You can admit it. When you first start to learn a language, you can’t help but be a little curious about what kind of bad words that language has. And of course, coming from English, with the king of curse words, you might wonder how the super polite Japanese handle such a situation. I mean there is a lot of bowing. Bowing doesn’t go with cursing.
Some people like to try to defend Japanese. “They don’t have any curse words! It is a pure and humble language, full of rainbows and zen gardens.” This obviously isn’t true, and I’m not sure where this idea comes from. They don’t have the same curse words, in the same usage, but they definitely have their share of curse words. After all, curse words are just societal unacceptable words that often express emotions of anger or hate.
I’m not here to give you a list, as cursing excessively isn’t really my style, but if you are interested, try checking out this site which put together a short compilation.
So curse words exist.
But does the F word exist in Japanese?
For those of you new to Japanese, when you first hear the phrase,
ファックスします (fah-kku-su shimasu) – I will fax (this)
if you foolishly made the same mistake I did in my beginner days, you think you just heard the F word. This is because to a beginner, the su and shimasu are kind of blended together here in the spoken language. Leaving you hearing the phrase above minus the defining su.
Saying the F word with actual Japanese pronunciation (which is the above phrase minus the す), will be understood by many (younger) Japanese people. But the reaction will be more of a “is that the legendary English F word I just heard?” You might scare some people. Except for amateur Japanese rappers trying to be bad-ass, it is not often used.
Now asking for the general equivalent of the F word is kind of a difficult task, because the F word is used in an infinite number of ways and situations in the English language.
However, what most people are curious about is the main way the F word is used. One of its original, in your face, showing hate and anger towards someone ways.
And while this is highly up to debate, I believe the closest equivalent is:
死ね (しね – shine)
No. That can’t be right? 死ね is the command form of 死ぬ, which means die.
So 死ね literally means “die!”
Now I know you’re thinking telling someone to “die” is pretty nasty, but it’s no F word. It is commonly used to your evil enemy in Japanese anime right before you are about to destroy him.
But in real life, I’m looking at the features and the cultural background to make my conclusion why this is the worst word in the language.
1. Kids are taught from a young age not to use this word. Say this in front of an adult, a parent, or a teacher and there will be 28-days-later-like rage.
2. If you’ve ever seen a TV show or movie that involves brutal bullying, the word 死ね is usually scratched into their notebook somewhere in big letters.
3. It is used in situations of hate and anger.
4. See the reaction of a Japanese person being told this seriously.
Worst word in the language?
It at least comes close.
What do you think? Not as bad as I’m making it out to be? Or do you think there are worse contenders out there?
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.