People in Kyoto and England have more in common than previously thought. 

People from Kyoto are known for their powers of indirect communication, where a compliment on your musical prowess is really a complaint that you’re playing your instrument too loudly.

The true meanings hidden in their choice of phrasing even surprises Japanese people from other parts of the country, but recently, it came to light that it’s not just people in Japan who know how to butter their words, as people in England are pretty good at it too.

Twitter user Kanta (@theonlyonekanta) recently brought the topic to everyone’s attention by sharing this story online:

“When I asked an English friend who can speak Japanese, ‘How would you say ‘gugure kasu’ in British English?’ they said, ‘Maybe…’Google is your friend”. This backhanded way of saying things made me think English people vs Kyotoites would make for a good bout.”

In Japan, the term ‘gugure kasu’ is an amalgamation of the words gugure, which means “to Google”, and kasu, which means “scum” or “trash”, creating a phrase that literally means: “Google it, you trash“.

As you can see, rather than give Kanta the literal translation, his English friend softened the phrase quite dramatically, suggesting he use “Google is your friend” instead.

Of course, there are times when “Google is your friend” can be used to mean exactly that, but we can’t deny there are some situations, like when you’re busy and someone asks you a basic question or wants you to do the work for them in finding the answer, when your inner voice says, “Google it, you idiot” but you bite your tongue and play nice instead.

“Google is your friend…because I’m not.”

When Kanta’s story began to attract a lot of interest online, he followed up with another tweet showing a list of expressions in British English on the left, and their true meanings on the right.

Some of the highlights on the list include “I’ll bear it in mind” = “I’ve forgotten it already” and “You must come for dinner” = “It’s not an invitation, I’m just being polite”, which happens to be surprisingly similar to a Japanese invitation to someone’s home, as it’s often something that’s just said to be polite.

”You should come over some time…although my place looks like this so I’ll never really invite you.”

The list of British English phrases, and the insight into what they might really be expressing, was an eye-opening revelation for a lot of people online, who left comments like:

“I like ‘Google is your friend’ — I’m going to remember that and use it when I need it!”
“I feel there’s a sense for language here.”

“This is so British!”
“Americans are frank so they would just say ‘Google it’ and be done with it.”
“English people are big on sarcasm.”
“This is like Kyoto people saying you have a nice watch.” 

It’s true that the English culture of politeness, tact and not really saying what you mean is quite similar to the Kyoto way of doing things. As British statesman Winston Churchill once famously said, “Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.”

However, if Kyoto and England two were to go head-to-head in a polite showdown, we dare say Kyotoites might just have the edge, because where else in the world would someone praise you on your watch when they really want you to go home?

Source: Twitter/@theonlyonekanta via Jin
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Pakutaso (1, 2, 3)
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