Language | WELL SAID

With some luck you'll master the Japanese words for good fortune

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Contributing Writers

Saikin, tsuite-ru-n datte? (You’ve been having a streak of luck recently, yeah?)

Situation 1: Mr. Sere is talking to his colleague Mr. Mita.

セレ: 聞いたよ!最近、ついてるんだって? 先週は福引で特賞の温泉旅行が当たって、その翌日はコンビニで豪華弁当が当たったんだって?運がいいなあ!

三田: 温泉旅行が当たっても、一緒に行く人がいないんじゃ、しょうがないよ。

Sere: Kiita yo! Saikin, tsuite-ru-n datte? Senshū wa fukubiki de tokushō no onsen ryokō ga atatte, sono yokujitsu wa konbini de gōka bentō ga atatta-n datte? Un ga ii nā!

Mita: Onsen ryokō ga atatte mo, issho ni iku hito ga inai-n ja, shōganai yo.

Sere: I heard! You’ve been having a streak of luck recently, yeah? Last week you won the special prize for a hot springs vacation in the lottery, and the next day you won a deluxe boxed lunch at the convenience store? You’re so lucky!

Mita: Even though I won the special hot springs vacation prize, I have no one to go with so it’s meaningless.

If you’re going to play the 福引 (ふくびき, lottery) in Japan, you’re going to need some 運 (うん, luck). The word 運 can be found in the phrases 運がいい (un ga ii, to be lucky) and 運が悪 (わる)い (un ga warui, to be unlucky). The verb つく (to attach) can also be used to describe luck in its present-continuous form, ついている, as it expresses the idea that 幸運 (こううん, good luck) can be attached to an individual.

The opposite of 幸運 is 不運 (ふうん, bad luck) and can be expressed with the negative continuous form:

三日間(みっかかん)雨(あめ)が降(ふ)るなんて、ついてないね。 (We haven’t been lucky, it has been raining for three days.)

In colloquial spoken language, the terms are often abbreviated and pronounced as ついてる and ついてない.

Situation 2: Continued from Situation 1.

セレ: あれ、どうしたの?何だか元気ないね。一昨日は合コンで、すごいツキがあって、すぐかわいい子とデートのアポが取れたって、喜んでいたのに。

三田: 実は、昨夜も合コンがあって…。

Sere: Are, dō-shita no? Nandaka genki nai ne. Ototoi wa gōkon de, sugoi tsuki ga atte, sugu kawaii ko to dēto no apo ga toreta-tte, yorokonde ita noni.

Mita: Jitsu wa, sakuya mo gōkon ga atte … .

Sere: Hey, what happened? Somehow, you don’t look too happy. The day before yesterday at the match-making party, didn’t you say you were lucky enough to quickly land a date with a cute girl? You were so happy then.

Mita: Actually, last night there was another match-making party but … (no luck).

つき or ツキ is the noun form of the verb つく and, just like 幸運, it means “good luck.” The phrase ツキがある (tsuki ga aru) means to be lucky, and while ツキがない is possible to express being unlucky, ついて(い)ない is more commonly used to express the same sentiment.

One other expression worth mentioning is 運のつき (un no tsuki, my luck has run out). つき here is not an inflection of the verb つく but is a form of 尽(つ)きる, which means “to run out.”

Bonus Dialogue: Continued from Situation 2.

セレ: えっ、もちろん欠席(けっせき)したよね?

三田(みた): それが…。もしかしたらもっといい子(こ)がゲットできるかも、と考(かんが)えたら、もったいなくなっちゃって…。

セレ: できるわけないだろ。

三田: それが、できたんだよ。それで、二人(ふたり)で会場(かいじょう)を抜(ぬ)け出(だ)した。

セレ: おおー、どこまでついてるんだ!

三田: 今(いま)まで長(なが)い間(あいだ)不運に耐(た)えてきたからね。ところが、会場を出(で)たところで、前日(ぜんじつ)の彼女(かのじょ)にバッタリ鉢合(はちあ)わせ!それが、運の尽き。

セレ: うわー、悪いことはできないね。

三田: 二人には振(ふ)られるし、財布(さいふ)は失(な)くすし、それ以来(いらい)、ぼくは不幸(ふこう)のどん底(ぞこ)だ。

セレ: どん底ということは、これからは良(よ)くなるということだよ。元気(げんき)出して!

Sere: Huh? Of course you were absent, right?

Mita: Actually … I thought there was a chance I could get a better girl, and I didn’t want to waste it, so…

Sere: That’s not possible, you know.

Mita: Actually, I was able to! Then, the two of us snuck away from the meeting place on our own.

Sere: Ohhh, how lucky are you!

Mita: Until now, I’ve endured a long period of bad luck (when it comes to girls). However, when we left the meeting place, I ran right into that girl from the other day! So, my luck ran out.

Sere: Wow, you really can’t do (such) bad things.

Mita: I was dumped by both girls, lost my wallet and, since then, my unhappiness has hit rock bottom.

Sere: Hitting rock bottom means that, from now on, you can only get happier. Cheer up!

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