Japanese slang tame

When you are learning a foreign language, studying slangs is a nice and fun way to widen your vocabulary. Not only will you speak more fluently but you will also sound more like a native speaker and surprise your Japanese friends! It also provides an insight into the Japanese culture. Let’s learn the expression “tame”.

A quick peak into Japanese society and culture will show you how much Japanese people care for social hierarchy. Social status and age matters to the way you address other people and to the way you behave around them. For example at school or at the office, younger or inexperienced Japanese will be called “kouhai” 「後輩、こうはい」while the older or experienced one will be called “senpai”「先輩、せんぱい」. Japanese people pay attention to the social position of others before addressing them carefully and do so from a very young age.

In such context, how would a young Japanese address someone of the same age ? Well, with friend he might casually use the Japanese slang “tame” 「ため/タメ」.

Originally, tame was a gambling word used prior to the Showa Era. It was refering to two dices showing the same number. Such combination is also called “the same number of eyes”, “Zorome” 「同目(ゾロ目)」. From the Showa Era, the meaning of tame started to change to mean “equal”.

However, among the yakuza (Japanese mob) of the 60’s  tame’s meaning completely change for “the same” and became similar as the word “onnaji”「同じ」.

The expression was then quickly borrowed by young deliquents during the 70’s and by the end of the 80’s, this new meaning was popular among all young people and even appeared in the newspapers.

In a general context, tame will convey the same meaning as “onnajidoshi” 「同じ年」, the “same age”. It can also be a reference not to the age but to the school year for students:  “tame dōkyūsei”,「タメ 同級生」,  “same year classmates”. But beyond that meaning, tame convey an image of comradeship: you are not only the same age (or in the same school year) but you are peers.

Considering its origin and its meaning, Japanese people would be quite shocked to hear a non native Japanese speaker say the word “tame”!

Let’s read a conversation with the word tame:

A: Bさんっていくつ?
B: 25だけど。
A: じゃ、私とためじゃないですか!私も25です~。

In romaji:

Rei: Nomi-kai de
A: B-san’tte ikutsu?
B: Nijyu-go dakedo.
A: Jaa, watashito tame janaidesuka!  Watashi mo nijyu-go desu.

English Translation:

Example: At a drinking party
A: B-san, how old are you?
B: I am 25.
A: That is the same age as me! I am also 25!

From the word “tame” is born a quite interesting expression: “tameguchi”「ため口」. Combining “tame” with the kanji for “mouth”, tameguchi litteraly means the “same mouth”. This expression refers to a casual way of speaking, considering the speaker as an equal, when you shouldn’t. Some Japanese people,  without any consideration for their speaker (age, status…) will address them with casual Japanese, ommitting polite forms. So… Being “tameguchi” means a person is really rude!

Click this link to read about Japanese slang dotakyuan ドタキャン

Credit CC BY 2.0: Melanie Tata
Title: No Dice?
source: Flickr

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