2004
10.30

Not That Word

Someone kept saying しゅぶい after everything I was saying. I thought it meant something like しょぼい which is not such a good word. しょぼい is, as my American friends might say, ‘Ghetto’, like cheap, crappy, embarrassing, uncool or something like that.

However, after asking someone else I was told that しゅぶい doesn’t mean anything like しょぼい. This was explained as word used to mean something related to maturity… it’s easier with an example.

If a young child is asked what she wants to eat and she replies, ‘sashimi please,’ then you can say, ‘しゅぶい’.

So it seems as though I wasn’t being insulted as I thought I was! Strangely neither of these two words can be found in my Japanese dictionary… are they slang or real words?

Update: Thanks to Miyo who kindly pointed out that the word I am talking about is not しゅぶい but actually しぶい (渋い) – tasteful (as in 渋谷?)… However, I am starting to wonder whether I misheard the word entirely…



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  1. Hello,
    I think the word you mentioned mighit be “しぶい” and it’s good meaning indeed.
    “しょぼい” is slang, but “しぶい(渋い)” is not.
    PS:
    I love reading your blog as well as “Note to Myself”.
    I’ve quite enjoyed them.

  2. Thanks a lot for your comment. No wonder I couldn’t find 「しゅぶい」 in my dictionary – thanks for that Miyo, I’ll correct my post.
    I like the word しょぼい and if you go to school it’s a good word to know 😉
    You read Notes to Myself too? I’m glad you enjoy my blogs. Please write a comment or two next time you visit!

  3. I don’t think you misheard the word. “shibui” has a bunch of meanings including bitter, rough, rustic, tough, old-fashioned, that kind of thing. That’s why a kid who wants sashimi is “shibui” — because you’d expect them to be more like a modern kid and want something sweet like chocolate.
    And yeah, it’s the same shibu in Shibuya. If those aren’t just ateji, then the name means something like “rough valley”. Maybe it was difficult to cross or something at one point. (Or maybe it’s just ateji.)

  4. Thanks a lot Matt, you’ve been a great help. From the context of the original conversation it definately didn’t seem like a compliment…
    Each time someone comments I get closer to understanding the usage of this word. Perhaps my example involving a child got slightly warped during tranlation. Hmm, who gave me that example anyway..?

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