Friday, November 17, 2017

Masaka まさか - Word Meaning

The word masaka means "it can't be," right? Or "could it be," right? That's its meaning, right? That what masaka means in Japanese, right? I mean, bakana! doesn't actually mean "impossible!" So... could it be that... masaka...?!

Definition

Sure. The word masaka doesn't literally mean "it can't be." That makes no sense. The phrase "it can't be" has a pronoun, an auxiliary verb, and a copulative verb. That's too much stuff for a single word to represent. Although, to be honest, you can translate masaka as "could it be" and be correct half of the time, even if it sounds a little weird.

masaka まさか examples from manga Meitantei Conan 名探偵コナン


Basically, masaka means "unexpected." In a sense. We wouldn't use the word "unexpected" in English the way we'd use the word masaka in Japanese. And, masaka can be a noun, an adjective and an adverb. But the core idea is that masaka refers to something unexpected..

What masaka means, exactly, would be: something you don't expect and would take you by surprise if it happened, probably (but not necessarily) putting you into an urgent situation that forces you to make decisions and change plans.

Note that masaka isn't always about things that are literally impossible or that never crossed your mind. It can be something you thought could maybe happen, but there was a very small chance (it rarely happens, probably won't happen, so you don't expect it to happen), or you simply don't want for it happen. (you expect something good to happen, you don't expect something bad to happen, and you don't expect the worse possible scenario to come true).

The word masaka is not "there's no way!", it's the thing that would make you say "there's no way!"

By the way, to say just "unexpected" in Japanese, the word would be igai 意外.

Masaka...?! (adverb)

Let's see some examples. Imagine something unexpected happened. A character, concerned, says: masaka...?!

That's an adverb.

It doesn't look like an adverb, because, just like saying "what the...?!", it's missing the rest of the phrase. See:
  • masaka... まさか...
    [I did] not expect...
  • ...konna koto ni naru nante! ...こんなことになるなんて!
    ...[it] to turn into this!
  • ...teki ga iru no ka!? 敵がいるのか!?
    ...there to be enemies?!
  • ...kisama ga koko ni kuru towa na ...貴様がここに来るとはな
    ...you to come here.

Sometimes the masaka doesn't even need to be translated.
  • masaka honki de itteiru!? まさか本気で言っている!?
    [I didn't] expect [you] to be saying it seriously, [but are you]?
    Are you saying [it] seriously? (I didn't expect it!)

Masaka... ...nai! (adverb)

Another way masaka is used as an adverb with a negative phrase is to say something will never happen no matter what. It's honestly impossible. See:
  • doushitemo ienai どうしても言えない
    I can't say [it] no matter what happens.
  • masaka ienai まさか言えない
    I didn't expect I can't say it.
    (I thought I'd be able to, but I couldn't, I was wrong and therefore we can assume it's impossible for me to)

Masaka. (noun)

Nest we have masaka. A noun.

Now you might be thinking: what the hell is the difference between this and the above?! Well, little. Basically, if there's a comma or dot after the masaka, then it's a probably a noun. When it's a noun, it can be translated as "of course not!" or "I can't believe it!" depending on the situation. Example:
  • honki de itteiru?! 本気で言っている?!
    Are [you] saying [it] seriously?
  • masaka! まさか!
    Of course not!
    You can't really expect it to be so.
  • masaka, joudan yo! まさか、冗談よ!
    Of course not, it was a joke!
  • masaka, hontou ni shinda? まさか、本当に死んだ?
    I can't believe it, [he] really died?
    I didn't expect it, [he] really died?

Sono masaka!!! (noun)

Sometimes, after someone says masaka, you can reaffirm the masaka really masaka'ed by using the demonstrative adjective sono to specifically emphasize the masaka that just masaka'ed.

Here's an example of sono masaka:
  • temee, masaka oretachi wo uragitta no ka yo!? てめえ、まさか俺達を裏切ったのかよ!?
    [I was] not expecting [this, but] did you betray us!?
  • sono masaka!!! そのまさか!!!
    [Exactly] that [which was] unexpected!

As we can see above, it's taking a ridiculous amount of effort for me to keep the word "unexpected" in the translations. You just don't translate this word, you just write something else, like:
  • temee, masaka oretachi wo uragitta no ka yo!? てめえ、まさか俺達を裏切ったのかよ!?
    You bastard, did you betray us!?
  • sono masaka! そのまさか!
    YEAH, I FUCKING DID!

Masaka no...?! (adjective)

This one is a bit rare in anime, but it exists. When you turn masaka into an adjective through the no particle, masaka no, you're describing something which is unexpected and you'd be caught by surprise if it were true or occurred.

Often, this means something unexpected and bad happened. An emergency. And you would be asked "if masaka no ... happened, what would you do?" The phrases below can also be used to say that masaka no ... HAS happened.
  • masaka no toki まさかの時
    The most unexpected time. (a time that always catches you by surprise)
    An emergency. Urgency. The time of need.
  • masaka no baai まさかの場合
    The most unexpected situation.
    A situation of emergency.
  • masaka no jiko まさかの事故
    The most unexpected accident.
    An emergency with victims, probably.

Basically:
  • masaka ga okoru mae ni risuku wo yobou suru まさかが起こる前にリスクを予防する
    Before the unexpected happens, prevent the risks.

Besides the above, the phrase masaka no... can also be used to state things that you didn't expect to happen but happened and have caught you by surprise, and, maybe, they weren't bad things, they were just surprising things, or even pleasant things. It's just that you thought they were super rare and wouldn't happen.
  • masaka no tenkai まさかの展開
    The most unexpected development! (unfolding of a story)
  • masaka no 1000 pointo! まさかの1000ポイント!
    The unexpected 1000 points! (I got them! Yay!)
  • masaka no yandere! まさかのヤンデレ!
    The unexpected yandere! (I didn't think such character would appear!)

masaka no kokeshi まさかのこけし, example of masaka no from the manga Nichijou 日常


And, of course, the title of this webnovel, which is basically a summary of every school harem anime ever:

Kanji of Masaka

One last thing, masaka can be written with hiragana or kanji. It's often written with hiragana: masaka まさか. But it technically has a kanji version, too: masaka 真逆.

The kanji of masaka 真逆 are "true" (ma 真 of masshiro 真っ白, "true/pure white") and "reverse" or "opposite" (saka 逆, of Sakasama no Patema 逆様のパテマ, "Patema Inverted/Upside Down").

This could be because something masaka is "truly the opposite" of what you'd expect, but that's just me trying hard to explain the kanji. Could also mean nothing.

By the way, do not write masaka with kanji. It has the same kanji as another word, magyaku 真逆 (gyaku 逆 same as Gyakuten Saiban 逆転裁判, "Judgement of Reversals/Ace Attorney"). And magyaku means "total opposite." Not really the same thing as masaka.

It'd be confusing to write both words the same way, so masaka is normally written with kana alone: masaka まさか, not masaka 真逆.

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