Non-existance is so unfair!

Trying to finish up some of my unfinished drafts again. God, this is the SECOND TIME stupid WP published my post without my permission! I hate this new interface!

It seems every language has different ideas of what it means to be something. Spanish has ser vs estar, Chinese has 是,在,有,and of course nothing. (It seems anything and everything in Chinese can be omitted and implied.) Japanese also has a distinction between properties of the thing itself (implied、だ、です) versus where it exists (ある、いる).

The verb 「ある」 can be used in some interesting ways to define existence in a way that’s not entirely obvious, hence this post.

If you define all the normal, common activities and occurrences that exist in the whole world, nay the whole universe, if you do something that doesn’t exist in this realm, it can mean that it’s grossly unfair.

A) 晩御飯は全部、あたし一人で作ったから、全部自分で食べちゃうよ。
– Because I made all the dinner by myself, I’m going to eat it all.

B) それはないよ。
– That’s not fair. (That doesn’t exist.)

A) じゃ、次はちょっと手伝ってみたらどうよ?!
– Then how about helping me next time?!

Here’s another example of using 「ない」 for what one expects to be an uncommon scenario.

A) 彼氏が今晩のデートで大事な話があるってよ。
– My boyfriend said he had something important to say on tonight’s date.

B) そう?
– Is that so?

A) もしかして、立派な婚約指輪を持ってプロポーズしたりして!
– Maybe he’ll bring a gorgeous engagement ring and propose.

A) う~ん、それはないんじゃない?
– Umm, I don’t think that’s likely.

You can even erase things that happen in the past and treat it like it never happened. Water under the bridge and all that.

A) 昼ごはんをおごってくれたら、昨日最後のチョコを許可なく食べたのをなかったことにしてあげるよ。
– If you buy me lunch, I’ll forget that you ate the last chocolate yesterday without my permission.

B) そのチョコは俺が買ったんだろうが!
– But I bought that chocolate!

Finally, my favorite ボケツッコミ combo.

A) 日本では、なぜかセーラー服やメード服など、制服がものすごくはやっていてね。街で散歩したら、制服を着ている女の子をよく見かけるわけよ。
– In Japan, for some reason uniforms like sailor uniforms and maid uniforms are really popular. If you walk around town, you’ll often see girls wearing uniforms.

B) あるある
– That happens, that happens.

A) 最近、おばさんまで、普通にメード服着ているし。
– Even grandmas are wearing maid uniforms normally.

B) あるある・・・ねーよ
– That happens, that happens… no it doesn’t!

As you can see, as is often the case, humor translates horribly. I hope to cover the different aspects of ボケ and ツッコミ and its importance in understanding Japanese humor but that’s another post that will probably sit in my draft folder for another couple years. Feel free to share your own corny jokes in the comments.

10 thoughts on “Non-existance is so unfair!

  1. How would you translate 「なかったことにする」? Looking at my dictionary i think it could be translated as “I decided to ignore it” or something like that.
    Thanks for writing about a meaning of 「ない」i didn’t know 😉

  2. The concept of ‘nothing,’ while trying not to get into metaphysics or anything, is rather interesting. I can’t speak for much more than English and Japanese, but in order to talk about ‘nothing’ we have to make it ‘something’, by turning it into a noun/adjective/etc. Thus, we are able to talk about something linguistically but cannot fully comprehend logically.

    以上です 😛

  3. In Korean we get lost in the depths of all those kinds of words:


    Aaaaand that’s it I think. It’s beautiful, ain’t it. 😀

  4. 最近「複数の日本語」という本を読んでるんだけど、その本の中に面白い話がありましたよ。
    a)隣の人、元気でら = 現在の一時的な状態
    b)隣の人、元気だ = 恒常
    a)の文章は「『最近体の調子を崩している隣人が、今日は珍しく元気に挨拶してくれた』というような場合が想像できる。』、b)の場合は「いつも元気な人だ」、もしくはa)の様に一時的状態を表す意味になるそうです。英語のHe is kind とHe is being kindの違いに近いらしいです。

  5. I believe the ‘nothingness’ in these examples are directed towards the ‘situation’. Thus, don’t think of “nai” as the absence of a particular object. Rather, it is the negation of the situation as a whole. (i.e. negating that it is likely to receive an engagement ring, or negating an entire situation where the last chocolate was consumed.) This topic in general is very interesting and sheds light on the subtleties of translating languages. Personally, I think the Japanese language is infused with Buddhist (and Existential) notions of nothingness; very difficult to put into words.

  6. Near the beginning of Hayate no Gotoku Episode 40:
    Hayate no Gokotu GIANT is starting now!
    It isn’t!

    (Humor fail)

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