Monday, August 8, 2016

Dame ダメ, 駄目

One of my favorite words in Japanese is the word dame 駄目. You see it used in all sorts of anime, all the time, in plenty of phrases, and, specially, a lot of times just for the comedic effect. Which means it's also one of the funniest words. But what does dame mean in Japanese?

Literally, dame 駄目 means something is "not good." But translating things literally is a bad idea. The word dame can be used in a lot of situations where something is really "not good" but it's almost never used to say just "not good."

The kanji in dame are 駄, which means, well, "bad", and 目, which means "eye," "vision" or "objective." The 駄 kanji is rare to be used, so its katakana version, ダメ shows up often.

Dame Behavior

The word dame can be used to describe an action as nothing good. Something that shouldn't be done, as it's not good.
  • onna wo naguru no wa dame desho? 女を殴るのは駄目でしょ?
    It's not good to hit women, is it?
  • ima keeki wo taberu no wa dame desu. 今ケーキを食べるのは駄目です
    Right now [you] should not eat the cake.
  • gakkou wo saboru no wa dabe darou 学校をサボるのは駄目だろう
    Skipping school is not good.

Imagine the Russian character Heavy from Team Fortress 2 saying "not good," that's the kind of "not good" we're talking about here.

Dame means no!

The word dame can also show up alone in a dialogue, as it often does, meaning just "no!" as a way to advise someone to not do something, which is "not good."
  • sore wa nani? それは何?
    What's that?
  • choko keeki チョコケーキ
    [It's a] chocolate cake.
  • tabete ii? 食べていい?
    Can I eat it?
  • dame 駄目
  • doushite dame?! どうして駄目?!
    Why not?!

As you can see above, the word dame was translated as a mere "no" even thought that's not the literal translation we talked about earlier.

(by the way, your usual word for "no" in Japanese is iie いいえ)

Dame Da!

Often used as a reaction, the expression dame da 駄目だ means, literally, that something "is not good". Often this is used when stuff doesn't work out. Take a look:
  • dame da kore! ダメだこれ
    This won't work!
  • dame datta ダメだった
    [It] didn't work.
  • dame ka? ダメか?
    It won't work after all?
  • dame da! ダメだ!
    Nothing works!
  • dame da! ダメだ!
    It's over!
  • dame da! ダメだ!
    It's useless!

Mou Dame Da!

The word mou もう means something is "already" or "about to be" something else. That it has become or will soon become something else. For example, mou shinda もう死んだ would be "[he's] already dead" and mou shinu もう死ぬ would be "[I'm] about to die."

When used with dame da it often means something is at its limit, it's going dame. Take a look at a phrase with this expression and some synonyms:
  • oishii sou... mou dame da!!! 美味しいそう… もうダメだ!
    It looks so tasty... I can't take it anymore!
  • oishii sou... mou genkai da! 美味しいそう… もう限界だ!
    It looks so tasty... I'm at my limit!
  • oishii sou... mou gaman dekinai! 美味しいそう…もう我慢できない!
    It looks so tasty... I can't wait anymore!

As you can see above, there are many ways in a single language to say the same thing using different words.

Dame Food

Unfortunately, the word dame can also be used to say something is "spoiled," as in, "gone bad," or, rather, "gone not not."This is often used with food.
  • kono keeki wa mou dame da このケーキはもうダメだ
    This cake is already gone bad.
  • kono keeki wa dame ni natta このケーキは駄目になった
    This cake has become bad.


Dame People

Just like food can go bad, people can go bad too. In English we often use the phrase "spoiled child" to call some children which are "not good," or maybe, if you're a cannibalistic witch, you use the phrase to call children who you won't eat based on some personal criteria, but then again this is none of my business.

Anyway, some sorts of people who are dame are:
  • dame na otoko ダメな男
    A bad man. A shit guy.
  • dame na onna ダメな女
    A bad woman. A bitch.
  • dame na ko ダメな子
    dame na gaki 駄目なガキ
    A bad kid. A brat.
  • dame na hito ダメな人
    A bad person.
  • dame gaijin ダメ外人
    A bad foreigner.
  • dame ningen ダメ人間
    A bad human bean.

In all the words above, dame can mean a variety of things. For example, a guy who doesn't work or a hikikomori 引きこもり can be dame. Or maybe a hard-working gang member can be dame. A promiscuous woman can be a dame na onna. A kid who doesn't study a dame na ko, or maybe he just doesn't obey his parents.

Either way, none of the people above are as bad as Hasegawa Taizou 長谷川 泰三, the most dame character of them all, also known as MADAO, or Marude Dame na Ossan るで目なっさん, "completely useless old man."

MADAO - marude dame na ossan まるで駄目なおっさん, a.k.a. Hasegawa Taizou 長谷川 泰三, a character from the anime Gintama 銀魂

Dame Skillz

Finally, you can also use the word dame to you suck at something and just won't work after all. By which I mean, of course, that your ability is "not good."
  • watashi no eigo wa dame desu 私の英語はダメです
    I suck at English

Yep. There are plenty of things dame in this world.


Leave your komento コメント in this posuto ポスト of this burogu ブログ with your questions about Japanese, doubts or whatever!

Comments made in bad faith or containing spoilers or language inappropriate for the post will be removed.

  1. human bean? i wonder what those taste like

  2. Useful. Might want to correct the 'bean' part though

  3. Dame ningen. Bad human bean. o ... k ... a .... y

  4. Human bean is a deliberate misspelling of human being. :) I've used it quite a lot in my life and never had confusion, so while it may be strange to some English speaking countries, in the UK at least it's well understood. Hope this helps!

  5. Is "Damete" a japaness word?