Using 「マジ」 for real

Originally published: 2005/5/31

I’m back! Most of you probably don’t know this (or care) but I actually have a real full-time job. And this being Japan, full-time means more like 9 to 8 rather than 9 to 5. So those of you who think I sit at home in my boxers working on my computer, I’m actually stuffed in a crowded train disguised amongst hundreds of Japanese businessman. And since our project is running late on the release date, I’m working more like 9 to 10… and I don’t mean one hour. No really. マジで。 And I suppose that’s just as good as any lead-in to the topic at hand: “How to use マジ to talk about what’s real.”

What is マジ?

Once you start practicing Japanese with real people outside of the classroom, you’re bound to run into the word 「まじ」 probably sooner rather than later.

You probably already know 「本当」, the word you use when you want to say things like, “Really?” or “Yes, really.” But most of the time, you don’t want to sound like a wimp by saying things like, “Oh really? That’s nice.” What you really want to say is something like, “For real?” or “No way!” or maybe even, “You’re shitting me!”. That’s where 「まじ」 comes in. 「まじ」 is often said to be a shortened form of 「真面目」 which means “to be serious” (although there are other theories regarding its origin). 「まじ」 is also often written in katakana to show that great emphasis that 「マジ」 contains.

A: クリス、彼女ができたんだって。
– I hear Chris got a girlfriend.

B: へ~、マジ
– Heh, for real?

Using the 「で」 Particle for マジ

One thing to remember in terms of grammar is the use of particles. When you use 「本当」 as an adverb, you attach 「に」. However, for 「マジ」 you attach 「で」. There’s no logic that I can figure out to this but then we are talking about slang here.

A: 本当に忙しくて大変だったよ。
– I was really busy and it was tough

B: そうなの?
– Is that so?

A: あいつ、マジで退学しちゃったの?
– Did that guy really drop out of school?

B: うん、マジで
– Yeah, for real.

Differences between 「本当」 and 「マジ」

Besides the difference in the particles, 「本当」 and 「マジ」 are quite different in their tone and usage. For instance, 「本当」 sounds cuter, more polite, and more feminine than 「マジ」 which sounds very rough and crude. In fact, you should take care in using 「マジ」 with your superiors. Having said that, I think 「マジ」 is a really useful word to know that you’re going to hear over and over again in daily conversations.

Cut it out with 「切れる」!

Originally published: 2005/2/11

「切れる」, the intransitive version of 「切る」, not to be confused with the short-hand potential form 「切られる」, is one of those common words with many definitions and usages.

If you look up 「切れる」 on Jim Breen’s WWWJDIC, you will get a huge list of definitions:

切れる 【きれる】 (v1) (1) to cut well; to be sharp; (2) to break (off); to snap; to wear out; (3) to be injured; (4) to burst; to collapse; (5) to be disconnected; to be out of; to expire; to sever (connections) with; (6) to be shrewd; to have a sharp mind;

If you’re just starting out, I would NOT recommend using these definitions verbatim. It’s important to see how it’s used in context in order to see the specific types of situations and common particles used together. Let’s take a look at some examples.

For instance, what if you wanted to say something ran out or expired?

– The batteries are going to run out soon, so you should buy a new one.

– This item is already sold-out.

– The sell-by date has already expired so you should throw it out.

Or what if your connection gets cut off such as on the phone?

– Once entering the tunnel, the signal didn’t reach and the phone got cut off.

You can even use it for when you lose your temper.

– I couldn’t take it anymore and I lost my temper.

Perhaps, one of the most useful thing about 「切れる」 is that you can take the negative and use it as a verb suffix for things you can’t cut off and put an end to. This has a similar meaning to the expression 「切りがない」 for things that have no cut-off point and seems to be endless. As you can see by the examples, you just take the stem of the verb and attach 「きれない」 .

– I can’t eat this much (you know).

– No matter how much you try, there’s no way you will finish this homework.

– Because I haven’t finished getting a handle on the situation, please let me consider/investigate until tomorrow.

的: A very useful ally

Originally Published: 2005/2/6

While the word 「てき」 usually means “enemy”, that’s not the word we’re talking about today. The word I’m going to talk about uses a completely different Kanji from 「敵」 meaning “enemy” and is in fact a very useful and helpful ally.

If you’ve studied Japanese for a while, you’re bound to have encountered the 「的」 kanji. While this kanji by itself is read as 「まと」 and means a “target”, its usefulness really shines as a noun suffix. This kanji can be attached to countless nouns to easily change them to a na-adjective. In this case, you read the kanji as 「てき」 and you’ll see it all over the place: 一般的、圧倒的、感動的、習慣的、技術的、基本的、and on and on.

Let’s take the word 「感動」 meaning “deep emotion” and say we want to say the following sentence.

That movie was very moving.

Unfortunately, since 「感動」 is a noun, we can’t just say, 「あの映画はとても感動」 because the movie is not a deep emotion. So you’re going to have to say something complicated like the following:

I saw that movie and I was moved.

But wait! We can just use 「的」 to make 「感動」 into an adjective!

That movie was very moving.

That was a very moving movie.

What could be argued as even more useful is if you use the 「に」 target particle with 「的」, you can make the noun into an adverb! (Actually, this applies to all na-adjectives)

That’s technically impossible.

I customarily eat breakfast every morning.

In fact, without 「的」 there are just so many things that can’t be expressed. I would definitely put this kanji on my top 100 list.

In America, people generally commute by car.

It’s better to think of it from a objective viewpoint.