Everyone wants to be a little corny here and there in Japanese (c’mon have you seen this website?) Most people accomplish this by picking up a few オヤジギャグ (old man gags), which are really just tired out word puns. These don’t really win you any new friends. Maybe a few awkward smiles of “well it’s slightly more amusing if a foreigner says it.” Hey at least it’s better than the dreaded “American Joke,” right? But really, you need something one step up from a corny saying. You need a corny game. A word play.
引っ掛け (ひっかけ)ゲーム are word plays where you involve the listener and try to get them caught up in their words. These are less common than simple オヤジギャグ, more fun for the listener, and have more of a wow factor.
I want to teach you the most popular one: The Knee Pizza (膝ピザ) game.
What’s really great about this one, and why I’m featuring it, is if the person doesn’t know the game, they almost always fall for the word trap (I definitely did). And even if they do know it in its simple form, they most likely don’t know part 2 of the trap, which is a word play add-on.
Here’s how it goes:
1. Tell the listener to say the word ピザ (pizza) ten times.
2. After they finish, quickly point to your elbow and say, “ここはなんだ？” (What’s this here?)
3. If they say 膝 (ひざ – knee) you win.
The trick works because the pronunciation of 膝 (ひざ knee) and 肘 (ひじ – elbow) are similar. By repeatedly saying ピザ, with pronunciation similar to 膝 (ひざ), and then pointing to your 肘, you are tricking the brain’s word association. Or something like that.
If you trick them, you can have a laugh. Even if not, move on two stage 2.
Tell them you have another word game.
4. Tell them every time you say コーヒー (coffee), they say ココア (cocoa), and every time you say ココア, they should say コーヒー。
5. Repeat the above going back and forth a number of times.
6. Give a defeated look, and then tell them to say ピザ 10 times again (showing that you think you can at least beat them at the 膝ピザ game a second time)
7. Point to your elbow and say ココア？ They’ll remember the previous word catch and this time probably say 肘 correctly instead of 膝.
This is your chance to be cocky and go ブッブー (the sound for a wrong answer). ココアと言ったらコーヒーです！ (If I say ココア, you are supposed to say コーヒー!)
Give them a second to wade through the momentary confusion. If they don’t catch on, you can explain it. When you pointed to your elbow, you said ココア (cocoa). But they assumed you said ここは (what’s this here?)
Like that double word play?
Corny? Yes. Effective? Yesss!
Try it out. Let me know how it goes.
Want more like these? Check out:
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.