Japanese Lessons – Common Usage

I’m very lucky to have friends who can instruct me on common usage of Japanese.  This week’s entry is particularly relevant to those of us who are turning or have recently turned 40, so enjoy!

Everyone knows that in English, especially in the U.S., we say that forty is the new thirty.  Well, in Japan as well, it’s in vogue to be forty years old.  In fact there’s a whole context to turning forty.  People who are in and around forty years old are, “ARA4″

Ara4 is the Japanese way of shortening “around forty.”  It’s a pretty typical mixture of Japanese and English expression to create a short term that’s rife with meaning.  People who are ara4 are at or near the pinnacle of their careers.  They are able to take advantage of the height of fashion.  They have money and are not afraid to use it.  They not only have the money to be comfortable, but they have the background, experience and intelligence to use it well.

What gives me a giggle is that it’s a progressive usage.  A few years ago, the term that was popular in Japan was “ara-sa” which is short for “around thirty.”  Don’t forget, the Japanese have trouble with the “th” digraph in English, so “thirty” in English is pronounced “sah-tee.”  Hence, ara-sa.  It was cool to be thirty or thereabouts.

Don’t forget that in Japanese society, everything new is great.  New cars, new fashion, new everything.  So it stands to reason that society values youth.  Slowly, that’s changing.  I understand that it’s a bit of a contradiction in Japanese society.  Age is revered and respected, but youth is valued and relevant.  The young are taught to respect and learn from their elders but to move forward with progress – at least in most respects.  It’s another one of those quirks of society.

Now, however, perhaps things are changing a little bit.  It’s not only youth that is valued so highly – the forty-year-old set is not yet over-the-hill apparently.

For me, on the cusp of my fortieth birthday, I love this idea.  I plan to be in vogue and ara-4 for a few years.

 

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