Praise (homekotoba)



Praize (homekotoba)

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: Non-seasonal Topic
***** Category: Humanity


There are many ways of praize in Japanese.

Inspired to pick it up by the following article:



Insults come as second nature to humans


There are two common ways to say "compliment": ohome no kotoba (おほめの言葉) and oseiji (お世辞). The ohome in the former comes from the verb homeru (ほめる), which means "to praise." The latter means flattery and can be ironical. Osejijzu na hito (お世辞上手な人), or someone good at oseiji, is an unctuous flatterer.

But let us assume that your compliments are not of the latter variety and you have a friend whose child is as smart as a whip. Nothing will put you into your friend’s good books more quickly than Orikōsan desu ne (お利口さんですね, What a clever child!).

If you call your friend a yarite (やり手), you are praising her for being a mover and a shaker, although my old dictionary defines yarite as "a man of ability, a capable man." A woman can be a yarite, too, dictionaries to the contrary notwithstanding.

The word bijin (美人, beautiful woman) is still in common usage, and a sugoi bijin (すごい美人) is a knockout, or what my dad used to call a "lollapalooza." A man can also be a lollapalooza if he’s otokomae (男前, handsome) or kakkoii (カッコいい, good-looking, cool). If you say about someone that they are migi ni deru mono wa nai (右に出るものはない), it means that they are unsurpassed, the tops. This is because Japanese lists go from right to left, so naturally there is no one to the right of, that is, "above," them.

That person may well be an ōmono (大物), or a big shot, a big cheese. Generally people who are big shots harbor a secret to their success. You might say they are sumi ni okenai (隅におけない), which means that there’s more to them than meets the eye. Sumi ni okenai literally means they "cannot be cornered." This is the kind of coincidence of meaning that occurs rarely in two languages.

Two very common phrases used as compliments are erai! (偉い) and taishita mon da (大したもんだ). These have a multitude of English equivalents, depending on context, such as "You’re really something!" "That’s amazing!" or "Awesome!"

The character sai (才) denotes talent. A person with a good head for business is shōsai no aru hito (商才のある人). A person who is brilliant at something is a tensai (天才), or genius. And a woman — it must be a woman in this case — who has wit to match her beauty may be described as saishoku kenbi (才色兼備). The sai is the character seen above, and the shoku is 色, the character for color that also suggests charm, beauty and eroticism. That’s a mouthful for anybody’s tongue.

Suteki (素敵) is a catchall for all kinds of expressions, from fantastic and amazing to brilliant and stunning. If someone looks you in the eyes and says this one word, it means love.

Rippa (立派) is another word used as a compliment. It also means brilliant and superb. It is often used to describe something that a person has achieved or attained. If you add the honorific prefix go to rippa, you get gorippa (ご立派), a bon mot expressing admiration for something or someone. Gorippa da! (ご立派だ) can mean "I really admire you!" and "Bravo!"

But you must be a bit careful when the level of compliments is raised to downright flattery. Japanese people can be quite ironical when they ki no nai homekata de kenasu (気のないほめ方でけなす), or damn with faint praise. If someone looks at the miserable sushi you have made as it falls apart on the plate and says Ojōzu desu ne! (お上手ですね, Oh, how very skillful of you!), get a grip on yourself and don’t fall for it.

This business of damning with faint praise brings me to next week’s topic, that of the art of the bujoku (侮辱), or insult, which for us humans may be akin to "doin’ what comes naturally." If I urge you to read this column in next week’s Japan Times, I do not mean to insult your intelligence . . . not until next week, at least.

source :  Japan Times, September 2008


Ojozu desu neeee (o-joozu desu ne) ...
how many time have I heared this as a flattery to my simple Japanese in the beginning years (nowadays, nobody says it any more). The longer the eeeee, the worse my Japanese, I figured.

Worldwide use

Things found on the way


そうめんの流れに 箸の上手下手
soomen no nagare ni hashi no joozu heta

somen noodles flow by
and some use chopsticks
skillfully, unskillfully

Yamada Yoshiyuki 山田良行

Soomen, somen noodles 索麺 WASHOKU


poor westerner,
he grows thin eating
with chopsticks!

robert d. wilson, September 2008

Related words

***** WASHOKU ... Japanese Food SAIJIKI



Unknown said...

Oh you did very hard task on translation.


Gabi Greve said...

Thanks, Sakuo san ...

jouzu mo heta mo ... sono hi no uchi ...