Okinawa Diary, 1975: Pretending

My late brother worked as a guide at the U.S. Pavilion at the Ocean Expo in Okinawa in 1975. While there he typed up many pages of observations about people, places, and words of interest there. I scanned and edited the pages, added Japanese kanji for some of the words, and publish them here as a series.

The other day I walked casually up to the femme fatale guide in our module # two and began to make like I was going to change into my bathing suit right there in her presence. The upper part of the aquarium is in that spot, so swimming was a real possibility. She naturally went thru the gestures of shock playfully, and then I scolded her for even thinking that I would do such an etchi thing (dirty ol’ manish thing), in front of all the guests and herself. But, “omowaseburi o shita ja nai ka,” she retorted. This means loosely, ‘but you made me think so didn’t you?’, or ‘you put on as if you were, didn’t you?’. The key element of interest to me is this -buri, or -buru [振る furu] in the verb form. This -buru means ‘set up for, pose as’. Actually, in this case, the omowase means to ‘make or let a person think’, and omowaseburi is a noun meaning ‘mystification, or coquetry’. So let’s look at some more examples.

Gakushaburu [学者ぶる] means to ‘act like a scholar’, or to ‘put on like you’re quite learned’. Senseiburu [先生ぶる] means to ‘act like a teacher’. Otonaburu [大人ぶる] is to ‘carry on like an adult (when in fact you aren’t one)’. Mottaiburu [勿体ぶる] means to ‘put on airs, assume an air of importance’, the mottai part alone meaning ‘(undo) importance’, usually used in the phrase ‘to attach undo importance’, in Japanese, mottai o tsukeru. Digressing a bit, I should mention that this mottai is used in another glued form, mottai-nai [勿体ない], to mean most often ‘waste’ or as an exclamation: ‘What a waste!’ I hear this all the time.

Kyoosaikaburu [恐妻家ぶる] means to ‘make like you’re a henpecked husband’, for instance, in case you want to cut out of a party and you act like you better get home early or your wife will let you have it. Kyoo ‘fearsome’ + sai ‘wife’ + ka ‘household’ itself implies ‘henpecked hubbie’. Akusaiburu [悪妻ぶる] means to ‘act like a bad wife’.

Shittakaburi [知ったかぶり] o suru means to ‘act as if you do know something’. It is often found in the phrase shittakaburi o shita ikan yo! or ‘you better not act like you know!’

A friend of mine here is fairly fluent in both languages, but who went thru a U.S. base school, and therefore has a lot of English words jammed into his Japanese. When he went up to Tokyo and goofed around down in what is called the Shitamachi area, the fast-talking, slick, street-living young crowd larfed at my friend and accused him of acting like a gaijin ‘foreigner’. “Gaijinbutteru,” they teased. It wasn’t hip to use so much of the English loanword vocabulary that has found itself so much more soluable in the Japanese mother tongue lately.

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