Language | WELL SAID

Understanding 'choshi' is a condition you should strive for

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Contributing Writers

Kyō, chōshi wa ikaga desu ka? (How’s your condition today?)

Situation 1: A reporter is speaking to a runner before the start of a marathon.

アナウンサー:今日、調子はいかがですか?

ランナー: お陰様で、絶好調です。

Anaunsā: Kyō, chōshi wa ikaga desu ka?

Ran’nā: Okagesama de, zekkōchō desu.

Announcer: How’s your condition today?

Runner: Thanks for asking, I’m in perfect form.

The noun 調子(ちょうし) can be used in several situations, like when referring to the tone of music: 調子を合(あ)わせて 歌(うた)う (to sing in tune), 調子が外(はず)れる (The music is off key/out of tune) or 調子っぱずれ, which expresses the idea of bad singing. 調子 is more often used to refer to the condition of a machine, or of someone’s body or health as seen in Situation 1. That condition can simply be expressed as 調子がいい (in good condition) or 調子が悪(わる)い (in bad condition):

最近(さいきん)パソコンの調子がよくない。(Recently, my personal computer’s condition is not good).

その調子で! (Keep it up!)

彼女(かのじょ)は明(あか)るい調子で話(はな)し続(つづ)けたが、きっとつらかったことだろう。 (She continued speaking in a cheerful tone, but she must have been in a lot of pain.)

The term 調子のいい can also be used to describe someone who’s slick — all talk and no substance: 山田(やまだ)は調子のいいやつだ (Yamada is such a slick guy.) Such a person can also be described as お調子者(ちょうしもの).

Situation 2: Continued from Situation 1.

ランナー: 最初の1キロは苦しいですが、だんだんペースが安定してくるはずです。そして、完全に調子に乗ったところで、先頭集団に出ていくつもりです。

Ran’nā: Saisho no ichi kiro wa kurushii desu ga, dandan pēsu ga antei shite-kuru hazu desu. Soshite, kanzen ni chōshi ni notta tokoro de, sentō-shūdan ni dete-iku tsumori desu.

Runner: The first kilometer is painful, but I should gradually come to set my pace. Then, at the point I settle nicely (into my pace), I plan to bust out of the top group.

調子に乗(の)る, like 調子が出(で)る, expresses the idea that a person settles into their own pace, as seen in Situation 2. However, 調子に乗る can also be used in a negative way to express how a person goes too far in doing something, as can be seen in the Bonus Dialogue. 調子が狂(くる)う, which literally means a “condition that has gone mad,” conveys the idea that a person or machine is acting up or behaving oddly.

Bonus Dialogue: Takako is singing a song in her living room when her elder brother, Mitsuo, comes in.

光男(みつお):何(なん)だよ、たか子(こ)、その調子っぱずれの 歌(うた)は。ほら、タマが逃(に)げて行(い)ったじゃないか。

たか子: お兄(にい)ちゃんったら、ひどい! もうやめた! [二階(にかい)へ走(はし)り去(さ)る。]

母(はは): たか子は音楽(おんがく)の試験(しけん)のために練習(れんしゅう)していたのに。もうすぐ中間(ちゅうかん)試験なんだから、光男も少(すこ)しは勉強(べんきょう)したら?

光男: うん、でも今日(きょう)は体(からだ)の調子が悪いからゆっくり休(やす)んで、明日(あした)からしっかり勉強しよう。そうだなあ、学校(がっこう)から 帰(かえ)ってきてから5時間(ごじかん)ぐらい。

母: また、調子のいいことばかり。部活(ぶかつ)が 終(お)わって帰ってきてからすぐ晩御飯(ばんごはん)。それからパソコンゲームをするから、5時間なんて無理(むり)。

光男: すごい! さすがに母(かあ)さんは洞察力(どうさつりょく)がある。

母: 調子に乗るんじゃないの!晩御飯の前(まえ)に少しは勉強してきなさい。

光男: うーん、母さんも少しはぼくのユーモアに調子を合わせてくれてもいいのに…。

Mitsuo: What the… Takako, you’re butchering that song. Look, Tama (the cat’s name) has run away!

Takako: Big brother, you’re horrible! That’s it, I’m done! (She runs off to the second floor.)

Mother: Takako was practicing for her music exam. Since the mid-term exam period is coming soon, shouldn’t you also do a little more studying Mitsuo?

Mitsuo: Well, I’m feeling kind of off today, so I’m gonna take it easy and really study hard from tomorrow. Yeah, maybe for about five hours after coming home from school.

Mother: Again, you’re way too much of a slick talker. After finishing your club activities, you’ll come home, eat dinner and immediately start playing computer games — five hours will be impossible.

Mitsuo: Wow! My dearest Mother, you have so much foresight.

Mother: Dial it back, my son! Go do a little bit of studying before your dinner.

Mitsuo: Hmm, Mother, it would be better if you could just play along with my sense of humor…

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