Being Uncool In Japanese
You all know かっこいい (cool). It’s one of those first words you have to learn so you can refer to yourself. 俺、かっこういいだろう？ (I’m cool right?). Though if you were cool, you’d be saying it in a cooler way, かっけぇ！ But we can’t all be cool (all the time). So we need another word: ダサい. Uncool, lame, unfashionable. Before you start insulting each other with massive amounts of ダサい or the hipper version だっせぇ, you’ve gotta know the backstory. Otherwise who is the ダサい one?
Any time you see a word that is part katakana, part hiragana, you know there is a fun origin in the waiting. I mean, finding out that サボる (slack, loaf, cut class/school/activity) came from the word sabotage was pretty wild.
So there are two explanations for ダサい:
1. The blah explanation (thus I refuse to believe in)
ダサい came from an adjective form of 田舎, which is normally read as いなか or countryside. However if you use the alternative readings of the kanji 田 and 舎, you get
which lead to だしゃい,
and possibly だしゃ臭(く)さい (smells of countryside),
which lead to ダサい.
So people from the countryside are not cool and are unfashionable according to this.
This explanation is pretty ダサい to me, so I’m going with the second.
2. The insult a region explanation
Tokyo is cool. It’s the the center of Japan, and one of the craziest cities in the world. Next to Tokyo is Saitama. Saitama has very little going for it in terms of business, tourist attractions, night life, and excitement, and is often the target of most modern jokes (See 月曜から夜ふかし for multiple full episodes of doing nothing but making fun of Saitama).
People who grew up in Saitama often move to Tokyo or at least commute there (it’s only about 30-60 minutes depending on what parts.)
So in a mighty jab against Saitama, the phrase だって埼玉(さいたま)だから or “I mean it’s because it’s Saitama,” was created. This was used by people from Tokyo to insult something or someone from Saitama. This sentence was abbreviated into ダサい.
Then In the 1980s, ultra famous entertainer Tamori, who was from Saitama, furthered this theory by often referring to his hometown as ダ埼玉(a combo of ダサい and 埼玉).
If this is all true, every time you use the word ダサい for any purpose, you are also making fun of Saitama.
Want some more words similar to ダサい?
Try: いも, いもくさい, いもっぽい, or ポテトチック, which are all variations on “potato.” Though all of these words are extremely dated (it would be like calling someone “square” today), so you may end up yourself being called ダサい.
Have I educated you enough in being uncool? Anyone want to stand up and defend Saitama?
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.
So if New York is Tokyo, then it sounds like New Jersey is Saitama.
Sounds like an accurate comparison!
I literally just encountered this word in the novel I was reading. Perfect timing! :) And interesting info too.
You’ll see it a lot. Especially among young characters.
makes me think of montreal towards laval (city right next to montreal) haha
So you’re saying you don’t recommend visiting Laval?
Other good words within this sphere:
イケてる・イケてない / モテる・モテない：both are versions of カッコいい・カッコ悪い
イケメン→かっこいい男：this comes from イケてる＋面 but is only used by girls to guys or it’s original use of guys to guys
微妙・超微妙：in slang is a cross between bad, uncool, and undesirable (ex. 「池袋いかない？」「微妙じゃない？渋谷行こうよ」)
Saitama does seem to get a bad wrap. In addition to being know as uncool, they are also well-known for having the smallest average breast cup size. Poor Saitama!
Good additional info. Saitama is also known for the highest average commute time and least amount of daily sleep hours per person.
Poor Saitama indeed.
It appears that 月曜から夜ふかし has not yet made a variety show list. If anyone is wondering where we get all of these lovely useless facts from now you know!
An old Japanese man taught me the rather nasty-sounding 芋姉ちゃん specifically for insulting country girls. I haven’t gotten a lot of use out of it.