For foreigners, one of the concerns or interests while studying Japanese may be the usage of slang or terms used in everyday language that don’t appear in dictionaries. Of course young teenagers tend to come up with new terms, and it might not be necessary to follow most of them. I mean, there are terms that aren’t understood by many Japanese at all.
Here’s one common phrase that you may have heard but couldn’t understand:
“Yabe!” (Oh no!)
No, it’s not a Japanese last name being shouted, “Yabe-san!!” (Mr. Yabe). This is the
spoken term often used which originates from the term “yabai.” Another common form
of “yabai” is “yaba.”
Both “yabe-” and “yaba” are a rather casual way of expressing the term “yabai.” If you
just look at “yabai,” it could translate to “it’s bad.” So then, “yabe-” and “yaba” could be
translated as “oh no!”
But then, this term isn’t necessarily used to express badness. It can be used in a rather
contradictory positive way also. For example, in an expression such as “that is wicked”
(meaning “awesome”). This is similar to the slang usage, “that is bad” (meaning “good”)
or “that is sick” (meaning “great”).
This is one example of Japanese slang, but when you break it down and look at it closely,
it sometimes might be related to English slang, which is quite interesting. I hope this short
introductory usage of the term “Yabe-” interested you. But please do be careful. This is
a very casual term, and is not suitable for use in conversations with your superiors or
Studying Japanese in Tokyo?
Temple University, Japan Campus offers various Japanese language courses such as
Practical Business Japanese, Kanji, Interpretation Skills, and Preparation for Nihongo
Nouryoku Shiken. Please click here for courses offered spring semester 2013.
Written by Ikuko Okugawa, Instructor of a Japanese language course, Continuing
Education program, Temple University, Japan Campus