Friday, July 3, 2009

Learning Japanese - ii kara

I want to talk about "ii kara" a little bit more. In Learning Japanese, Part 11, we'll have Tori Miki's cop saying, "いいから開けろ", "because it's good, open".

Just by looking at this sentence, it's easy to think that it should be used literally, as in "because it's good, open your door". However, "ii kara" is used fairly heavily in regular speech, and the nuance is deeper than this.

The other night, I was walking home from the train station, and there was an older couple standing on the street corner. The husband was obviously drunk, holding himself up against a street sign, and pulling away from his wife in order to head to another bar. The wife was pulling him in the opposite direction, saying "ii kara, okairi nasai" ("because it's good, return"). The nuance here is much more obvious now - "it's better that you stop drinking, making a fool of yourself and wasting money, and come home already".

Another common situation is with two people arguing loudly at each other, and a third interrupting them with "ii kara, ii kara". In this case, the third person is trying to placate the other two by talking quietly and apologetically. But, the real nuance of the words is "look you two, you're making asses of yourselves and disturbing the rest of us so settle down".

The English equivalent of the intended usage is: "because you should, do *something*". "Because you should stop drinking, go home", "because you're yelling, stop arguing" or "because I want to look in your car, open the door". But, an American would drop the "because" part and just go with the instruction "open up already".

Ii kara, tsuzuke.

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