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Rough Handling: Part 3

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I wonder if you know how to say the following things in Japanese:

He’s free with his money.
She has a rough way of talking.
My boss is a slave driver.

No? How have you been getting by so far? Don’t you need the third sentence, in particular?

Two More Terms You Can’t Live Without …

Even though these English sentences seem to have nothing in common, their Japanese translations share some useful vocabulary. All three feature the kanji we’ve been examining for the past two weeks:

(KŌ, ara(i), ara-, a(reru), a(rasu), -a(rashi): rough, crude, natural, wild)

In fact, in every sentence, shows up in the following word:

荒い (arai: rough, rude, wild)

Furthermore, all the sentences contain a kanji that’s probably familiar to you:

使 (tsuka(u): to use)

But you may not know its suffix form:

-使い (-tsukai or -zukai: way of (doing something))

You might think -使い and -方 (-kata: way of (doing something)) are synonymous and interchangeable, but not always. For example, only -使い can mean “person adept at a technique,” as in the very cool compound 魔法使い (mahōtsukai: witch, magic + method + person adept at a technique).

Here’s how -使い factors into the three sentences:

金使い (kanezukai: (way of) spending money)
     money + way of using
言葉使い (kotobazukai: speech, expression, wording)
     words (1st 2 chars.) + way of using

To match the “way of (doing something)” pattern, I might define 言葉使い as “way of using words.”

人使い (hitozukai: handling one’s workers)
     people + way of using

All three compounds are kun-kun combinations and therefore probably date back to Old Japan.

A few surprises about 人使い. It looks like it might mean “using people,” as in “exploiting people” (perhaps sexually), but it doesn’t, or not directly. In addition, the definition contains “handling”! If someone “handles” workers, it’s hard not to envision an impending sexual harassment suit. But most likely this word has less to do with groping and more to do with handling animals—or treating workers as if they were animals.

And that brings us back to the word “slave” in the sentence “My boss is a slave driver.” Japanese does have a word for “slave”:

奴隷 (dorei: slave)     slave + slave

The yomi dorei brings to mind do-re-mi and so on, but the meaning of this dorei is worlds apart from that light song. You may know as yatsu, “guy,” but did you realize that this kanji contained (woman)?! More on that at the link. The second kanji is a Jōyō character, despite all its craziness.


But neither 奴隷 nor any other word for “slave” appears in the Japanese translation of “My boss is a slave driver.” At long last, I’ll end the suspense. Here’s the way a man would say that:

Boku no bosu wa hitozukai ga arain da.
My boss is a slave driver.

(boku: I (for men))

Literally, then, “My boss treats workers roughly.”

Translation of the Other Two Sentences …


Double Trouble

If one leads to such inhumane treatment, what happens if you double it? Here’s the result:

荒々しい (araarashii: desolate, rough, wild, rude, harsh, violent)

Does the brutality increase twofold with this word? No, one native speaker feels that 荒々しい is not much rougher than 荒い. He further speculates that people use 荒々しい in conversation to be clear, since it has no homonyms. By contrast, people might mistakenly hear 荒い as 粗い (arai: coarse, rough, rugged), which is similar to 荒い but slightly different.

Anyway, here’s 荒々しい in action:

Kanojo no furumai wa araarashii.
She has a rude manner.

彼女 (kanojo: she)     he + woman
振る舞い (furumai: behavior)     to swing + to dance

Even if 荒々しい isn’t always extra-rough, it proves lethal at the next link!

Rough Behavior with Lethal Consequences …


One More Way to Be Wild

Three’s the charm. Three blogs on , as well as three sections in this final blog. Three just feels like a more balanced number, at least when it comes to certain things, such as tricycles, triangles, tri–what else … Trichinosis? No, that won’t work. Anyway, here’s yet another form of :

荒くれ (arakure: violent, wild, rowdy)

I have no idea where the くれ comes from etymologically, but since the word applies to badly behaved animals (at least in the following sample sentence), you could imagine an owner’s imploring a stubborn animal to come, kuru, and getting no results:

Nōfu wa arakure uma ni jitto gaman shita.
The farmworker was patient with the unruly horse.

農夫 (nōfu: farmworker)     farm + male laborer
(uma: horse)
じっと (jitto: fixedly, firmly, patiently)
我慢する (gaman suru: to be patient)     self + proud

As I try to write this, one of my two unruly animals is creating as much trouble as she possibly can, so I’ll close here. Time for your Verbal Logic Quiz!

Verbal Logic Quiz …

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