7 Ways to Say You Dislike Something in Japanese
By Matthew Coslett
On November 14, 2016
One of the fascinating things about human beings is that how we think is often very similar, even in different cultures. This is never truer than in the ways to express dislike for something. Whether it be feces, trash or by labeling something “creepy,” there are fascinating similarities (and, of course, a few differences) between how Japanese people and English speakers view the world.
In a previous article, I dealt with ダサイタマ, the derogatory way to refer to Saitama prefecture. ださい is arguably every Japanese person’s favorite insult. ださい refers to something that is lame or, for a lot of young people, something uncool.
While ださい is a unique Japanese idea, some of the stronger phrases are more like English. Much like in English, saying that something makes you feel sick to your stomach (ムカつく) is a strong way to say that you dislike something. A common sentence is (彼のこと)がムカつく ([That guy] makes me feel sick to the stomach).
Another similarity between English and Japanese is that trash is considered a way to talk down about something. Japanese has many words for garbage that are all used in this way, from くだらん to ごみ. If you are throwing too much away or something is a waste of resources you may also hear もったいない. This single word can be used to refer to many different things from a waste of time and space to a waste of resources.
Although the English word “horseplay” is considered a little dated, the Japanese equivalent 馬鹿 (the 馬-kanji means “horse”) is so commonly used that it is the closest word to the meaning of “idiot” in English. Similarly, ばかげた is something ridiculous; 馬鹿にする is to ridicule someone; and 馬鹿らしい is something that is absurd.
In Japanese きもい is a useful, all-purpose word for something that gives you a bad feeling. You’ll hear a lot of similar-sounding words to this such as 気持ち悪い. One of the more interesting of these is the word きもかわいい (often abbreviated to きもかわ). きもかわいい is a hodgepodge of the Japanese words きもい (a bad feeling) and かわいい (when something is cute). This word expresses the Japanese acceptance of contradiction, as the thing being described is simultaneously cute and creepy. Cute bears covered in blood, cuddly toys with gaping fangs and even my beloved pug dogs are part of this phenomena.
Some other words that have a similar but different feeling to English include ウンザリ that is used to say that you are fed up of something; キレる which means something gets you mad; しょぼい, similar to the word “lame” in modern English; and うそっぽい which is the closest word in Japanese to the English “cheesy”.
Finally, no article on Japanese dislike would be complete without mention of the word クソ which is often added before words to mean that something is a terrible version of that thing.
One of my favorite examples of this is the クソゲー (literally, “crappy games”) phenomena. Your life isn’t complete until you google this piece of insanity and witness how passionate people are about these monstrosities of computer code. Bizarrely, companies have risen up specifically to design these games. If it sounds uniquely Japanese, you should google Goat Simulator to see that embracing the awful isn’t unique to Japan, but happens in the West, too!
Japanese is a colorful language when expressing dislike for something. While the thought patterns may often be similar to English, the ways of expressing these thoughts shows both fascinating similarities and differences. By learning the Japanese way of thinking about good and bad things, we can simultaneously gain insights into the unique aspects of Japanese culture as well as into how universal some ways of seeing the world are.