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15 Japanese Food Onomatopoeias

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Comic book interjections like “Bam! Kapow! Thwack!” are classic examples of English onomatopoeia. But if Superman were to come up against a Japanese superhero, he’d probably be KO’d by his rival’s sheer arsenal of sound effects. Japanese is a language extremely rich in onomatopoeia. These giongo and gitaigo, mimetic words which describe not only sounds but also more abstract concepts like blushing (“dere-dere”) or the sensation of a gentle breeze (“soyo-soyo”), are usually made up of two sounds or syllables which are repeated for emphasis. And while an online list of English onomatopoeia has only 757 examples, the Japanese giongo/gitaigo dictionary boasts a whopping 4500 entries. 

One area where the onomatopoeia get strangely specific is when you’re talking about food texture. Take what English speakers would simply call “crunchy”—in Japanese there’s shaki-shaki (crunchy and juicy like a green apple or iceberg lettuce), pori-pori (a quieter munch, like cookies or Pocky), pari-pari (a crackly crunch like nori), saku-saku (a light, crispy crunch like tempura coating), kori-kori (soft and crunchy like broccoli), kari-kari (a dry crunch like toast or biscotti), and gari-gari (hard and crunchy like carrots or ice). If all this is making you feel a little peko-peko (the sound of a rumbling stomach), allow us to serve up 15 more linguistic morsels to sink your teeth into. 

1. puri-puri

Puri-puri describes that feeling of snapping into a fresh shrimp or a plump hot dog. Bursting with juiciness and bounce, puri-puri evokes the springiness and slight resistance of collagen—which is why it’s also sometimes used to describe a young girl’s cheeks. 

2. hoku-hoku

You know when a soft morsel of hot baked potato crumbles on your tongue and your mouth fills with a starchy steaminess? That’s hoku-hoku.

3. fuwa-fuwa

Fuwa-fuwa is one of the cutest of the food onomatopoeia, often squealed by girls to describe delightfully light and fluffy foods like white bread, marshmallows, or pancakes. 

4. shuwa-shuwa

Fizzy and bubbly, shuwa-shuwa refers to the refreshing mouthfeel of a carbonated beverage like sparkling water or champagne.

5. neba-neba

We would probably never want to describe a food as neba-neba (slimy) in English, but it’s high praise in Japan. That’s because the Japanese lap up such gooey, viscous—or more technically, mucilaginous—delicacies as nattou (fermented soybeans), wild yam, and okra.

6. mochi-mochi

Mochi-mochi is the most meta of the onomatopoeia, as it comes from one food in particular: mochi. If you’re not familiar, that’s sticky rice pounded into a stretchy, chewy, glutinous ball. Mochi-mochi isn’t just limited to the ice cream-filled sweet, though—it can also describe a particularly dense, doughy bread.

7. puru-puru

Puru-puru seems like the perfect word to describe a blob of wobbly, wiggly gelatin.

8. tsubu-tsubu

People with trypophobia dare not do a Google image search for tsubu-tsubu—this handy term is used for clusters of tiny balls, seeds, or grains. Food-wise, that means sprinkles, caviar, Dippin’ Dots, or, the staple of Japanese desserts, sweet adzuki beans.

9.  pasa-pasa

Giongo aren’t always appetizing; you can use pasa-pasa to talk about a food that’s lost all its moisture and flavor, like leftover rice that no longer sticks together, a dried up old orange, or stale bread. 

10. toro-toro

Toro-toro describes rich, creamy fare that has melted from a solid to liquid—think grilled cheese, chocolate fondue, or a slow-cooked stew brimming with fat. 

11., 12., 13., 14., and 15. tsuru-tsuru, shiko-shiko, zuru-zuru, churu-churu, and gido-gido

How about some ramen? You’ll want the noodles to be both tsuru-tsuru (slippery) and shiko-shiko (al dente). If they are, you’re sure to gobble them up with a loud zuru-zuru (slurp)—unless you’re a woman, in which case you might go churu-churu (a more feminine slurp). Just be careful not to get broth all over your face or you’ll be gido-gido (oily). 

That’s a mouthful! Surely by now you’re pan-pan (stuffed).

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Netflix's Most-Binged Shows of 2017, Ranked
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Netflix might know your TV habits better than you do. Recently, the entertainment company's normally tight-lipped number-crunchers looked at user data collected between November 1, 2016 and November 1, 2017 to see which series people were powering through and which ones they were digesting more slowly. By analyzing members’ average daily viewing habits, they were able to determine which programs were more likely to be “binged” (or watched for more than two hours per day) and which were more often “savored” (or watched for less than two hours per day) by viewers.

They found that the highest number of Netflix bingers glutted themselves on the true crime parody American Vandal, followed by the Brazilian sci-fi series 3%, and the drama-mystery 13 Reasons Why. Other shows that had viewers glued to the couch in 2017 included Anne with an E, the Canadian series based on L. M. Montgomery's 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables, and the live-action Archie comics-inspired Riverdale.

In contrast, TV shows that viewers enjoyed more slowly included the Emmy-winning drama The Crown, followed by Big Mouth, Neo Yokio, A Series of Unfortunate Events, GLOW, Friends from College, and Ozark.

There's a dark side to this data, though: While the company isn't around to judge your sweatpants and the chip crumbs stuck to your couch, Netflix is privy to even your most embarrassing viewing habits. The company recently used this info to publicly call out a small group of users who turned their binges into full-fledged benders:

Oh, and if you're the one person in Antarctica binging Shameless, the streaming giant just outed you, too.

Netflix broke down their full findings in the infographic below and, Big Brother vibes aside, the data is pretty fascinating. It even includes survey data on which shows prompted viewers to “Netflix cheat” on their significant others and which shows were enjoyed by the entire family.

Netflix infographic "The Year in Bingeing"
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