Sunday, November 19, 2017

Betsuni 別に - Word Meaning

The word betsuni is one of those words you're sort of forced to hear in anime. Every tsundere must be fluent in betsuni before getting their license, and every bored character  must be able to say betsuni in answer to practically every question in order to show how much he doesn't care about things. But wait... are these two betsuni the same betsuni? What does betsuni mean in Japanese?

Betsuni ...nai (Adverb + Negative)

The most common use of betsuni is in negative phrases, so we'll start with them. Note that betsuni means something else in affirmative phrases (because Japanese hates you), but that usage is a little rarer so I'll explain that one further below.

Anyway, in a negative phrase, betsuni means "it doesn't make a difference," "it doesn't matter," "not particularly," "not really." Examples:
  • betsuni suki janai! 別に好きじゃない!
    [I do] not particularly like [you]!
    It's not like I like you or anything!
  • betsuni kirai janai 別に嫌いじゃない!
    [I do] not particularly hate [it]!
    I don't really hate it or anything!
  • betsuni kamawanai 別に構わない
    [I do] not particularly care.
    Fine.
  • betsuni hoshikunai 別に欲しくない
    [I do] not particularly want [it].
    It's not like I want it or anything!
    You can have. Take it. Keep it. I don't care.

Betsuni... nakutemo 別に~なくても

When you have the structure betsuni... nakutemo, the whole things means "even if [you do] not particularly [do X, Y will happen.]" That is, someone's actions are inconsequential, meaningless, a waste of time. "You don't need to do this."
  • betsuni okoranakutemo 別に怒らなくても
    Even if [you do] not particularly get angry [about it.] (you can solve the problem)
    You don't need to get mad because of it.
    It's nothing to fuss about.
  • betsuni korosanakutemo 別に殺さなくても
    Even if [you do] not particularly kill [him.] (you can solve the problem)
    You don't need to kill him, though I don't really care if you do.
  • betsuni ayamaranakutemo 別に謝らなくても
    Even if [you do] not particularly apologize. (the problem will be solved)
    There's no need for apologies, it's alright, I forgive you. Actually, it wasn't even something to apologize about. Actually, I've already forgotten about it long ago, don't worry about it. No need to bring up the past.
  • betsuni shiranakutemo 別に知らなくても
    You don't need to know about it.
  • betsuni wakaranakutemo 別に分からなくても
    You don't need to understand it.

Tokuni... 特に

The word tokuni 特に means "importantly," and "importantly" and "particularly" are sort alike, likewise, betsuni is like tokuni when the phrase is negative. See:
  • tokuni nanimo nai 特に何もない
    Nothing of importance [happened].
  • betsuni nanimo nai 別に何もない
    Nothing in particular [happened].

Betsu ni anata no tame ni... 別にあなたのために~

And, of course, the trademark phrase of every staple tsundere:
  • betsu ni anata no tame ni... 別にあなたのために…
    [I did] not particularly [do it] for you...
  • be, betsuni anata no tame ni kau wake janain dakara ne!、別にあなたのために買うわけじゃないんだからね!
    I-it's not like I bought it because of you or anything, ok!
  • kanchigai shinaide! 勘違いしないで!
    Don't get the wrong idea!

kanchigai shinaide yone!! betsu ni anta no tame janai ndakara ne!!! Don'get the wrong idea, ok!! It's not like I did it for your or anything!!! Example of betsuni from manga nichijou 日常

Betsuni... masen 別に~ません

The examples above are using the nai negative, but this kind of betsuni also works with the polite masen. For example:
  • betsu ni kamaimasen 別に構いません
    I don't (particularly) mind.
  • betsu ni kiken dewa arimasen 別に危険じゃありません
    It's not (particularly) dangerous.

Betsuni (exclamation)

Next we have betsuni as an exclamation. This is also a very common use. Most of the time betsuni appears alone in a phrase, as a short answer, it's the exclamation, and this betsuni means: "I have no strong feelings one way or the other." Literally.

Note that, however, betsuni is often translated as just "not really," because people normally ask one-sided questions, not two-sided questions (I'm making these names up). To elaborate:
  • Do you like X? (one-sided)
    Not really. (betsuni)
  • Do you hate X? (one-sided)
    Not really. (betsuni)
  • What do you think about X? (two-sided)
    I neither like it nor hate it. (betsuni)

Some more examples:
  • kaizoku ni naritai no ka?! 海賊になりたいのか?!
    Arr, do ye wanna be a pirate!?
  • betsuni 別に
    Not really.
  • robotto ni noritai no ka? ロボットに乗りたいのか?
    Do you want to get on the robot?
  • betsuni 別に
    Not really.
  • chikushou! kuyashikunee no ka yo?! 畜生!悔しくねぇのかよ?!
    Damnit! Aren't you mad?!
  • betsuni 別に
    Not really

As you can clearly see above, this word is annoying as hell. Just talk! Use words, damnit! Is betsuni all you can say?!
  • betsuni 別に
    Not really.

