Home Podcasts Ichimon Japan Why are vegetables so insulting in Japanese? | Ichimon Japan 14

Why are vegetables so insulting in Japanese? | Ichimon Japan 14

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Today’s Question

On this episode of Ichimon Japan we ask: Why are vegetables so unsulting in Japanese? On this episode we are honored to once again be joined by Kyle Broyles of the Tokyo Splosion podcast and Hard Officers YouTube channel.

Topics Discussed

  • Some funny Japanese vegetable-based insults and their (supposed) etymologies
  • What the term daikon ashi means
  • Why daikon ashi is so insulting and reserved only for use on women
  • The usage of the term “dumpling legs”
  • What the term daikon yakusha means
  • Why daikon yakusha is considered an insult
  • Why it’s insulting to call someone a bean sprout (moyashi) in Japanese
  • What it means to “stink of potatoes” (to be imokusai)
  • What a “country milkboy” is
  • What an “embankment pumpkin” is (dote kabocha)
  • The most commonly cited story explaining the insulting meaning of the term dote kabocha
  • A tip for training yourself to like vegetables
  • Interesting Japanese slang involving the the Japanese word for eggplant (nasu)
  • What the term bokenasu means
  • Why it is insulting to be called a bokenasu
  • What the heck an otankonasu is
  • Two theories for where the “otanko” part of otankonasu derived from
  • The most common etymologies of the term otankonasu
  • The potential connection between otankonasu and Edo period pleasure districts
  • Bubble era Japanese slang
  • How pÄ«man (green pepper) was used as an insult in Japan in the 1970s
  • The difficulties localizers face when translating idioms from Japanese into English
  • Whether the Japanese word for “vegetable” (yasai) totally overlaps in meaning with its English counterpart
  • Why there seem to be more vegetable-related insults in Japanese than fruit-related insults
  • And more!

Note: All of the etymologies provided during this episode were found in Japanese language sources and are the most commonly cited. However, just because they are the most commonly cited etymologies that does not mean they are true, so please keep this in mind.

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Kyle Broyles Links

This episode features Kyle Broyles as a special guest. If you would like to follow him on Twitter, please use the link below.

Kyle is one of the hosts of the Tokyo Splosion podcast. If you would like to check his podcast out, you can look it up wherever you get your podcasts or use the links below.

The latest episode of Tokyo Splosion as of the time of this posting can be found below.

Kyle also produces the YouTube series Hard Officers. Check out the channel via the link below.

Sources, Links, Videos, Etc.

Here’s a link to the previous episode Kyle Broyles was a guest on.

Just to review, here’s a list of all the insults that were covered on this episode, including how you write them in Japanese.

  • Daikon ashi
    • 大根足 : 大根足; 大根脚 【だいこんあし】 (n) thick legs; fat legs; cankle; cankles (literally: daikon radish legs)
  • Daikon yakusha
    • 大根役者 【だいこんやくしゃ】 (n) (yoji) ham actor; hack actor (literally: daikon radish actor)
  • Moyashi
    • もやし (n) bean sprouts (in certain contexts it can also be used to mean as an insult meaning lanky, gangly or frail)
  • Moyashikko
    • もやしっ子 【もやしっこ】 (n) weak child; frail child; gangly child
  • Imokusai
    • イモくさい 【いもくさい】 (n) country bumpkin; unsophisticated; hick (literally to stink of potatoes)
  • Dote kabocha
    • どてかぼちゃ (n) incompetent person; halfwit; blockhead; fool (literally: embankment pumpkin)
  • Bokenasu
    • ぼけなす (n) (1) faded, dull-colored eggplant; (2) (derog) slow-witted, abstracted person; halfwit
  • Otankonasu
    • おたんこなす (n) fool; twit; idiot; bird-brain
  • Atama ga pÄ«man (Note: This term was popular in the 1970s and is rarely, if ever, used today.)
    • 頭がピーマン 【あたまがぴーまん】 stupid; dumb (literally: your head is a green pepper)
  • Hanashi ga pÄ«man
    • 話がピーマン 【はなしがぴーまん】 what you are saying is stupid/pointless (literally: what you are saying/your story is a green pepper.)

If you’d like to check out episode 38 of Japan Station, you can do so via the link below.

If you missed the Japanese study tips episode of Ichimon Japan, check out the article below.

Japanese Vocabulary List

Most episodes feature at least one or two interesting Japanese words or phrases. Here’s some of the ones that came up on this episode. All information is from Jim Breen’s WWWJDIC.

  • Yasai
    • 野菜 【やさい】 (n,adj-no) vegetable
  • Kudamono
    • 果物 : 果物(P); 菓物 【くだもの(P); かぶつ(果物)】 (n) fruit
  • Oden
    • おでん (n) (food) oden; dish of various ingredients, e.g. egg, daikon, potato, chikuwa, konnyaku, etc. stewed in soy-flavored dashi
  • Shokuatari
    • 食あたり : 食あたり; 食中り 【しょくあたり】 (n) food poisoning
  • Shokubutsu
    • 植物 【しょくぶつ】 (n) plant; vegetation
  • Emoi
    • エモい (adj-i) (1) (sl) emo; sad; melancholic; (2) (sl) (pun on エロい and キモい) (See エロい,キモい) erotic in a disgusting way
  • Inakakusai
    • 田舎臭い : 田舎臭い; 田舎くさい 【いなかくさい】 (adj-i) rustic; unsophisticated; provincial; hick; cornball
  • Ume
    • 梅 : 梅(P); 楳 【うめ(P); むめ(ok); ウメ】 (n) (1) Japanese apricot (Prunus mume); Japanese plum; ume; Chinese plum
  • Tnkō
    • 炭坑 : 炭鉱(P); 炭坑; 炭礦 【たんこう】 (n) coal mine; coal pit

We Want Your Questions

Is there something about Japan that confuses you? Is there something about Japanese culture that you would like to learn more about? Is there something in Japanese history that you would like us to explain? We’re always looking for new questions about Japan to answer, so if you have one, please send it to ichimon@japankyo.com.

Special Thanks

Opening/Closing Theme: Produced by Apol (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Fiverr)

Ichimon Japan cover art: Produced by Erik R.

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Full Show Notes


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