious and did some snooping.

I came to find out that KY actually means kuki yomenai , which roughly translates to can’t read the air or atmosphere. It’s used to describe someone or a group of someones that aren’t able to get a grasp on the situation or misunderstand what is going on. Kind of like the geek that shows up to the house party in a tux.

I found out that there are actually a few of these running around. A few of the popular ones are IW for imi wakaranai (I don’t understand the meaning) and CB for cho bimyo (Really doubtful/unreliable).

In case you were wondering, cho is kind of like uber in English, it is a cool way to emphasize something. It is mainly used in the Tokyo area and is considered a bit slangy, although I’ve heard my boss use it before.

Where do they come from?

They seem to come out of the language that is mostly used by high school kids. They take the first letter of two words and use them to create the abbreviations. What is interesting is they used the romanization system most often used by foreigners ( ちょ = cho) instead of the system that is more commonly used (or so I’ve heard) in Japanese high school ( ちょ = tyo).

They even will use the English word if it is available. For example, IT means aisu tabetai (I want to eat ice cream). In this abbreviation, I stands for ice not A for aisu.

Of course, it seems like this is simply another way for teenagers to create their own language. You can see the same thing happening in English with OMG, WTF, and a whole dictionary of other abbreviations like that.

It just goes to show that a language never stops growing and changing even if there is some kind of ‘standard’ that we are being tested on. Be aware that the living language is far from being standard it is quite alive.

Have you heard anything?

Have you heard this language used before? What are some of the ones you heard?

P.S.  Do you like abbreviations? Then, you should join my newsletter!

P.P.S. Do you talk to high schoolers a lot?  Really, me too! You should leave me a comment on iTunes about them and leave me a review.  If you have comments or suggestions for the podcast, by all means let me know in the comments below or contact me and let me know what I can do to improve the show.  Thanks!

P.P.P.S. Join the party over at the Facebook Page.  There you can get up to the date info about the site and join the conversation.  Hope to see you there!

Music by Kevin MacLeod Photo by RageZ

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Kaxxina February 3, 2012, 2:39 pm

    “A few of the popular ones are IM for imi wakaranai (I don’t understand the meaning)”

    So they use IM instead of IW for this one? Seems odd…

    • Mac February 3, 2012, 3:01 pm

      Oops, mistyped that one. Sorry, yes it should be IW. ごめん!

  • Arno February 4, 2012, 11:05 am

    I like to check out the 日新語section on goo.ne.jp every once in a while. They introduce the readers to new Japanese words. Can’t say it’s particularly useful unless one has reached an almost native level, but fun nonetheless. There seems to be a lot of words combining kanji and katakana. E.g. this month’s word is 恋エット. I don’t remember any romaji words though.

    I wonder why the kids start abreviating japanese words with their corresponding romaji letters. Seems odd. But who can tell why teenagers are doing the things they are doing anyway 😀

    • Mac February 12, 2012, 3:15 pm

      That’s a pretty cool little resource though. I’ll have to bookmark that and check it ever so often. It’s true that stuff like this isn’t the most useful thing in the world, but it is interesting and it sometimes it’s just fun to check this stuff out.

  • Tim February 6, 2012, 11:30 am

    My wife’s been using KY for a while, so I know what it means. Except, she told me it’s 空気読んで (“read the air”, as in “you should read into the situation, since you aint gonna understand otherwise”), rather than “can’t read the air”. I guess it’s all the same, though.

    Not too interested in the latest and greatest in Japanese language. Language is always changing. Imagine trying to stay up with the play in English. Every little community has its own nuances. >.<

    Interesting, though, that the young'uns do use romaji abbreviations. Mix 'n match, eh.

    • Mac February 13, 2012, 1:23 am

      Yeah, it’s hard to keep up with the changes in the language. I think it is something that is interesting to see though. Always important to keep in mind people don’t always speak ‘standard’ Japanese. 🙂

  • Afoofoo February 7, 2012, 6:29 am

    What a coincidence! I’ve been banging my head over KY and I think it was just last week that I came to the conclusion that it’s comewhat related to “kuuki yome”. Glad to know I wasn’t too far off!

    Thank you for the interesting post, I learned a lot. 🙂 (I guess I should refrain from using “chou” now orz)

    • Mac February 13, 2012, 1:26 am

      I think cho is okay to use, just not in front of your shibucho or anything :). And here in Kansai, we would say meccha. If you said cho around here someone might think you are one of them Tokyo-ites. 🙂

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