What are your favorite and least favorite words? Any reasons why?
Question submitted by Byrne.
In the past several years, since I have been studying, many of my favorite words are, in fact, Japanese. English speakers in Japan, like any group of second language speakers anywhere, have been adding certain Japanese words and phrases to the local English lexicon whenever there is a good, easy to understand word that fulfills a purpose or meaning not easily expressed in English.
(An example closer to home would be the Spanish word "simpatico". It has a clear meaning, that of someone whom you feel relates to you better than most others; someone who is closer than a friend, but may not necessarily be an intimate, and can be pressed into English grammar with a minimum of fuss. Further, through continued use by non-native Spanish speakers, the word has become accepted as part of English, especially along the U.S. border to Mexico.)
So, some of my favorite words to use, that many of my non-Japanese friends here in Japan, learn to use very quickly:
Genki – Genki means healthy, but is used to also indicate wellness, happiness, the state of being good, energetic, and positive. In both languages it is an adjective. I find it to be useful in describing children. Here is a pure English sentence: Ryosuke is a happy, healthy child, who is usually quite positive and friendly. Here is the modified sentence: Ryosuke is very genki. As you can see, the one word substitutes to make conversation much easier.
Natsukashi – Natsukashi means to invoke a feeling of nostalgia in someone. The closest I have come to finding an English phrase that holds the same nuance is "Gee, that really takes me back." which is an acceptable phrase. However, I find that among people who understand Japanese, "natsukashi" holds a much more poignant nuance that makes its use all the more appealing.
Various onomatopeoics – Onomatopoeia is the formation of words based on their sounds. Think, for example, of the words we use to indicate an animal's voice – woof, bow-wow, etc. The Japanese language has thousands of these and they are a lot of fun to learn. For example, someone who is very good at a language is "pera-pera". A bowling ball, rolling down the alley is "goro-goro". A light, gentle rain is "pika-pika". As I said there are many, many more.
I find that I use these words in my everyday speech now, whenever there is something I want to convey and the Japanese word is more convenient than the English.