Tuesday, March 07, 2006

What the Cool Kids Are Saying
Yesterday I was catching up on my blog reading, and I came across a link in a Language Log post to a Daily Mainichi article on Japanese youth slang: Getting 'yuusu' lingo 'peki-peki' a real chore for adults. The main gist of the article is that the police in Tokyo have taken to compiling a dictionary of youth slang so they can understand their interrogations with rebellious youth. It then offers up some examples of the slang.

A majority of the examples turned out to be verbs:
New words are formed by shortening existing words, reversing their syllables or adding "ru" to nouns, thereby creating the infinitive forms of new verbs, such as in "biniru." Which sounds like the word for "vinyl," but actually means to go to a "konbini" (convenience store).

Using the same construction, "famiru" means to go to a family restaurant. "Yoshiru" means to eat at a Yoshino-ya chain restaurant. "Apiru" is to appeal to someone, "okeru" means to go to sing karaoke, and "operu" is to undergo cosmetic surgery (from "operation"). Then you have "rabiru" which means to be trapped and unable to take any action. ("Rabi" is short for "labyrinth," a maze.) Strangest of all, perhaps, is "giboru" --- to undergo a paranormal experience. It is taken from the name Aiko Gibo, a psychic who used to appear regularly on television.
Interestingly, this is similar to the Spanish phenomenon of forming new verbs by adding "-(e)ar" to the ends of nouns or loan words. While I was in Chile, the computer lab at the university had a sign admonishing people not to use the computers to "chatear," having Spanish-verbed the English loan word "to chat" (IM). I'm not sure how often this verb formation is used for slang, though, since I didn't pick up a lot of Chilean slang while I was there. "Chatear" seemed fairly mainstream.

As for the other slang examples in the article, I think my favorite was:
Oniden -- Literally, "demon-electricity." To telephone a person persistently.

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