I’ve learned my first new Japanese word of the year. Can’t wait to use it.
A friend of mine, while perusing the Yahoo Japan news yesterday, suddenly exclaimed (at the screen, not me), “Dokyun-ya! ” (ドキュンや!) Now, in Japanese, “-ya!” tacked at the end of a noun or adjective can sometimes be interpreted as ” Jeez, what a –”. But I didn’t catch who it was he was yelling at, or why. I thought he’d said “documentary” (in Japanese, it’s shortened to “dokyumento“) and was confused. After all, “Jeez, what a documentary,” isn’t much of a put-down, even in Japanese.
Turns out that dokyun means “idiot”. Not just a foolish person, as the translations I’ve looked at claim, but someone so stupid that, when he does something stupid, he actually thinks he’s doing something clever. Apparently, there was a TV programme by that name some years back, and when the giant Japanese internet forum 2-channel (pronounced ni-channeru) began to take off, the word came back into use. It’s written DQN on the forum. The friend is an avid 2-channel surfer. Hence the lingo.
The TV was on (the things I do in the name of hospitality) and, as if on cue, a dokyun appeared (not a professional one – they don’t count). The afternoon tabloid show was talking about the growing instances of shoplifting among middle-aged women and retired men. A large discount liquor shop has installed security cameras – we watch an old guy (face blanked out) passing the aisle several times. He peruses the booze, looking around to see if the cashiers can see him. He carefully turns his back on the prowling staff (you basically have to be caught in the act here), then stands right in front of the camera, takes a poly bag from another shop out of his pocket and drops in two bottles of whiskey and walks out. (he’s later caught, and his only remark is, “um, sorry.”) Dokyun.
The story K had been reading on Yahoo was about yanki (juvenile delinquent yakuza wannabe’s). Disturbingly, they have been around long enough now to reproduce and the story told of the names they are choosing for their kids. Now, unlike many countries, there’s no changing your given name in Japan. Once it’s registered, you’re stuck with it for life (actors can use stage names, etc., but not on their license, passport, bank card: a Japanese Marion Morrison can never officially become a John Wayne – ever). As long as the kanji themselves are inoffensive, any combination is okay (so in the early 90s, a man was not allowed to name his son Akuma –悪魔 – because the kanji has only one meaning: evil demon). With that in mind, losers all over the country are going to a dictionary (possibly for the first time in their lives), finding pleasant- sounding, inoffensive kanji, putting them into what they consider classy or cute combinations, clacking down to city hall in their heels and registering their kids after English words – not even names. Tiara? Power? Eclair? Purada (Prada)? Alladin? Jellyfish (my favourite)? Pikachu?
That last one is what provoked the shout which began this entry. And with reason. The self-esteem of a septuagenarian named Pikachu Tanaka, c. 2080 (or her brother, old Uncle Jellyfish) is a concept (among many) which had obviously not crossed the minds of either of her clueless parents. Perhaps it was her grand-dad who got arrested on national television while artfully picking up booze to celebrate her birth. Dokyun. Yea, even unto the third generation.
How have I lived here so long without it?
(NB: Jan 16 – I ran this word past my students this morning and they said it wasn’t in common currency, but was used mainly among the 2-channel crowd, usually in its shorthand form, DQN. Which means, I guess, that my friend spends more time in chat rooms than he lets on!)