Betsu ni (Noun-Adverb)

Now we got to betsuni with an affirmative. The least used betsuni. What's happening is that, in this case, it's more like betsu ni than betsuni. That is, it's not really an adverb, it's a noun turned into an adverb.

The noun betsu means "separate," "different than this one" or "other than this one." Let's start with an example of it being used alone:
  • neru you no beddo wa betsu ni aru 寝る用のベッドは別にある
    A bed for sleeping other than this one exists.
    There is another bed for sleeping.
  • betsu ni iken ga aru 別に意見がある
    There is an opinion for something else.
    I have a different opinion about this.

Above we have betsu by itself, without an adjective. Another case is when betsu has an adjective behind of it. So a phrase like X betsu becomes "each of X" or "X separately." Example:
  • iro betsu ni seirisuru 色別に整理する
    To organize by the separation of colors.
    To organize by separated colors.
    To organize by each color.
    To organize by colors separately.
  • gakunen betsu kanji haitouhyou 学年別漢字配当表
    List of kanji distributed by each school year.
    List of kanji separated by school year.
    (this is a list of which kanji students learn at which year in school)

Betsuni... nai without nai

So now we have seen the betsuni...nai which means "not particularly" and that weird noun-adverb hybrid that was betsu ni. Next we're going to see the first betsuni, again, but this time without the nai.
  • betsu ni daijoubu desu 別に大丈夫です
    It's nothing in particular, I'm alright.
Now, you may notice the phrase above makes no sense. I'll be honest. It doesn't. Don't even try to understand how it makes sense: it does not make sense. It'll never make sense. You can twist your brains for hours and you'll never be able to figure out how and why it means what it means, because, it's not supposed to mean that.

That's right. That, above, is a native Japanese speaker exercising their right to fuck up their own language by screwing up the grammar and using words in ways they aren't supposed to according to the dictionary but they do it anyway because fuck it, it's their language they do what they want.

Basically, because the negative betsuni is far more common than the positive betsuni, people end up using the negative meaning without a negative phrase. (oh the humanity!).

It could be that they didn't notice, haven't realized, that they always use a negative phrase with the negative betsuni. Because you don't really pay attention to these things, you just use words naturally. Since they haven't realize they have been using it with a negative phrase, surely they wouldn't think it's a requirement. And so, sometimes, the negative meaning of betsuni shows up in affirmative phrases instead. Not because it should, but because it kinda feels right.

...betsuni ~別に

Sometimes this kind of adverbial betsuni will end up at the end of a phrase. For example:
  • sore wa betsuni それは別に
    That [is not] particularly... (what?)

This can happen for two reasons.

First, whatever comes after betsuni is implicit. That is, someone might have said "it's going to cost a lot," and you say betsuni, it means that costing a lot isn't something you care about. It doesn't matter.

Second, it could be that what comes after betsuni is actually behind betsuni, at the start of the phrase.. So you're betsuni'ng yourself: "it's going to cost a lot, but betsuni (I don't care)."

Betsuni ii 別にいい

Alright, now we've reached the worst monster of the article: betsuni ii 別にいい. At first glance it doesn't look so bad, after all, come on, it's just two words, right? How bad can it be?

It makes natives ask questions about its usage levels of bad.

There are, like, a dozen problems with this phrase. Let's start with the biggest problem: ii いい.
  • iindesu いいんです
    It's good. (I'll take it.)
    I'm fine. (I don't need it.)

Okay, what the actual fuck. Who makes these words? Who decides these meanings? What kind of moron thought it was a good idea, to have one phrase, mean opposite things? What kind of bullshit is this? We haven't even reached the betsuni part yet and it's already this fucked up.
  • betsuni iindesukedo 別にいいんですでこ
    betsuni iindesu 別にいいんです
    betsuni ii 別にいい
    It's alright. Who cares.

Okay, so, above, we have betsuni ii. The problem: this is the negative meaning of betsuni, used in an affirmative phrase. It's saying you don't particularly care if it's good or not. Whatever. However, as we can see, there is no nai up there. The phrase is affirmative.

If it were to work the right way, as if we can call that, it would have been: betsuni yokunai? 別によくない? But that's not the same thing at all!!! That's just how exceptionally weird the phrase betsuni ii is. It combines a number of things that are difficult to understand in Japanese.

