Reverse Culture Shock 101: Some Words Just Don’t Exist

Words that didn’t exist here continue not to exist here, but the difference is that now I want to say them.

One such word is kuyashii, which is a word used to express a feeling similar but not identical to “regret”. It’s the feeling you have when you lose or fail at something, knowing in your heart that you were so close, and that you probably could have done better. This can also be a feeling you have sympathetically, like when the ‘Skins lose by a single field goal or something. “‘Skins lose?! Fuck, I feel so. . . kuyashii!” Sadly, few ‘Skins fans will be inclined to chime in with you unless you pick your words with a little more prudence. But I find myself frequently at a loss for words. “‘Skins lose?! Fuck, I . . . fuck.” Truth be told, fuck can probably fill in for most of these nonexistent words, but then I can’t talk about my feelings when there are children, relatives, or feds around. And those are the kinds of people with whom I most want to talk about my feelings.

Alternatively, America has many words that did not exist in Japan, and even some that did not exist when I last lived here. Words like epic have changed entirely, to where their usage is now almost exclusively limited to abuse. These are like the home add-ons you don’t want but are stuck with. The self-opening blinds. The clapper-powered foldable bed that crushes you to death every time you turn on Oprah. The walk-in spittoon. I’d happily trade in epic for kuyashii, and the knowledge that I can’t do so is. . . kuyashii, man, fuck!

Actually, though, English is a wonderful language full of things I had been missing. The line between like and love in Japan is so vague, I’m still not sure what gender people think I am over there. Just one of the many, many reasons I left.

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