Posted by: yoko | September 2, 2003

Words from Childhood

(This will be an ongoing series, updated whenever the mood strikes me.)

There are certain Japanese words that I had heard from my mom when I was growing up that I never really knew the English equivalents for. Once I did discover the English words, they seemed to pale in comparison to the vivid nuances the Japanese words carried. Some of these words pop into my head every so often, and I figured I’d set some of them down so that I can remember them, and to share them with you as amusement. Here’s one that came to me tonight:

Heso means belly button, magari is the noun form of magaru, meaning to turn or to bend. So, literally, it translates as “uncentered belly button.” According to the online dictionary I had consulted, the word means “perverseness,” but my mom always used it to mean “contrary,” whenever I did the opposite of something I was told to do, on purpose. I heard this word from my mom a lot.



  1. that is what I use the phrase “bent out of shape” to mean. kinda cranky and contrary, usually due to feeling somehow slighted or overlooked. not the same, but related. interesting!

  2. you could make this a wonderful series…i’d like to find out more lovely phrases from your mom…


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