"Teen code" with Japanese youth - Waku Waku

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"Teen code" with Japanese youth

We all understand the importance of polite speech (敬語) when learning Japanese, but have you ever explored how Japanese youth chat with each other?



Published on 21 Jan, 12:00

Let's put polite speech aside for now and learn some simple phrases that Japanese people usually use when chatting on social media.

ヤベー/ ヤバイ (Yabe/Yabai)

It is a word used a lot by young people to express surprise, excitement, or fright. Yep, you are reading correctly. It is a really flexible word that can be used in many situations, similar to "Wow" in English (but more informal)! Let's see some examples:

犬: 骨がなくなった。 (Dog: I lost my bone!)

猫: ヤバイ, どうする。 (Cat: Wow, what should we do?)

You can see this word being used often in Tik Tok or Youtube videos, and on social media. It is easy to use, but you should only use this word in conversations with friends. Also, it shouldn't be used too often since you might be thought of as "not having rich vocabularies".

マジ (Mazi)

This word is used to express surprise at something. In English, it would be similar to "Really?" Let's see some examples below:

犬: 昨日、ネズミと話したよ。 (Dog: I just talked to Mouse yesterday.)

猫: なに, マジ。 (Cat: What, really?)

We can often see this word in everyday conversations and on social media. It is helpful when you want to express surprise and want to feel closer to the other person. There is also another word with the same meaning, but more formal, that I think we all know already: ほんとに (Is that true?).

"Teencode" with Japanese youth.

語呂合わせ (Goro-Awase)

We can often see messages such as 39 (which means thank you (san-kyuu)) very often. In Japanese, this kind of wordplay between "word" and "number" is called Goroawase.

The diversity when it comes to On-reading, Kun-reading, and the number-spelling system makes the numbers from 0 to 10 in Japanese have various ways of spelling. It creates room for interesting wordplays, like the g9 = goodnight in English.

Let's take a look at some number combinations:

  • 4649 = yoroshiku (I'm in your care)
  • 889 = hayaku (Hurry up)
  • 187 = iyana (Uncomfortable / Bad)
  • 2525 = nikoniko (Smiling)

Nouns can also be "numberized":

  • 35 = Miko
  • 15 = ichigo (strawberry)
  • 96 = kuro (black)

草 (kusa)/ www

You can usually find this term on social media and Youtube videos. But what does "grass" (kusa) mean?

It expresses laughter when you see something exciting or amusing. It originated from 笑う (warau), we then have 笑笑 (warawara), meaning big laugh, and then we can simplify it to warau = wwww. The www looks like grass, so the term 草 (kusa) carries this meaning.

Back then, I remember seeing the live stream of Japanese professors and wondered why everyone was spamming 草草草. What does grass have to do with this? So that was what I asked, and the kind Japanese friends explained that to me. "Teen code" is seriously terrific.

Thank you for reading this article. Let me know which "teen code" you usually use in the comment section below! おつかれさま。



Hakuna Matata - there is nothing to worry about :)

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