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SOUNDING NATURAL IN JAPANESE

Geragera waratte, urusai-yo

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Geragera waratte, urusai-yo (Your loud laughter is so noisy)

Situation 1: At the Okubos’ house, the family is eating dinner while watching TV, and Takako has been laughing loudly.

光男: たか子、一人でゲラゲラ笑って、うるさいよ。大しておもしろくもない番組なのに、よくそんなに笑えるなあ。

母: 「おはしがころがってもおかしい年頃」っていうからね。

Mituso: Takako, hitori-de geragera waratte, urusai-yo. Taishite omoshiroku-mo nai bangumi-na-noni, yoku sonna-ni waraeru-na.

Haha: “Ohashi-ga korogatte-mo okashii toshigoro”-tte iu-kara-ne.

Mitsuo: Takako, you’re so noisy, laughing that loud by yourself. How can you laugh like that at a TV program that is not even that funny?

Mother: They say that kids her age laugh even when they see chopsticks rolling.

Today we will introduce vocabulary to express various kinds of laughter, smiles, giggles and so on. English has different verbs, but in Japanese, the difference is often expressed by onomatopoeia+笑 (わら)う, as in Mituso’s ゲラゲラ笑う (to laugh loudly). If the degree of ゲラゲラ is higher, ゲタゲタ can be used. Other expressions are: ニコニコ/ニッコリ笑う (to smile), クスクス笑う (to giggle), ニヤニヤ笑う (to grin), etc. The last one expresses a slightly negative connotation, and ニタニタ is even more unpleasant, sometimes with an ironic or nasty implication.

Situation 2: On Sunday morning, Mr. Shiba comes home from a walk and mentions the neighbor.

夫: お隣の奥さんに、今あいさつされたよ。いつもニコニコしていて、感じのいい人だね。

妻: そう?私にはそんなにニコニコしてくれないけど。

Otto: Otonari-no okusan-ni ima aisatsu sareta-yo. Itsumo nikoniko-shite-ite, kanji-no ii hito-da-ne.

Tsuma: Sō? Watashi-niwa sonna-ni nikoniko-shite kurenai-kedo.

Husband: The wife from next door greeted me just now. She is a nice lady, isn’t she? She’s always smiling.

Wife: Really? She doesn’t smile at me so often.

ニコニコ, ニッコリ, ニヤニヤand ニヤリと can make a suru-verb, as in Mr. and Mrs. Shiba’s ニコニコする in Situation 2. ニコニコする describes the state of someone smiling, while ニッコリする describes a one-time or momentary action of smiling. ニヤニヤする and ニヤリとする (to grin) have similar meanings respectively. There is a na-adjective, にこやかな, which is used in written language, as in: 彼女(かのじょ)はにこやかにうなづいた (She nodded smiling).

Bonus Dialogue: Three young colleagues are chatting.

グレイ: けさ、家(いえ)を出(で)たら、へんな男(おとこ)が立(た)っていて、私(わたし)を見(み)てニヤニヤするの。きもち悪(わる)かった!

セレ: ストーカーだったら、警察(けいさつ)に連絡(れんらく)したほうがいいよ。

三田: ぼくも、けさ家を出たら、女子高生(じょしこうせい)が後(うし)ろから歩(ある)いてきて…

セレ: えっ、女子高生のストーカー?

三田: ちがうよ。ぼくを見(み)ながら、クスクス笑(わら)っているんだよ。ちょっと感(かん)じ悪いなあと思(おも)ったけど、ぼくはふりむいてニッコリしたんだ。そうしたら、一人 (ひとり)が思いきって声(こえ)をかけてきた。

セレ: 「つきあってください」?

三田: まさか。「あのう、せなかに紙(かみ)がついているんですけど」って。きょう、だいじな書類(しょるい)を持(も)ってくるのを忘(わす)れないように、「書類!」と書(か)いて、スーツの上着(うわぎ)にピンでとめておいたんだ。書類は忘れなかったけど、紙をはずすのを忘れてた。

セレ: ああ、三田(みた)くんらしいな! [グレイと顔(かお)を見合(みあ)わせてゲラゲラ笑う]。

Gray: This morning, when I left my apartment, a strange man was outside grinning at me. It felt weird.

Sere: If he’s a stalker, you should call the police.

Mita: Me too, when I left my house some high school girls were walking behind me and…

Sere: My goodness! High school girl stalkers?

Mita: No. But they were looking at me and giggling. I felt a little odd but turned to them and smiled. Then one of them decided to talk to me.

Sere: “Please be my boyfriend!”

Mita: Don’t be ridiculous! She said, “Excuse me, you have a piece of paper on your back.” I had pinned a memo that said “DOCUMENT!” So that I wouldn’t forget to take an important document to the office today. I didn’t forget that but I did forget to take off the memo.

Sere: Oh, That’s just like you, Mita! (He and Ms. Gray look at each other and burst into laughter.)