The young skateboarders of the Tokyo Olympics are definitely having a sick summer, just not the kind of “sick” we’re used to in a pandemic.
Momiji Nishiya and Yuto Horigome aren’t the only ones in the spotlight, though. Ryo Sejiri, a 24-year-old professional skateboarder who was tapped as a commentator for NHK’s skateboarding coverage, has had some Japanese viewers checking their dictionaries to get to the bottom of what he’s saying.
The Japanese media has even taken to referring to the skater’s style of laid-back commentary as “瀬尻節” (Sejiri-bushi, the song of Sejiri).
With a couple of exceptions, none of what Sejiri was saying is entirely new, it’s just more casual than what you’d normally hear on NHK. Exclamations of アツい (atsui, hot [in katakana because it’s slang]), ヤベー (yabē, risky) and 鬼速い (oni-hayai, fast like a demon / hella fast) made the skateboarding all the more exciting.
Some of the terms were still new to most of the audience watching at home, though. When introducing Dutch skateboarder Roos Zwetsloot, Sejiri said her style was “ゴン攻め” (gonzeme): 「昨日の練習も見てたけど、一人だけゴン攻めしてて」 (kinо̄ no renshū mo miteta kedo, hitori dake gonzeme shitete, I watched her practice yesterday, by herself she really gonzeme‘d).
Sejiri’s fellow commentator interrupted to get clarification on what ゴン攻め meant, to which Sejiri responded that the word reflects a fearless attitude toward sizeable obstacles, including handrails and stairs.
Nobody has gone into the possible etymology for ゴン攻め, but ごんごん (gon-gon) is an onomatopoeic term used to describe the bang or clang you’d hear upon colliding with a solid object. “Zeme” might come from 攻める (semeru), which means to attack or assault. Wherever it comes from, the crowd watching at home must’ve thought hearing it was, well, gonzo. At one point, ゴン攻め was trending on Japanese Twitter.
User @088Machi880 tweeted, “ゴン攻めは流行語にノミネートきそうな気がする” (“Gonzeme wa ryūkо̄go ni nomnēto kisо̄na ki ga suru,” “I feel like ‘gonzeme‘ will be nominated as a year-end buzzword).
Speaking of onomatopoeia, after Filipina skateboarder Margielyn Didal skillfully executed a move in her performance, Sejiri excitedly described her actions as “ビッタビタ” (bitta-bita). It was a bit of impromptu onomatopoeia that Sejiri said is used when a skateboard manages to land in just the right spot on a railing after a jump. He also added the disclaimer that he wasn’t sure if other people use it.
The media picked apart Sejiri’s casual style of speaking, with sociolinguist Momoko Nakamura focusing on his use of a slangy conjugation of the verb です (desu, to be) in which you replace the verb’s normal forms with “っす” (-ssu) — resulting in “鬼ヤバイっす” (oniyabai-ssu, hella risky [meaning “awesome”]) and “半端ないっす” (hanpanai-ssu, not half-assed [meaning “impressive”) likely being said on NHK, for the first time.
Getting Sejiri’s casual take on things didn’t just introduce a new sport to the Games, it brought a whole new culture to a lot of Japan, which, to borrow from English skateboarding slang, is totally gnarly, dude.
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