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Can a Japanese person explain “Lassen Gorelai” to a foreigner?
Monday, July 6, 2015
In the first half of 2015, the most-searched term in Japan was ラッスンゴレライ, more than Manny Pacquiao, more than Miyazaki’s new movie “The Wind Rises,” and more than the health fad of the year, coconut oil.
But what does the phrase mean? That’s actually what Japan wants to know. Global searches for the meaning of ラッスンゴレライ exceeded the searches for the meaning of “twerk” and “yolo” in the first half of the year.
is a song by Japanese comedy group 82 sec. Bazooka. They performed it on Japanese TV late last year, and then found it becoming a YouTube sensation and a pop-culture phenomenon earlier this year.
If Japan doesn’t understand this, what are the chances the rest of us will? I watched the video and asked my Japanese colleague Kaori for help. Here’s a cleaned up transcript of our Hangout chat, complete with that most Japanese of expressions, emojis.
So how should we transcribe this phrase? There's Lassen Gorelai and I've also seen Rassun Gorelai. What do you recommend?
I think it's best to go with lassen because that’s what another
YouTube creator called it in his English version of the video
, and his video was a big hit.
And, just to be clear, it means...NOTHING?
Well, we don't know.
... What ... ?!
Because the meaning of it was never addressed. So we don't know if it means anything, or if it means nothing.
So if, in 2012, I was to say those words to someone in Japan, they would have no clue as to what I was saying?
Yes, in normal Japanese it doesn't mean anything.
Does it sound like some other kinds of words? Does it sound technical? childish?
It sounds foreign. It’s written in
, which is common for foreign phrases.
Like English foreign? Or just ... from elsewhere?
Yeah, not English.
Can you set the scene a bit. They first did this on a TV show — had they done stuff like this before? or did this come out of nowhere?
Yes, they first did this on a late-night TV show in late 2014. And soon after that, they uploaded an official YouTube video, which immediately became popular. The comedians were unknown before Lassen Gorelai.
Is the English version an accurate translation? I just thought it was someone putting together English-language phrases in random order.
The English version is accurate. That's really what the original song is saying. Including the "spider flash rolling thunder."
What? OK. I'm going to listen to it more closely. [Watches the movie again, eyes wide open]
So "wait a minute, onisan"... one of them is called Oni?
Onisan means "brother" (as in, “hey bro”).
This song is even weirder than I thought. So it's these very intense scenes involving hotels and cars with the added ingredient of “lassen gorelai.” Suddenly, this phrase of yours makes sense: "we don't know [the meaning], because the meaning of it was never addressed so we don't know if it means anything, or if it means nothing." I thought you were just being zen, or something. So when this got big, how did this filter into daily life? Is it a catchphrase people would say in a bar?
Yes, people would say it when they're having dinner, at someone's house, or if you are a student you would be doing this in a classroom.
Have you used it?
No ... but my friends did at a party once. And there was a group of people who were so into it, and the rest of us were just observing, not wanting to believe that it's a thing.
The dance and everything?
Yes, they actually learned the dance from watching the YouTube video! The people who would go that far are definitely from the younger generation.
All right, so finally. What do you think Lassen Gorelai is, if you had to guess? I think in Pulp Fiction when they look in the briefcase and there’s something in there with a big glow ... THAT'S LASSEN GORELAI.
To me it sounds like a kind of Indonesian food.
Like nasi goreng!
"Wait a minute, wait a minute, onisan. Nasi goreng, what the hell's that!" Makes sense. Thanks, Kaori.
Posted by Robin Moroney, Communications Manager, Google Asia Pacific
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