When you have a chat with someone via text, you’d probably use emojis to express your feelings. This is the case in Japanese, too — and that is quite evident since the term “emoji” is loaned from the Japanese word 絵文字 (emoji) in the first place.
In addition to those 絵文字s, the Japanese language also has other types of terms that help you deliver your emotions in a casual conversation. These terms are written in parentheses and put at the end of a sentence or phrase; the most famous one is probably “(笑)”, which is often translated as “lol” in English. This post provides you with a list of such bracketed expressions and their meanings/usages in detail!
Reading: (kakko) wara/warai
It stands for “笑い (warai)”, meaning “a laugh”, and is nearly equivalent to “lol” in English. These days, it is also common to omit the parentheses, i.e. “笑”, or use the left parenthesis only, i.e. “(笑”.
笑 vs （笑）
While it may sound trivial whether you put a parenthesis or not, it actually has a non-trivial impact on its meaning/nuance. For instance, some people think that “(笑)” contains a more derisive and provocative tone than “笑” because of the emphasis that the parentheses have. Therefore, while it is very common to repeat 笑 multiple times as in “笑笑笑” (similar to “lololol” in English), doing so with parentheses, e.g. “(笑)(笑)(笑)” can sound very provocative and offensive. Also, some people regard （笑） as a bit old-fashioned compared to 笑.
笑 vs 草
In addition to 笑 and （笑）, the kanji 草, which originally means “grass”, is also used as their alternative these days. Its origin is that the first character of “warai” is “w” and it looks like grass. Unlike 笑, however, 草 is usually used itself as a reply to someone, or like an adjective like “マジで草” (so hilarious), “キモすぎて草” (too gross and it’s so funny), in which case you cannot use 笑 instead.
Another important difference is that its tone is (to my eyes and ears) significantly different from 笑 or （笑）, with 草 being more strongly associated with heavy users of online forums like 5ch (similar to Reddit and 4chan), which could deliver an awkward and/or weird impression depending on the context (imagine someone using Reddit jargon on Slack). Therefore, you should be careful about when to use this term compared to 笑 or（笑）. Having said that, the number of people using 草 has been increasing recently, and its jargonish connotation may fade away in the future (but still many people limit its use on online forums or casual social media such as Twitter, and avoid using it on more formal social media like Facebook).
Oh, thanks (lol)
That’d be impossible for him/her (lol)
Here, （笑）can make the sentence sound more derisive than 笑
I came late and nobody was there anymore lol/so funny.
It stands for 爆笑 (bakushou), meaning “laugh so hard”. Therefore, it is stronger than (笑) and the closest English term is probably “lmao”. However, very few people use it nowadays and it’s getting out of date.
What, did I say such a thing? I forgot everything (lmao)
Yes, this is not a typo; just parentheses without any word in between. This “term” originates from (笑) by omitting 笑 instead of the parentheses, and it is usually used when you ridicule or sneer at someone, or when you self-deprecate yourself (see the examples below). Not only put at the end of a sentence, but it is also put right after a word or phrase that you want to show contempt for.
Not that, however, since it is sort of “deep” internet slang jargon — probably more so than 草 —, some people may not understand its meaning at all. Therefore, you may want to limit its use on Twitter or some online forums only, or when you text a very close friend who has a penchant for those kinds of slang terms.
an idol who is too —wait for it— “angelic”
If you read this book, apparently you can “master” Japanese in three days.
I completely forgot that I had an exam today (haha…)
白目 literally means “white eye(s)” and often indicates (figuratively) that your eyes are rolled up because you are completely drained of energy and spirit. Therefore, when （白目） is put at the end of a sentence, that means the person is in an extremely problematic situation. Usually, it is used with a positive word/phrase that jokes about one’s hapless situation in a self-deprecating way (see the examples below).
Because I have five exams next week, I’m really looking forward to it (eyes rolled up)
Since I got fired today, I’ll have plenty of time to do games from tomorrow (eyes rolled up).
* In Japanese, the emoji with halo 😇 is often used in a similar way to （白目）. This is because we regard this emoji as a dead person rather than an angel or symbol of innocence.
Tomorrow, I have to wake up at 5 in the morning 😇 (I’m so dead).
It stands for 怒り (ikari, “anger”) and is mostly equivalent to the angry emoji 😡
It stands for 泣き (naki, “crying”) and is mostly equivalent to the crying emojis 😂 or 😭.
汗 means “sweat” and is mostly equivalent to sweat emojis 😅 or 💦 (yes, we think it’s sweat and not something else).
It stands for 省略 (shouraku), meaning “abbreviation/omission”, and is used when you omit something in a text. In this sense, it is very similar to an ellipsis mark or three dots (…) in English. It’s more formally written as （以下略）(ika ryaku) meaning “omitting the rest”. In a formal context, it is used just to omit irrelevant parts and make a document easier to read. In a casual context, it is used when you avoid explicitly mentioning something (e.g. swearing) that is easily guessed from the context.
On the internet forums such as 5ch, people used to use “(ry” as a further abbreviated expression of (以下略), but it’s getting outdated nowadays.
My boss is always criticising me and he is so (the rest omitted)