Saturday, February 04, 2006

Genki de o?

Hello all. I just wanted to write a quick post here dedicated to a really great Japanese word. It`s one of the first I learned and one of the few I use even with my American friends, the ubiquitous "Genki."
What does "genki" mean? When I first learned this word, it was in a Japanese phrasebook, under Greetings. "Ogenki desu ka?" translated to "How are you?" I tried it out on my neighbor, Mr. Tanaka, a middle aged man who by all evidence is single and unemployed. He owns a collie named Mary who is always beautifully brushed and who hates gaijin (foreigners, like myself). Catching him on the stairs, I called out "Tanaka-san! Ohayo gozimasu! (Good morning) Ogenki desu ka?" He laughed and put both arms in the air "Genki de!" Hm, I thought. Strange reaction. I decided to consult Marisa, my Japanese culture guru. She`s lived in Japan for about 3 years combined (never in one trip), worked as a hostess, had Japanese boyfriends, and is now working in public schools.
"Genki! Yeah, that`s a great word," Marisa said to me in the Imazato apartment over some Chu-hi`s. "It means like healthy, happy, excited. But it also means other things. There`s just no word in English for it." She later used it in this context, describing an illness she was suffering: "Normally, I`d be all genki and look it up on the internet and find out lots of information." So, it kind of means gung-ho, or hard working too.
Another encounter with "genki" came during the Japanese class I was taking at a local community center. In the textbook they gave us, genki was written next to a stick-figure drawing of a man jogging in the snow.
Historically, I guess genki means "good energy" or "having vitality, spirit." It literally translates to "root energy" In recent times, it`s taken on more of an over-the-top meaning, sort of like super happy, excited and ready-to-go.
I love this word. Just had to share.
Hope you`re all genki!!
Love, Erin