Language | BILINGUAL

Don’t get derailed when you’re angry

by Shaun McKenna

Staff Writer

While Japan’s train system is universally lauded as punctual and convenient, there’s always that one person on the daily commute that ticks you off.

How many times have you stood on a crowded train with elbows jabbing into your back or a drunk businessman falling asleep on your shoulder?

It’s tempting, but I don’t recommend 腹を立てる (hara o tateru, losing your temper) or かっとなる (katto naru, blowing your top) while riding the train — the troubles that could result from a public かんしゃく (kanshaku, temper tantrum) are legion.

Look on the bright side instead, the morning and evening commute are great times to practice getting angry in Japanese — in your head, of course. It’s good to know the right way to use rude words, frustrated commands or even a simple クソ (kuso, crap!).

The main thing to remember if you’re going to get angry in Japanese is try to use simple verb structures. When they’re said with a guttural growl, these imperatives can sound overly masculine, which makes them coarser. For some verbs (those categorized as Group 1), use the dictionary form but change the final u into an e. For example, 乗る (noru, to board a train) becomes 乗れ (nore, get on the train!), 立つ (tatsu, to stand) becomes 立て (tate, stand up!) and 行く (iku, to go) becomes 行け (ike, scram!).

For verbs categorized as Group 2, change the final u in the dictionary form to o. For example, 止める (yameru, to quit) becomes 止めろ (yamero, quit it!) and 降りる (oriru, to get off the train) becomes 降りろ (oriro, get off the train!). Adding a -yo suffix on any of these verbs can make them either more emphatic (i.e., 止まれよ, tomareyo, stop!) or so forcefully over the top, they they’re jokey, as in 飲めよ (nomeyo, drink up!) — it just depends on the tone.

Now let’s say there’s an old man who has gotten off an escalator but keeps standing at the top of it, blocking your sprint to catch a departing train. Try giving him a friendly “すみません (Sumimasen, Excuse me)” and he’ll likely get out of the way. Or combine it with “通してもらっていいですか (Tooshite moratte ii desu ka, Would you mind letting me pass?)” if you’re really polite, “通してください (Tooshite kudasai, Please let me pass)” or “通ります (Toorimasu, I’m coming through).”

If you want to be more direct, switch 通す/通る (toosu/tooru) to どく(doku), as in “どいてください (Doite kudasai, Move please),” “どいて (Doite, Move)” and finally “どけ (Doke, MOVE!)” if you’re mad.

As the train doors close to leave the station, put the sting in the old man by saying aloud in an exasperated voice, “あー、乗りたかったのに … (Aa, noritakatta noni …, I wanted to get on …)” or “最悪、遅刻する … (Saiaku, chikoku suru …, Crap, I’m gonna be late …).” Or turn and let him know, “エスカレーターの前に立たないでくださいよ (Esukarēta¯ no mae ni tatanaide kudasai yo, please don’t stand in front of the escalator).”

Maybe that’s not your problem. The train arrives after delays due to 人身事故 (jinshin jiko, human injury) and when the doors open, it’s packed. You’ll want to start with “すみません、乗ります (Sumimasen, norimasu, Excuse me, I’m getting on)” or, repeating what the station staff often say, “詰めてください (tsumete kudasai, please move in).”

One word that’s good for conveying annoyance in any of these situations is うざい (uzai, annoying). As with the verb commands, change uzai to うぜえ (uzee) to make the word sound coarser and angrier. This works with other i-adjectives, too, such as うるせえ (urusee, loud or shut up) and くせえ (kusee, stinks).

Maybe you’re on a packed train and the kid behind you is totally absorbed in her phone. It keeps nudging into your back and that leaves you with two options: Admit this is just a natural part of city life and lose yourself in your own phone, or ask her not to touch you. A polite “すみません、ちょっと … (Sumimasen, chotto …, Ahem, excuse me …)” should work or you could go with “すみません、触らないでください (Sumimasen, sawaranaide kudasai, Excuse me, please don’t touch me).”

To get angrier, you can escalate the situation with 触るなよ (sawarunayo, don’t touch me!). When asking someone not to do something, change the negative dictionary form of the verb from –nai to –na and add the –yo suffix. An already stern 触らないでよ (sawaranaideyo, don’t touch) sounds ruder when changed to sawarunayo.

A parent may tell a child “言わないでください (Iwanaide kudasai, Please don’t say that)” in polite company and “言わないで (Iwanaide, Don’t say that)” at home, but 言うなよ (iunayo, don’t say that!) or 黙れ (damare, shut up) — the command form of 黙る (damaru, to be silent) — are more suitable for a drunken fight on the street.

Since we’re in the gutter at this point, let’s touch on the -やがれ verb ending. Mostly the domain of the yakuza and 暴走族 (bōsōzoku, street gangs), the ending adds an emphasis to your command that is equal to that of an English curse word. I’ve heard 飲みやがれ (nomiyagare, drink!) and 食いやがれ (kuiyagare, eat!) before, but it was by a bunch of unruly male students who were already drunk. しやがれ (shiyagare, f—-ing do it) is a bit more common, but some Japanese people I spoke to also said they thought it sounded a bit outdated.

I’m not recommending you get angry at people on the train. But if you do, make sure your Japanese is impeccable because the person you’re speaking to is unlikely to be understanding of any grammar mistakes.