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Thursday, March 01, 2012

Japanese language: kuu

食う


The Japanese word for eat that you will most usually encounter is taberu.
Taberu no ga daisuki
(I) love eating

However, there is another word for eat, using the same kanji as taberu, but pronounced kuu. Generally speaking kuu is simply a more vulgar form of taberu.
Yuube no pati, piza musabori kutta.
I totally pigged out on pizza at that party last night.

Yet, kuu has a more respectable meaning in everyday Japanese, that of being subjected to, of suffering, something.

A common, and very colorful, phrase using kuu is ohmedama o kuu, literally meaning “to eat a big eyeball,” and actually meaning “to be bawled out,” “to get a tongue lashing,” “get an earful,” “be given hell,” etc.
ボスに大目玉を食った
bosu ni ohmedama o kutta
The boss bawled me out.
The image is immediate and graphic - positively comicbook, in fact - of a barking boss, pop-eyed with rage.

Another phrase using kuu is awa o kuu, literally meaning “to eat bubbles/froth,” and actually meaning “to be confused,” “be at a loss,” “lose your presence of mind.”
あんなニュースを聞いて泡を食った
anna nyuusu o kiite awa o kutta
I was at a total loss on hearing news like that.
The image here is of eating froth that then goes to fill your head.

Another particularly memorable kuu phrase is hiyameshi o kuu, literally meaning “to eat cold rice,” and actually meaning “to be dependent on someone for food and lodgings” or “to be treated coldly,” or “to be passed over (for promotion).”
もう30歳ななにまだ親に冷や飯を食うなんて
Moh sanjissai na no ni mada oya ni hiyameshi o kuu nante
You’re 30 already and yet you’re still completely dependent on your parents, for god’s sake!

The 30 year old's possible reply?
いや、しかし、親と同じ釜のめしを食うって安心するわ
iya, shikashi, oya to onaji kama no meshi o kuu'tte anshin suru wa
literally, "yes, but I feel safer and happier being able to eat rice out of the same pot as my parents."

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