When texting in Japan, do as the Japanese do
January 17, 2014 | 4:38 pm
By Dan Bloom
Texting slang is not just the homegrown “argot” of English-speaking nations, of course, and as social media platforms expand worldwide, new slang expressions are coming to the fore in Asian nations as well, as Japanese, Taiwanese and Vietnamese netizens claim their own cool words for communicating in short bursts of camaraderie.
And for Japanese geeks and social media fans, where sending text messages in various Japanese character systems is the norm, more and more English words are creeping in, and fitting in. Although they are written using Japanese either kanji or hiragana or katakana.
Case in point is the use of a word which means “now” in English but which Japanese people have picked up as “nau.” It’s popular in Japan on Twitter and other social media platforms, and while it does mean “now,” it also means a few other things, in the peculiar way that many English loan words are adopted in Japan.
For example, if Yuji or Yumiko want to announce to their friends what they were just doing — or are doing right now at the moment — they might text “karaoke nau” in Japanese characters or in English and meaning that they are now with some friends in a karaoke joint singing their hearts out.
“McDonalds nau” means they are eating at one of the ubiquitous McDonald’s restaurants that dot the Japanese landscape these days. If a Tokyoite sends a text that reads “deto nau” it most likely means that she or he is on a date now. And if they text “ofuro nau” it means that they are at the moment soaking at home in a heated bathtub commonly called “ofuro.”
Now don’t scroll down yet, there’s more of this ”now” stuff: ‘Kofun nau’ means that they are at the moment feeling “excited” about something or someone, and “utsu nau” means they are ”depressed” now.
Borrowing the English word “was” — as in “I was very happy to get your message today” — Japanese texters also like sending abbreviated messages with terms such as “party wazu,” meaning that they ”were” at a party and have now left.
“Karaoke wazu” means that he or she was just recently at a karaoke place but that they are not there “nau.” Following so far?
Hungry? A photo of an empty bowl of noodles at a Tokyo ramen shop might be accompanied by a caption reading “ramen wazu,” meaning “this was a bowl of ramen before I slurped it all down.” Or something like that.
Which reminds me. There is an American electric pop group called ”Was (Not Was)” — with the two parentheses — that “wazu” founded by David Weiss (aka David Was) and Don Fagenson (aka Don Was) in the 1980s. In Japan, if they played a gig there, they would be billed as “Wazu (Not Wazu).”
Texting in any language is fun and creative. From Shanghai to Saigon, Asians are putting a new spin on social media communications, and in so doing are also creating new slang terms that borrow from English words they pick up on the Internet and in Hollywood movies.
”Nau,” what ”wazu” I saying?
Image credit: Flickr by Ivan Mlinaric