And there's more. See:
  • betsuni iinjanai desu ka? 別にいいんじゃないですか?
    betsuni iinjanai ka? 別にいいんじゃないか?
    betsuni iinjanai? 別にいいんじゃない?
    betsuni iinjan? 別にいいんじゃん?
    Isn't it alright? Who cares,

The above is not the negative betsuni either! It's the pseudo-negative betsuni plus a negative question. That is, you're not going to put the nai where you ought to put it (yokunai), but somewhere else it's alright (janai)?! What?!

BUT IT DOESN'T STOP THERE.

Finally, justice shall be served! Despite all the pain the gaijins suffer from the language liberties taken by natives as shown above, the natives themselves are unfazed by it. Except when it comes to what's next. Then they suffer the same pain as the gaijins! And it's their fault, too! If they hadn't used made negative betsuni affirmative, this wouldn't have happened:
  • betsuni ii 別にいい
    What you say sounds good. Whatever.
  • betsu ni ii 別にいい
    I don't really like what you said. Something else sounds good to me.

Dear kamisama, what the actual hell is going on here.

So, basically, you may need to scroll up. Remember the example: betsu ni iken ga aru 別に意見がある, which means "to have an opinion for something else?" It's what we see here.

The first betsuni ii is saying: pfft, I do not particularly care (betsuni) for one way or another. What you just said sounds good (ii) enough.

The second betsu ni ii is saying: I think your idea is bad. Meanwhile, I think a different, other (betsu) idea I'm aware of is good (ii).

So say you're in a business meeting and after giving a business proposal you get this business answer: betsuni ii. What does that mean? What does this guy mean? Does he mean he likes my idea? He's fine with my idea? My proposal? Can I do this? Or is he talking about the other idea? Which the other guy proposed? W-what the fuck? What do I do now?

Kanji of Betsuni

The word betsuni 別に is written with kanji and hiragana, betsu 別 plus the ni に suffix that makes it an adverb. This kanji (別) means "separate" and can be found in the following common words:
  • sabetsu 差別
    Discrimination. Differentiation.
    "Difference" (sa 差) of "separate" (attributes)
  • tokubetsu 特別
    Special.
  • betsu koudou 別行動
    Separate actions. Different actions.
    (let's split, team! Me, Velma and Daphne will check this room, while you and the dog go elsewhere)
  • betsujin 別人
    Separate person. Different person.
    (when he came back, he was "like someone else!" betsujin mitai! 別人みたい)
  • betsumei 別名
    Separate name. Alias. A.K.A.

And in this verb, although the reading is kun'yomi:
  • wakareru 別れる
    To separate. To part.
  • wakararu toki ga kita 別れる時が来た
    The time to part has come.

Betsubetsuni 別々に

The word betsubetsuni 別別に (or 別に) is, obviously, betsuni with an extra layer of that delicious betsu. It has nothing to do with betsuni, it comes from the noun betsubetsu which means many things becoming "separated" one from the other.
  • betsubetsu ni naru 別々になる
    To become separated (one from the other).
  • betsubetsu ni aruku 別々に歩く
    To walk separately (through separate paths).

Betsu no 別の

The phrase betsu no is an adjective, unlike betsuni, which's an adverb. As the adjective it is, betsu no means something is "separate" or "different (from the one we're talking about)," that is, "another." Examples:
  • sore wa betsu no hanashi da それは別の話だ
    That's a different story. (it's not the one we're talking about now)
    That's another story.
  • betsu no hi demo ii desuka? 別の日でもいいですか?
    Is it alright if it's a different day?
    Is it alright if it's another day?
  • betsu no hito ni naritai 別の人になりたい
    I want to become a different person.
    I want to become another person.
  • purosesu wa fairu ni akusesu dekimasen. betsu no purosesu ga shiyouchuu desu. プロセスはファイルにアクセスできません。別のプロセスが使用中です
    The process can't access the file. Another process is currently using it.

...betsu desu ~別です

The phrase betsu desu, and very much any other way that says something is betsu, that is, it's not the same, not what it was thought to be, it's something else.
  • sore nara hanashi wa betsu desu それなら話は別です
    If that's the case the story is different (from something I don't care about. I'm listening now!)

...wa betsu toshite ~は別として

The phrase betsu toshite means literately "to treat separately," and is used to exclude something from consideration.

Another way to think of it: betsu to shite, betsu ni shite, betsu ni suru, "to make [something] into something else." If it's something else (it's betsu), it's apart from what I'm talking about right now.
  • sutoori wa betsu toshite, suki desu ストーリは別として、好きです
    Except for the story, I like it.

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