Language | WELL SAID

Don't get panicked when learning how to use 'oro-oro'

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Contributing writers

Jun ga naku to oro-oro shite-shimatte, dō shite ii ka wakaranakatta yo.

(Jun would cry and I’d get all panicked, I didn’t know what I should do.)

 

Situation 1: Mr. and Mrs. Shiba are talking about a friend of theirs who is raising a child and is having a bit of trouble with it.

妻:友だちのご主人が育休を取って、がんばっているけど、大変みたい。

夫:ぼくも初めのころは、じゅんが泣くとおろおろしてしまって、どうしていいかわからなかったよ。

Tsuma: Tomodachi no go-shujin ga ikukyū o totte, ganbatte-iru kedo, taihen mitai.

Otto: Boku mo hajime no koro wa, Jun ga naku to oro-oro shite-shimatte, dō shite ii ka wakaranakatta yo.

Wife: My friend’s husband has taken childcare leave, he’s trying his best but he seems to be struggling.

Husband: Me too at first, Jun would cry and I would get all panicked, I didn’t know what I should do.

The onomatopoeic words おろおろ and あたふた both convey a sense of panic. おろおろ is attached to the verb する (to do), and expresses the idea that someone gets all flustered and has know idea how to respond to something:

地震(じしん)が来(く)ると、みんなたいていおろおろしてしまう。

(When an earthquake comes, most everyone gets in a panic.)

パスポートをなくしたことに気(き)づいて、彼女(かのじょ)はおろおろするばかりだった。

(Noticing her passport was gone, she got completely flustered.)

おろおろ can be used as an adverb when と is attached to it:

父(ちち)が倒(たお)れて救急車(きゅうきゅうしゃ)を呼(よ)んだ後(あと)、母(はは)はおろおろと歩(ある)き回(まわ)った。

(My father fell down and after calling for an ambulance, my mother paced around in circles in a panic.)

 

Situation 2: At the office, Ms. Tamachi asks Ms. Gray where Mr. Mita is.

田町:三田さん、どこにいるか知らない?

グレイ:あ、さっきメールを見て、あたふたと出ていったよ。何か緊急の連絡でもあったのかな。

Tamachi: Mita-san, doko ni iru ka shiranai?

Gurei: A, sakki mēru o mite, atafuta to deteitta yo. Nani ka kinkyū no renraku demo atta no kana.

Tamachi: Do you happen to know where Mr. Mita is?

Gray: Oh, earlier he checked his mail and left in a rush. I wonder if there was some sort of urgent message, hmm.

 

あたふた has a similar feeling to おろおろ but is used when someone does something even though they are in a state of panic. おろおろ is used when the person doesn’t know what to do:

試験(しけん)の日(ひ)、祐太(ゆうた)はあたふたと教室(きょうしつ)に駆(か)け込(こ)んできた。

(On examination day, Yuta barged into the classroom in a frantic rush.)

 

あたふた is also used with the verb する:

突然(とつぜん)大勢(おおぜい)のお客(きゃく)さんが来(き)たので、あたふたしてしまった。

(I totally panicked when all the customers suddenly arrived.)

 

Bonus Dialogue: Continued from Situation 1.

妻(つま):友(とも)だちのご主人(しゅじん)は、奥(おく)さんの出産(しゅっさん)に立(た)ち会(あ)おうと思(おも)っていたんだけど、いざとなるとおろおろしてしまって、どうしていいかわからなかったんだって。

夫(おっと):そんなものだね。ぼくも同(おな)じようなものだった。

妻:生(う)まれたあとも、何(なん)でも初(はじ)めてだから、みんなおろおろするよね。

夫:うん。じゅんが夜中(よなか)に熱(ねつ)を出(だ)してしまったときも、そうだった。あたふたとお医者(いしゃ)さんに連(つ)れて行(い)ったなあ。

妻:ちょうど私(わたし)が出張中(しゅっちょうちゅう)だったときね。本当(ほんとう)に感謝(かんしゃ)しているわ。

夫:でも、ぼくみたいな夫はまだ日本(にほん)では少(すく)ないんじゃないかなあ。

妻:もっとみんな育休(いくきゅう)を取(と)って、あなたのように子育(こそだ)てをちゃんとやってほしいね。

Wife: My friend’s husband, he thought he wanted to be present for his wife’s delivery (childbirth) but, when push came to shove, he panicked and had no idea what to do.

Husband: That’s about it. I was the same.

Wife: After the birth, everything is new so everyone gets flustered.

Husband: Yeah. That was the case when Jun got a fever in the middle of the night. I took him to the doctor in a frantic rush.

Wife: That was just when I’d gone on a business trip, yeah? Honestly, I appreciated it.

Husband: Yeah. But I reckon there are still few husbands like me in Japan.

Wife: I wish more people took childcare leave, and raised their children right like you do.

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