Japanese Adverb POWER RANKINGS


I have a new column up on the Japan Times: “Particles create the chemistry of adjectives and adverbs.”

I actually drafted a blog post along these lines (with the whole chemistry analogy) way, way, waaay back in the day (when I was posting thrice weekly) but lost it to a hard drive crash. I remembered it recently because I was thinking about おいしく.

I loved the way that my roommate used the word—I don’t think I’d ever heard it used that way before. A quick Google search shows 4 million plus hits for おいしそうに and only 618,000 for おいしく, so it is somewhat odd/infrequently used. Each of those could technically be translated as “deliciously,” depending on the context.

This all inspired me to put together a quick power rankings of Japanese adverbs. Here you have it:

5. 悔しく
4. 適当に
3. 早く
2. おいしく
1. ちょっと

I assume that 悔しく gets used? It’s one of my favorite adjectives, so I put it on the list. 適当に is another fave, and I’ve written about it in the past. 早く takes third mostly because I was imagining a whiny kid saying 母ーさん、早く〜(HAyaKUUUU). おいしく is wonderful, as I previously mentioned.

I think the reason why おいしく and perhaps 悔しく are so interesting as adverbs is that as adjectives they are more “performative” rather than “descriptive.” 悔しい is what someone says when something sucked. おいしい is what someone says when something is delicious. They are connected equally (if not more so) with the state of the partaker as with that of which is partaken; in other words, how the partaker feels having partaken (in something delicious or a shitty experience).

Other adjectives such as 暑い, 遅い, 静か, etc. are more objective and relate to the object only. Adjectives don’t always work this way in English: Saying “that was delicious,” while equally subjective, feels closer to my bowl of ramen than うまい or おいしい does. …if that makes any sense.

Of course, only ちょっと can be the number one. I love it because of its frequency and variety of use and because it is one exception to the beautiful uniformity of く and に adverbs.

Are there any others that I’m missing?

2 thoughts on “Japanese Adverb POWER RANKINGS

  1. Hey Daniel,

    Nice post! I’ve done a poor job following J-blogs these days (when I reformatted my blog layout, I lost my blogroll list and I need to reconstitute it), but glad to see you’re still turning out good stuff.

    If I were to make a list, I’d be partial to めっちゃ, thanks to my time in Kansai. I suppose the more Kanto-ey 超 could be substituted in, too? I’m not so sure how widely used that is these days, though. During my time studying/living over there, I think it was used all the time by youth, but I don’t know if was something older folk would say or even if it’s still as popular a word as it was then.

  2. Hey, thanks for the comment! I was thinking of your blog due to the 適当に association!

    I think you’re probably right – both めちゃ and すごく need to be represented on this list. I’m also partial to 非常に, so maybe a redraft will be in order eventually.

    And I also don’t have a good sense of where 超 is at these days, but I do hear it used occasionally at the office and find myself using it every now and then, although that’s probably because 超ベリグー was in fashion when I first started studying. Ha. Use that now and it really dates you to the Japanese!

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