Gengo Girls #97: Honestly They’re All Pretty Important

Gengo Girls #97: Honestly They're All Pretty Important

Japanese, like English, has a lot of different words for food. “Gohan” suggests a complete meal rather than raw food. “Gohan” is also the word for cooked rice. The fact that the word for rice and food in general are the same should tell you a lot about the Japanese diet.

From what I’ve heard almost every complete Japanese meal will either be based around rice or at least include a small bowl of rice as a side dish. This is even true of a lot of breakfast dishes. I think the big exception is noodle dishes; the noodles provide enough carbohydrates without any extra rice.

But I honestly know very little about Japanese cuisine. You’re going to need to find a different blog if you’re interested in international cuisine.


朝ご飯 = あさごはん = breakfast

= あさ = morning

ご飯 = ご飯 = food

昼ご飯 = ひるごはん = lunch

= ひる = noon

夕ご飯 = ゆうごはん = dinner

= ゆう = evening


言語ガールズ #97

Honestly They’re All Pretty Important

Yellow: I overslept today so I didn’t have time for 朝ご飯.

Blue: But at least you’re keeping up with your vocabulary.

Blue: Here’s some trivia: The word 朝ご飯 is made up of the symbols for “morning” and “food”.

Yellow: Hmph. You can’t eat trivia.

Blue: Lunch and dinner follow a similar pattern.

Yellow: Unless you wrote the trivia down on paper and then ate the paper…

Yellow: Important question: which do you think would taste better? My math notes or the rough draft of that essay we wrote in English?

Gengo Girls #96: Be Nice To The N00bs

Gengo Girls #96: Be Nice To The N00bs

This is another great example of how important hierarchy is to Japanese culture. Even when people are all at the same social level (like a group of employees with similar jobs) there are still rules stating that some people get to be “senpai” and other have to be “kouhai” complete with special rules about how to properly treat each other.

Interesting kanji trivia: “senpai” has the symbol for “before ()” and “kouhai” has the symbol for “after ()”. Translated literally they more or less just mean “the people who came before the other people” and the “people who came later”.


先輩 = せんぱい = senior

後輩 = こうはい = junior


言語ガールズ #96

Be Nice To The N00bs

Blue: One important Japanese social custom is the idea of 先輩 and 後輩.

Blue: A 先輩 is someone who has more experience than you at work or school.

Blue: 後輩 is the opposite: someone with less experience like a new student or new employee.

Blue: 後輩 are supposed to respect their 先輩. In exchange the 先輩 are supposed to support the 後輩.

Yellow: Sounds like a buddy system between experts and beginners.

Yellow: Is that why characters in school dramas always call the upperclassmen 先輩?

Blue: Exactly. Using the title 先輩 shows respect.

Blue: It doesn’t work the other way though. 後輩 usually just get called by name.

Yellow: Too bad we’re both the same age or we could try those titles out.

Blue: Aren’t you just one flunked test away from repeating the grade? You might still get a chance to call me 先輩 after all.

Gengo Girls #95: Status Quo Is Supreme

Gengo Girls #95: Status Quo Is Supreme

A lot of polite rituals are phrases that get used again and again over hundreds of years until they don’t really mean anything specific any more.

Like in English we respond to “Thank You” with “You’re Welcome”. But do we really mean “You’re welcome to my help whenever you want” or is it just something we got used to saying and don’t think about too closely anymore?

Or what about saying “gesundheit” to people who sneeze? Almost nobody knows what it actually means, it’s just something we say. (I had to look it up. Turns out it’s German for “Health”).


元気 = げんき = energetic / healthy

おかげさまで = Thanks to you (polite phrase)


言語ガールズ #95

Status Quo Is Supreme

Blue: The opposite of 病気 is 元気.

Yellow: Let’s see… It means “energetic, healthy and cheerful”.

Blue: When you meet someone you haven’t met in a while it’s polite to ask お元気ですか

Yellow: And that phrase means… “Are you doing well?”

Blue: The polite response is はい おかげ さま で

Yellow: Which means… “Yes, thanks to you”.

Yellow: Doesn’t always make sense to give other people credit for your health but that’s what you say.

Blue: By the way, you were pretty sick last time I saw you. How did you get better so fast?

Yellow: Turns out it was a punchline related illness so it cleared right up as soon as the joke stopped being funny.