April Fools: How to Talk About Big or Little Lies in Japanese

Source: Gaijin Pot
April Fools: How to Talk About Big or Little Lies in Japanese

April is always the trickster’s month. While the エイプリルフール (April Fool) tradition remains relatively unknown in Japan, it can be amusing to introduce this concept in the classroom or workplace — if only to get your students and coworkers to have fun working out and calling you on your fibs.

For learners of Japanese, this can be a great time to brush up on your vocabulary related to “lying” and make learning a little more entertaining.

One of the popular questions in exams is the verb that is associated with lying in Japanese. This often catches learners out, as the verb is (嘘(うそ)を)付(つ)ける (to lie). You will also find this in the compound noun 嘘つけ or 嘘つき (liar). As a noun, 嘘 can also form unusual compounds such as 嘘なき (crocodile tears) or 嘘八百(はっぴゃく) (full of lies).

Most intermediate to advanced learners will be familiar with the prefix 真(ま))っ that basically means “totally.” This can be added to the beginning of colors to make words like 真っ赤(あか) (completely red) and真っ白(しろ)な (completely white). Intriguingly, it can also be put in front of lies to indicate that they are 100 percent 真っ赤な嘘 and 真っ白な嘘 (completely blatant lie and completely harmless lie, respectively).

The opposite of a 白嘘 is, of course, a serious lie. To make it clear that a falsehood is not acceptable, it is often called a 深刻(しんこく)な嘘 (serious lie) or even a 悪質(あくしつ)な嘘 (malicious lie).

Of course, much like English, the Japanese often expresses how grave or trivial a fabrication is by putting it into a proverb. One of my favorites is: “嘘と坊主(ぼうず)の頭(あたま)はゆったことがない. (I would never utter a lie.)” due to the hilarious thinking that went into it. The ゆった part of this proverb can be written as 結(ゆいった>ゆった (to tie), which is a homophone (-ish..) of 言(い)った (to say). This double meaning reveals …continue reading