I wrote a little bit ago about the â€œwarai geninâ€ style of Japanese humor, and how difficult it is for me to grasp. Well, a new meme started going around Japan this month, further illustrating how much of a gaijin I am, because I think it’s the closest thing I have to concrete proof that Japanese people are fucking crazy.
The meme in question is a phrase: â€œDondake~?!â€ I first heard it in class, where a cluster of girls were reacting to someone’s off-color statement by incredulously belting out, â€œdondake~?!â€ Once I noticed it once, I started hearing it everywhere, in every class. I learned more about the phrase when the teachers at my junior high kept going on riffs about how the students keep saying it.* In one of the few times a month they actually talk to me, these co-workers asked me if I knew about â€œdondake.â€ Replying that I didn’t, they then tilted their heads back and roared, â€œdondake~?!â€ Informing me that it was quite famous, they then asked me if I’d heard of Ikko.
Ikko being, apparently, some television personality whose ascent I haven’t kept track of. Can’t be helped, though â€“ it’s very difficult to keep track of this stuff, seeing as I don’t watch TV. (co-workers: â€œYou don’t?! Dondake~?!â€)
That night, I went online and did some browsing to figure out what all the fuss was about. Evidently it all spawned from a television broadcast, mirrored on youtube here.
Go ahead and watch. You’re not missing much if you don’t understand what they’re saying.
Astoundingly unfunny, yes? Perplexing, yes? You have now been initiated into the world of â€œwarai genin.â€
So, â€œdondake,â€ it turns out, isn’t actually a Japanese word. It doesn’t mean anything, and it doesn’t sound like anything. It’s used by gay people in Shinjuku, and some comedians adopted it because they thought it sounded funny**. It’s used as an interjection, basically meaning â€œwhat the!â€ — but with the connotation of being said by a whiny gay man.It can be used if you think that something is cool, if you’re surprised, or if you think something is retarded.
Were I to use it during watching that video, I’d be going for the third meaning.
But because it’s on television, it’s copied by kids everywhere. Soon, everyone’s using it.And it’s still not funny. It still has no meaning. But because one person likes it, everyone does.
Welcome to Japan.
* The teachers, having no lives of their own to speak of, tend to talk mostly of what their students do on a daily basis. Kind of like a married couple who only talks about their cat.
** Strangely enough, the phrase has flourished in spite of the culture’s rampant homophobia. In all seriousness, homosexuality is so underground here that most Japanese don’t even consider it a possibility when they meet someone. Their idea of a gay person is this flamboyant, theatrical lunatic that only exists on TV. If someone isn’t wearing a dress, makeup, and using a nonsense catchphrase, they can’t possibly be gay.