February 4, 2009

Japanese Slang: SPY


"I know what spy means", you may be saying to yourself, but there is a new use for those three letters that reveals a bit about Japanese culture. Many ninjas died to bring us this post.

SPY is an acronym (pronounced スパイ). Much like the famous KY, that comes from the letters in a word, Suppin Yabakune. The first word, すっぴん means face without makeup. I believe ヤバくね means "~ is a little risky, in'it" or "best check your (face)" from the adjective やばい. Anyways, together I think they mean "the feeling that comes when one realizes that they don't have their makeup on." I am still a little unclear if it is the girl herself that says this, or her friend who warns her, but I would guess it is the friend from the ね, and it's like saying "XYZ" in English. Do you know for sure how to use it, dear readers? [source]

So what does this have to do with culture? Well I don't think it necessary related to the shallowness of ユニバレ, but there is this interesting rule in polite Japanese society (which is just about all Japanese society) : If you are a woman you always wear makeup outside of the house*. To not do so is not an option, because it is considered rude. The American in me really doesn't like this rule, but to each society their own I guess.

One more thing on makeup in Japan: Applying it in public is something that pisses the older generations off. I remember a teacher here at the school asking "Have you ever seen a girl putting on makeup on her bike? Why is that bad? Because one should put on their makeup in the privacy of her own room, where no one can see."
To which I replied, "So the problem isn't that she is being dangerous by riding and putting on makeup, but that people see her?"
To which the teacher replied, "That's a rather しつこい (obstinate) question."
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Bonus vocab:
アルファベット略語: Alphabet abbreviation. Words that start out as Japanese and get abbreviated using roman letters.
KY語: KY word. A word that, following the pattern of KY, becomes an alphabet abbreviated word.
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*And a bra. I had a German friend that got in trouble with her boyfriend for not observing that rule.