The number one pick is derived from the lyrics of a song that’s sung in neither Japanese nor English. 

Alongside Japan’s annual Kanji of the Year selection, we always look forward to the various year-end lists detailing the trendiest Japanese buzzwords of the year. Part of the fun is to channel our inner teenagers to see just how attuned we are to the slang of today’s youth, but we inevitably end up lamenting the years that have taken their toll on our linguistic hipness.

Fashion magazine Egg, which hit the scene back in 1995 and became the premier guide for all the latest in Japanese street fashions and subcultures, recently released the results of their 2020 Buzzword Awards. The ten picks were selected after compiling results from 5,000 survey takers including Egg models, street models featured in the magazine, and Egg followers. This year, the words were overwhelmingly derived from and diffused through social media influencers including YouTubers and TikTokers.

Let’s see how familiar you are with the trendiest Japanese slang terms of this past year!

Egg models count down the top picks

▼ The winners in Japanese

10. 397 (397)

In Japanese, the numbers 3-9-7 can be read as san-kyu-na, which sounds like an informal way of “hey, thanks” (サンキューな ) in Japanese (borrowed from the English) and is much faster to text. Just be sure to use it among close pals only–it isn’t appropriate to use with anyone older or of a higher status.

9. Hanya? (はにゃ?)

This one’s a cute interjection used when the speaker doesn’t know something or wants to play dumb. “Hanya? What do you mean Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train is now the third highest-grossing film ever in Japan?

▼ Come to think of it, Nezuko often makes a puzzled hanya? kind of face.

 8. ~nida (~ニダ)

Just like Japanese, the Korean language employs a number of different politeness levels that affect the formation of individual words. One such verb suffix used in super-polite deferential language contains ~nida at the end. Perhaps because it’s easily distinguishable even to those who don’t speak Korean, Japanese youth have adopted this suffix to add a Korean flair to any Japanese word. Ironically, the most polite form has now become a colloquialism in the process!

7. ~teri (~てり)

This structure is a corruption of the standard Japanese ~(shi)teru, a continuous verb form which indicates that someone is in the process of doing something. According to Japanese youth, why end your sentences with ru when ri sounds cuter? Test it out with a friend and see how you feel–ask them Nani shiteri? (“What are you doing?”) and maybe they’ll reply Gohan tabeteri (“I’m eating”).

6. Tobu zo (飛ぶぞ)

You know that feeling when something is so out-of-this-world delicious that you can’t even contain your excitement and imagine yourself blasting off on a gastronomic high? That’s the kind of situation that calls for tobu zo (“I’m gonna fly away”).

Interestingly, the use of the phrase was popularized by Riki Choshu, a retired professional wrestler who used it while eating some delicious scallops on a TV show in what is now an infamous video clip. While his visible reaction may have been a bit underwhelming, his choice of phrasing is now one for the record books.

▼ Listen for tobu zo at the 0:08 mark

5. Daijobu so? (大丈夫そ?)

This one’s a variation of Daijobu kana?, which is a soft way of asking “Are you okay?” E.g. “You just tried that new giant water bug gin? Daijobu so?”

4. Yeyyey (いぇいいぇい)

Just like in English, you can use this interjection when you and your friends are really excited about something. In Japanese it’s also become common to use it in place of kanpai when saying “cheers.”

3. ~sasete morote (~させてもろて)

There must be something really alluring to Japanese teens about trading one sound for another to make it “cuter.” This grammatical structure is a corruption of the standard Japanese ~sasete moratte which is tacked on to the end of a verb when asking someone else to do something for you. In the context of high school students, think of your romantic crush pleading to “study” together while using this phrasing and whether you’d have the willpower to resist.

2. Kyun desu (キュンです)

Kyunkyun in Japanese is a kind of onomatopoeia that refers to a sudden beating of the heart or the state of being choked up with emotion. Kyun, followed by the polite copula desu, is now used in combination to denote any such swoonworthy situation. The expression exploded in popularity after a song called “Poketto kara kyun desu” by Hirame was featured in an ever-expanding collection of TikTok videos including this one from a heartthrob fisherman. Also important–don’t forget to make finger hearts while you’re saying it!

▼ TikToks set to “Poketto kara kyun desu” by Hirame

1. Yarirafi~ (やりらふぃ〜)

At its core, this term refers to an energetic person who enjoys going to parties or the club, but it can also refer to a particular kind of fashion involving articles of clothing such as skinny jeans and tight T-shirts. Japanese youth use the phrase as a Twitter hashtag or in Instagram stories to describe any of the above. However, what’s most bizarre is the actual origin of the phrase from the upbeat Norwegian dance song “Chernobyl 2017” by Meland x Hauken (feat. Benjamin Beats). This song went viral at many high schools in Japan and its popularity only grew as more and more students filmed themselves dancing to it in TikTok videos.

The lyric in question is actually “Jeg vil at vi” which is sung at the beginning of each chorus. Apparently that phrase sounded like yarirafi~ to Japanese ears and has now taken on this whole new set of slang meanings half a world apart.

▼ Do you hear yarirafi~ at the 0:35 mark like a Japanese speaker? Also, check out the number of video comments in Japanese!

Does this ranking make you feel kyun desu? Or does it leave you scratching your head with a hanya? One thing’s for sure–Japanese youth are forces of nature when it comes to coining new expressions and we can’t wait to see what wacky linguistic expressions they come up with next.

Source: PR Times, YouTube/egg Channel
Images: PR Times
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