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Osaka Dialect

The region's unique manner of speech

While the form of Japanese spoken in Tokyo is a "standard" dialect that can be found in use throughout the country, many regions of Japan have dialects that are unique to that region. Osakans speak their own dialect called "Osaka-ben". "Osaka-ben" is highlighted by words and phrases that have special meanings found only in the Kansai area.

Ookini(おおきに)

Ookini(おおきに)This commonly used word has the meaning of "thank you" in English or "arigato" in standard Japanese. Many Osakans say ookini at the end of whatever they say to smooth relations with the person on the other end of the conversation. In such cases, ookini means either "thank you" or "please."

Ookini was originally an adverb that indicated quantity. Therefore, "ookini arigato" is the equivalent of "thank you very much." Over the years, this was abbreviated to just "ookini." It is also a casual way to show appreciation as in "Ookini gochisosan" when someone treats you to a meal and a way to ask for forgiveness. "Ookini sumahen" apologizes for a mistake or troublesome behavior. Osakans will even use this almighty word to say "no thank you," as in "ookini, kangaetokimassu." Although it may appear that the speaker will give your proposal consideration, he or she is actually giving you the brush off.

Nambo(なんぼ)

Nambo(なんぼ)Osaka has been a center of commerce for many centuries. It is no surprise that Osakans have their own words for negotiating. Nambo means "how much," or "o-ikura desu ka" in standard Japanese. A customer will pick up a product and casually ask the sales clerk, "chotto, kore nambo?" (Excuse me, how much is this?)

Osakans like to bargain for the best price at retail shops. Customers will ask a male shopowner how much he'll sell something to them by saying, "otchan, kore nambo ni shite kurerun?"

Shaa-nai(しゃあない)

Shaa-nai(しゃあない)This phrase has many meanings. It's most common usage is when someone is resigned to the fact that something will not turn out as expected. As in "so-ka, sore shaa-nai na," the speaker is reluctantly admitting resignation, or "I see. That's the way it goes." Not easily translated into English, shaa-nai is closer in meaning and feeling to "que sera sera" in Spanish. It has a positive feeling that looks forward to tomorrow, instead of dwelling on what couldn't be done today.

However, Osakans say shaa-nai when they are displeased with results whose outcome they were unable to influence. There's nothing they can do to change the results. This feeling of frustration is expressed with shaa-nai.

Bochi-bochi(ぼちぼち)

Bochi-bochi(ぼちぼち)A common greeting exchanged by Osakans is "mokkari-makka?," "bochi-bochi denna". Mokkari-makka, which literally means "Are you making money?", is another typical phrase used by business minded Osakans. It is actually a greeting similar to "hello" or "How are you?" A proper and almost automatic response to "mokkari-makka" is "bochi-bochi denna".

"Bochi-bochi", which has the same meaning as "botsu-botsu" in standard Japanese, is a way of vaguely stating things are neither going extremely well nor are they very bad. "So-so" is probably the closest phrase we have in English equivalent to "bochi-bochi". Japanese people prefer to be vague when it comes to talking about their private lives, especially when asked about their incomes or anything related to money. "Bochi-bochi" is the perfect way to gloss over the subject with a cloudy answer.

Osakans will also say "bochi-bochi kaero-ka" when they are about to take leave. This means "It's about time we went home." Similarly, "bochi-bochi iko-ka" means to do something at one's own pace and not exceed one's capabilities.

Maido(まいど)

Maido(まいど)This is another common greeting that Osakan merchants and businessmen exchange with each other. A salesman will say it when entering a client's office. It means "thank you for your continued patronage." Or businessmen will greet a customer on the phone with "maido maido." Maido is generally reserved for men only. The only women seen using it are clerks at meat, fish or vegetable shops in Osaka's market arcades, who say it when greeting their regular customers.