Today I wanna talk about a Japanese word that I was embarrassingly late to learn: ダサい！ (Dasai!)
“Lame” is ダサい (dasai)
If you look at the Weblio entry for ダサい, it says: “uncool; unsophisticated; unfashionable; out of fashion.”
One definition calls it “uncouth.” Others say it’s, “rustic, unsophisticated, bumpkinly, hick.”
In short, it’s everything you fear being called… especially by a would-be lover on your first, awkward date.
My favorite definition, though, is the all-Japanese one, which says:
iki na tokoro ga naku yabottai koto wo zoku ni iu go.
Slang for something that’s 野暮ったい / yabottai and not at all 粋 / iki.
ダサい (dasai) is 野暮ったい (yabottai).
野暮ったい (yabottai) means like “unsophisticated” or “crude.”
One from Tanaka Corpus for this word is:
ano yabottai fuku wo ikura de katta no ka to kiita dake de, kanojo wa gyakujou shite watashi ni ku
I only asked her what she paid for that dull-looking dress and she flew off the handle at me. – Tanaka Corpus
Who is stupid enough to tell a girl that her dress is dull? Me, as a teenager, perhaps. But that was a different time.
(On a side note, that sentence above was the first time I had seen the phrase 食って掛かる (kuttekakaru), which literally means something like “eat + hang” –> “eat up?” But it’s actually definition is “to lash out at somebody.” Here is the Weblio entry. And here’s the Jisho.org entry.)
Another one that I saw on Weblio was:
doumo kono shatsu to tai no kumiawase wa yabottaku mieru yo.
The combination of that shirt and that tie is very tasteless.
Homegirl Rei (my fiancé) says that people do indeed say 野暮ったい, but I’ve yet to hear it come up in a conversation. That’s hugely different than ダサい, which I’ve heard about 832 times now.
ダサい (dasai) is not at all 粋 (iki)
I had a friend once that told me I was 粋 (iki), which dictionaries refer to as “sophisticated, cool, stylish.” My favorite translations I’ve seen though are “essence, the best, the cream.”
I wish my parents had named me that… Essence The Best The Cream Walker. That would have been so 粋 (iki). Or actually… maybe a bit ダサい (dasai).
Right after my friend called me 粋, he told me that I probably don’t understand the nuance. Guess I should write an article about it or something. Looking at some example sentences, I fear he may be right…
kare wa iki ga wakaru hito da.
He is a man of taste. – 研究社 新和英中辞典
are wa naka naka iki na hito da.
He is a man of great delicacy. – 斎藤和英大辞典
kare wa nihonjin no iki da.
He is a Japanese of the Japanese. – 斎藤和英大辞典
Wikipedia has it’s own article about the tricky nuance of 粋: “Iki (aesthetics).” So, uh… good luck with that.
Anyway, 粋 is good, and it’s everything ダサい is not.
How to use ダサい (dasai)
This one’s really easy, because ダサい is an i-adjective, and you can say it all by yourself anytime you want to make someone feel lame, uncouth, uncool, the opposite of the essence, the cream, the best.
So if your friend tried to show off his bartending skills and ended up spilling soda all over his shirt, you could point at it him and say:
Lame! / Loser! / So not cool!
And now you’re not friends anymore.
If you move to Japan and get some friends in their twenty-somethings, it shouldn’t be long before you come across this word.
Anyways, good luck with your studies.