AIUEO – To (と) – Toriaezu (とりあえず) – What is the meaning of Toriaezu?
To (と): Toriaezu (とりあえず) Beer! (Tori-Bee!)
Have you ever been to an izakaya? It’s a kind of casual drinking establishment in Japan that also serves food. When you go to an izakaya with friends, you might all be discussing what to order first, then open the menu to find yourself confronted by a staggering choice of sakes, whiskeys, sours, cocktails, and more.
Typical Conversation between Japanese Friends
(dore ni shiyou ka… mou, hayaku nomitai!)
“What should we choose… I just wanna drink something right away!”
(uun, iroiro aru keredo, kangaete chumon suru no wa ato ni shite… toriaezu beer!)
“Hmm, there are so many different things, but let’s think properly about our order afterwards… for now,
let’s just grab some beers (toriaezu beer)!”
(jaa, minna, tori-bee.)
“Okay, so that’s beer (tori-bee) for everyone.”
The word “toriaezu” comes from the longer phrase 取るものも取りあえず (torumono mo toriaezu), which can be broken down as follows:
- Torumono mo: even the things that you need to take with you
- Toriaezu: cannot take (those things) with you
(“Aezu” is an old way of saying that one is unable, or that it is not possible, to do something)
In other words, the whole phrase can be understood as meaning, “doing something in such haste that everything else including important things is left unattended to.”
Therefore, it can be a relatively dangerous word to use. Hence, you should definitely take extra care in using the word. Consider the following work conversation:
トムさん ： 部長、今朝、部長から言われたプロジェクトの計画書をとりあえず作りました。
(Tom: Bucho, kesa, bucho kara iwareta purojekuto no keikakusho wo toriaezu tsukurimashita.)
Tom: Section chief, I had a go (toriaezu) at drawing up the plans for the project you mentioned this morning.
鈴木部長 ： ん？ とりあえず？ とても大切なプロジェクトだぞ！ 「とりあえず」じゃだめだ！
(Section Chief Suzuki: Nn? Toriaezu? Totemo taisetsu na purojekuto do zo! “Toriaezu” ja dame!)
Section Chief Suzuki: What? “Had a go” (toriaezu)? This is a really important project, you know! It can’t be rushed!
The Positive & Negative Connotations
You and your girlfriend have decided to get married. There are lots of people you want to tell, but first of all (toriaezu), you decide to tell your close friend, Kimura-san, as it was he who really supported the two of you getting married.
A senior colleague has asked you to do some work for them, but as they are a colleague that you dislike, for now (toriaezu), you tell them that you’ll “get round to it when you have some time.”
The meaning in sentence 1 is positive: “first of all”, i.e. the most important thing that you must do first. However, sentence 2 has a negative connotation: “for now”, i.e. just doing something in that moment, without really thinking about it.
Therefore, in the conversation at work above, Tom has many different things that he needs to get on with, but “first of all” (toriaezu), he put all of his efforts into drawing up the plans for the very important project. However, it seems his boss, Mr. Suzuki, has interpreted this as the negative connotation of “toriaezu”, i.e. that Tom rushed through it without really thinking about it.
More and more in the Japanese spoken today, “toriaezu” is regarded as meaning “rushing through something without really thinking about it”. Therefore, it’s best not to use it in conversations about work and similar situations.
Japanese has many such “dangerous words”, so it can be tricky… Oh! But don’t come to hate Japan or the Japanese language! Let’s leave thinking about the various difficult aspects until later.
とりあえず, let’s enjoy studying Japanese!
About the Author: Mr. Shigemi Matsumoto, was a junior high school Japanese teacher for 23 years before joining Coto Language Academy. Therefore, he is a Japanese language pro. He currently teaches Coto’s Intensive Courses (intermediate and advanced), Business Courses and the Part-Time N1 grammar and reading classes. He is also involved in developing teaching materials at Coto.
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