Encounter Two – No Way Jose

I live with two Japanese girls and three Japanese guys. We were sitting around our kitchen at some point in the last couple of months, and I told everyone about a beer event – I think the IPA event at Towers back in August. I’m always trying to get them to come along, but they’re usually uninterested, often busy. One of the girls has been trying to be more social and outgoing. She still hasn’t come to any beer events, but she at leasts feigns interest initially. She also a thing for Korean guys, so she asked me if any Korean guys would be at the beer event. I said 来ないかもしれません.

One of my other roommates almost choked on his beer and was like, What the hell are you talking about? 来ないだろう! (Yes, those kana are italicized. No, I was not able to put 傍点. Boo.) There aren’t going to be any Korean guys at an IPA event!

This is the standard usage of だろう・でしょう. The intonation was emphatic, but mostly because the guy was straightening out my ambiguous answer – Korean guys will not be going to an IPA event in Tokyo. Generally the intonation is flat like most Japanese words.

This is what I like to call the “Weatherman でしょう.” Whenever the forecaster gives the weather on Japanese news, he/she uses the set form 明日_でしょう, where you can insert 雨, 晴れ, 曇り, or a number of other possibilities into the blank. Tomorrow it will rain. Tomorrow it will be sunny. Tomorrow Korean guys will not go to cozy but awesome beer bars near Tokyo Station and drink super hoppy beer.

I think it’s relatively safe to equate this with the future tense and a high level of certainty. It’s not 100% certainty (as my 日本語文型辞典 tells me – no Japanese weatherman would make the mistake of giving a guaranteed weather report), but it’s more certain than かもしれない.

The main reason this pattern was so confusing to me early on is the wide range of meaning でしょう・だろう can have based on intonation alone. As a beginner, it was hard to differentiate the ですね, ですよ and ですか aspects of the phrase – no matter how many times I read the textbook explanation, 雨でしょう sounded like, “Will it rain?” until I got used to it by watching enough Japanese TV and hearing my roommate laugh at my かもしれない.

(I tried desperately to put Japanese emphasis dots on the だろう up there but failed epicly. Readers of Japanese are probably familiar with these. They go by the name of 圏点 (けんてん), 傍点 (ぼうてん), or 脇点 (わきてん), and they are the little dots above/beside (depending on the direction of the text) characters that emphasize certain words. They are roughly equivalent to italics in English, and they are definitely necessary to express the emphasis my roommate put on だろう. Beer to anyone who can tell me how to get the dots in WordPress.)

5 thoughts on “Encounter Two – No Way Jose

  1. Ah, yes. There is a related usage I like to refer as the “当たり前でしょう!” or “Well, duh!” because I first encountered it after saying something that was blindingly obvious to the person I was talking to ^^; The room-mate choking on his beer is a great mental image though.

  2. First of all what do Korean guys have against microbrew beer? I’m guessing nothing but sheer demographic and geographic factors are against them being there.

    Second, I looked for an explanation those 圏点 emphasis marks on the internet forever. I google for maybe several days in a row, which is years in internet time. I eventually figured out that they function more or less the same way italics in English do, but its nice to finally know what they’re called and have a wikipedia link.

    I really hope this post gets indexed under \japanese italics\ or \japanese writing with a bunch of commas next to it\, cause it might be the only English explanation, and if you’re Japanese isn’t good enough to already know what those marks are then pretty much by definition its not good enough to describe them in Japanese for a search engine.

  3. The 当たり前でしょう usage I think is closer to the “pushy” usage from the comments yesterday than the future tense. You can tell by comparing 当たり前です and 当たり前でしょう. Whereas I think the meaning of 来ないだろう, as compared to just 来ない, really depends on the intonation of the だろう. The emphasis certainly makes it a little pushy, but I easily could have answered my roommates question with an flat だろう to impress a relative certainty that no Korean dudes would be there. My roommates emphasis was basically pointing out the fact that, hey idiot, かもしれない is way too flimsy to end that sentence and assumes that Korean guys should be going in the first place but can’t for some reason. (They’re in Korea?) You need to be ending that sentence with だろう.

    I don’t think Korean guys have much against microbrew (at least I don’t think), but yeah, it was just highly unlikely that they would be there.

    Interesting. I’ll have to put up a longer explanation and scan in some examples. There are ways to get HTML, but they are a pain in the ass.

  4. Ah, I get it. You think the stress on だろう here was to set it off from your かもしれない which the roommate felt wasn’t strong enough. My “Well, duh!” でしょう does seem a lot closer to the previous poster’s examples, but I think the intonation and surprise/exasperation of the speaker are common in both our examples :)

  5. That emphasis mark is supposed to be included in CSS3 (as the `text-emphasis` property), but browser support is not yet a reality. I don’t think it’s commonly used online (AFAIK). A shame, because italics and bold are not really native to kanji and kana and make them look like crap.

    In a pinch, you could use the unicode “combining dot below” for plain-text, though that’s not technically correct —you would be adding extra (non-spacing) characters, not setting a special style (and of course it wouldn’t work for vertical text, but the web doesn’t support vertical text anyway). You could also use CSS to style them in other ways, say, by adding an underline-like border-bottom, perhaps dotted or dashed.