Introducing the adverb ‘sappari’

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Special To The Japan Times

Mazu shawā-o abite, sappari-sureba? (Why don’t you first take a shower and freshen up?)

Situation 1: Mr. Shiba comes home sweating.

夫: 気温は低くなったけど、この湿気には参るなあ。

妻: お疲れ様! まずシャワーを浴びてさっぱりすれば?

Otto: Kion-wa hikuku natta-kedo, kono shikke-ni-wa mairu-nā.

Tsuma: O-tsukare-sama! Mazu shawā-o abite sappari-sureba?

Husband: The temperature has gone down, but this humidity is killing me.

Wife:: You must be tired. Why don’t you first take a shower and freshen up?

Today we’ll introduce some usages of the adverb さっぱり(freshen) and its related expressions. さっぱり means clean/fresh/tidy/neat and is often used in the form of suru-verb さっぱりする, as above. It is also used to express a light taste in food with less oil. Example: 今日(きょう)は蒸(む)し暑(あつ)いから、さっぱりしたものしか食(た)べたくない (It’s so hot and humid today, I just want to eat something light and simple). This suru-verb can also be used to describe a person’s character, someone without strong attachments or persistence. Example: 彼(かれ)はさっぱりした性格(せいかく)だから、 そんなことは気(き)にしないと思(おも)うよ (He’s an open-hearted person so I don’t think he’ll be bothered about that).

Situation 2: Mr. Tian and his client, Mr. Suzuki, are talking in the office.

ティエン: 新製品の売り上げはいかがですか。

鈴木: いやあ、さっぱりですよ。宣伝がへたなんでしょうかねえ?

Tian: Shin-seihin-no uriage-wa ikaga-desu-ka?

Suzuki: Iyā, sappari-desu-yo. Senden-ga heta-nan-deshō-ka-nē?

Tian: How are the sales of your new product?

Suzuki: Well, not good. I wonder if we’re bad at advertising.

さっぱり often goes with the negative verb form to mean “totally not,” as in さっぱりわからない (I don’t understand at all); あれ から、さっぱり来(こ)なくなった (Since then, he’s never revisited us). さっぱり can go with verbs in the affirmative form like わすれる (to forget) , あきらめる (to give up) , わかれる (to separate), 縁(えん)を切(き)る (to break off a relationship), etc., to mean “completely” or “perfectly.” In this usage, きれいさっぱり is sometimes used for emphasis. Phrases in the affirmative form with negative meanings can also go with さっぱり, as in さっぱりだめです (It’s completely hopeless). さっぱり by itself, with no verb or predicate, has the negative meaning in the na-adjective form さっぱりだ, as in Mr. Suzuki’s remark above. Another example: がんばっているのに、英語(えいご)の成績(せいせき)は、さっぱりだ ( I’ve been trying hard, but my English scores are no good).

Bonus Dialogue: At home, Mrs. Okubo’s computer has frozen. Her son, Mitsuo, helps her and explains, but she doesn’t get it.

母: 光男(みつお)の説明(せつめい)は、さっぱりわからないわ。

光男: 母(かあ)さんがパソコンの原理(げんり)を全然(ぜんぜん)理解(りかい)しようとしないからだよ。昨日(きのう)も同(おな)じことを説明したばかりじゃない。

母: え、そうだっけ? 難(むずか)しいことは、頭 (あたま)の中(なか)から、きれいさっぱりなくなっちゃったな。まあ、原理の説明はいいから、どうやったらいいかだけ教(おし)えて。

光男: かんたんに言(い)うと、まず、いったん全部(ぜんぶ)終了(しゅうりょう)してから…

母: フリーズしちゃって、終了できない。

光男: じゃ、電源(でんげん)をバシッと切(き)って、 再(さい)起動(きどう)。それでだめだったら…

母: うん…、おおー、直(なお)った!ありがと! じゃ、もういいから、光男は部屋(へや)にもどって勉強 (べんきょう)しなさい。

光男: 母さんは、いつもそんな調子(ちょうし)だから、さっぱり覚(おぼ)えられないんだよ!

Mother: I don’t understand your explanation at all, Mitsuo.

Mitsuo: That’s because you’re not trying to understand the basics of a computer. I explained the same thing to you just yesterday.

Mother: Oh, really? It looks like the difficult stuff completely vanished from my brain. OK. Forget explaining the basics and just tell me what to do.

Mitsuo: Simply put, first, you have to shutdown everything and then …

Mother: I can’t shut it down because it’s frozen.

Mitsuo: Then just shut off the power and reboot. If that doesn’t work …

Mother: Hmm … oh, it worked! Thanks! Now go back to your room and study, Mitsuo.

Mitsuo: You’re always like that. That’s why you never learn!