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Language of Love and Hate

   When learning a foreign language, and particularly when you're fully immersed in it, you may come to associate words with the places where the words were first learnt, or with the person who first taught you them. As the years pass and your circle of acquaintances or, in my case, roster of former lovers grow, you may start to notice that the mood or nature of a relationship can be characterized by the words that were acquired during the time when those people were in your life.

   A rocky relationship with one woman taught me the words ayashii (怪しい, questionable, dubious, fishy, suspicious, unreliable), yabai (ヤバい, chancy, dodgy, touch-and-go, in hot water), and so on.

   My first marriage was wellspring of words such as iyami otoko (嫌み男, sarcastic bastard), dasan-teki (打算的, calculating), sekoi yatsu (stingy bastard), and yôryô ga warui (要領がわるい, cack-handed). I also learned the word 慰謝料 (isharyô, “consolation money”, a.k.a. alimony) from that woman. Ah, the memories!

   Less contentious lovers have taught me, among other things, toriko (虜, a slave to love), horeru (惚れる, be entranced, be taken with), and zokkon (ゾッコン, to be head over heels). Sigh.

   For someone like me who enjoys reading and writing, who hungers for new words and vocabulary, to be in the company of someone who is a source for fresh vocabulary or novel ways of saying what has long become tiresome and clichéd can be as stimulating as a drug.


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