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.

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