Thursday, November 3, 2011


When Japan underwent its earthquake/tsunami/Fukushima power plant disaster, I first became aware of the comment, "がんばろうニッポン!" (read: ganbarou nippon!).  It's like, "Good luck Japan!"  but it somehow expresses more than that phrase does in English.  I always think of it as the "加油" of Japanese, sufficient to encourage and support both those who are winning and those who are struggling, to express that one expects more but only because they know that you are capable of giving more in the most positive way possible.

Of course, there are variations to ganbarou such as ganbatte and ganbare.  I never knew the difference between them...until now.

The other day I was watching a music video by Greeeen (yes, those 'e's are all intentional)  called Love Letter. The love letter the video shows was surprisingly one that even I, with my extra-limited Japanese ability, could read and yes, even understand.  "先生~ありがとう。ばんばります" (Sensei~ arigatou.  Ganbarimasu)  (Doctor~ Thank you.  Good luck"

Aha!  I figured it out!

-masu is the polite positive form of a verb in Japanese.  So all those other forms are just conjugations of the verb with the root ganbaru.  (Ganbaru is defined as "to stand firm, to do your best" given by the kanji 頑張 which implies a stubbornness and obstinacy in your resolve)

Ganbarou - presumptive familiar form to indicate an anticipation for something one will do.  "We can do this!"

Ganbatte (kudasai) - imperative polite form to indicate a command.  "Do your best!"

Ganbare - imperative familiar form to indicate a command.  "You got this!"

Ganbarimasu - present indicative polite form.  "Good luck!"

In any form, it's cheering.

But I have to laugh.  This new understanding just makes me realize that in previous uses of this verb, I was giving commands to people I didn't know in the familiar form.  Oops!

My apologies to Hasebe-san and Toshi-san.

On a side note, did you know the emoticons were used in typesetting as early as 1881?

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