July 27, 2009

Japanese Slang: Gabbing Whore

You know how some people gather around the water cooler at work and gab away, maybe relating the Jay Leno monologue from the night before? Some of these water cooler people think they are regular comedians or something. This word feels of like an antiquated way to describe a similar situation. Working girls, standing around the tea-grinder, chatting about whatever prostitutes chatted about back then. おちゃっぴい (ochappi), today's slang, comes to you from a bygone age: the edo era.

おちゃっぴい Breakdown:
Meaning: A funny chatterbox (not a bad thing, despite the word's origins)

Components: From お茶 (ocha, tea) and 挽き (hiki is the noun form of hiku, to mill); both parts became hirigana, and hiki had its sound voiced and altered

Origin: Ladies in the red district used to grind tea leaves and gab while business was slow

Alternative forms: おちゃっぴー or おちゃっぴぃ (they seem appropriately feminine-sounding to me)

Popularity: Seems to be a dead word
碾 is another kanji with the meaning of grinding, and the same kun-reading (hi・ku), but 挽 seems to be used often for tools (like saws) more often. In any case, I don't think many people use these kanji often, so you will always see grind tea as お茶をひく. Here's a pic of a traditional tea grinder, or 石臼 (ishiusu):


[further reading in Japanese]