This post explains a variety of Japanese words that are related to 茶 (cha, ‘tea’) and Japanese tea cultures!
茶 (cha) as ‘Not Serious’ and ‘Playful’
In Japanese, there are many words and idioms related to ‘茶 (cha, ‘tea’)’ which have the sense of ‘not serious’. Such words include ‘茶化す (ちゃかす)’, ‘茶茶を入れる (ちゃちゃをいれる)’, ‘お茶目 (おちゃめ)’, ‘茶番 (ちゃばん)’ and ‘へそで茶を沸かす (へそでちゃをわかす)’; and this article starts with introducing those words. One of their etymological theories claims the sense would come from the fact that people usually drink tea when they are taking a rest and relaxed.
1. 茶化す (ちゃかす)
Meaning: to mock or to make fun of someone or something.
- It often indicates when someone mocks serious things or people
As I’m talking seriously, please don’t make fun of me.
He and I became the leaders of this team!
Wow, you’re a ‘love-love’ (lovey-dovey) couple!
Hey, don’t make fun of us/this situation.
2. 茶々を入れる (ちゃちゃをいれる)
Meaning: to throw a comment that makes fun of someone
- It has the connotation that one chimes in and mocks someone.
Because he said something unfunny again, I threw a comment that made fun of him, ‘You are a genius of making lame jokes’.
3. お茶目 (おちゃめ)
Meaning: ‘charming, adorable, cute, slightly mischievous’
- Its noun form is 茶目っ気 (ちゃめっけ) meaning ‘charm’ or ‘loveliness’
He is an adorable person who often makes jokes.
His personality is very adorable, and he likes to make others laugh by making a funny face.
4. 茶番 (ちゃばん)
Meaning1: ‘a cheesy play/act’
Meaning2: ‘farce, a ridiculous or very shallow thing or incident’
- It’s often used as ‘とんだ茶番だ’ when you put emphasis its shallowness
You: Hey cutie there, whatcha doin’? (pretending to hit on a stranger)
Your gf: haha, what’s the cheesy play!
Because It was crystal clear who would win the election, it looked like nothing but a cheesy play/farce
I was handed a ‘script’ of the interview on TV shows. It was totally a farce/a very shallow, ridiculous program.
5. へそで茶を沸かす (へそでちゃをわかす)
Literal Meaning: ‘I’d make tea using my navel’
- Figuratively, it is used to scorn someone when you hear them say something very ridiculous.
Do you aim to become a professional soccer player from now? I’d make a tea using my navel! (That’s so funny/ridiculous!)
The next five words — 日常茶飯事, お茶の間, お茶の子さいさい, 二番煎じ and お茶を濁す—are related to Japanese tea cultures!
6. 日常茶飯事 (にちじょうさはんじ)
Literal Meaning: ‘daily tea-rice things’
- Figuratively it means a common or daily event, just like Japanese people have rice and tea
日常茶飯事 = 日常 (にちじょう) + 茶飯事 (さはんじ)
1. 日常(的) = daily, ordinary
2. 茶飯事 = 茶 (さ, tea) + 飯 (はん, rice) + 事 (じ, thing)
It is quite usual that he comes late.
7. お茶の間 (おちゃのま)
Literal Meaning: ‘tea room’
- It also means ‘living room’, as people used to a tea room used as a living room. Nowadays, it’s more common to call it ‘リビング (living)’.
8. お茶の子さいさい (おちゃのこさいさい)
Meaning: ‘very easy, cinch, a piece of cake’
- ‘お茶の子 (おちゃのこ)’ means ‘small snacks/sweets provided with green tea’, that is, something you can eat easily
- ‘さいさい’ has no meanings; it’s just used to add the good rhythm
It’s a piece of cake for me to build such an easy website.
9. 二番煎じ (にばんせんじ)
Literal meaning: ‘to reuse tea leaves twice’
- Figuratively, it means ‘a rehash’
–> This is because the second cup of tea has less flavour and strength.
The film is criticised for just a rehash of the previous work.
Literal Meaning: ‘to blur tea’
- Actual Meaning: ‘to be evasive’, ‘deal with a situation temporarily with a quick fix/band-aid solution’
I was asked my contact information (e.g., phone number, email) by him, but I did お茶を濁した (acted evasive), saying “I accidentally left my smartphone at home today”.
The last two words are ‘無茶 (むちゃ)’ and ‘無茶苦茶 (むちゃくちゃ)’. Although they contain the kanji character ‘茶’, it is employed only to represent their pronunciation, not their meanings. Therefore, those words have nothing to do with ‘tea’.
11. 無茶 (むちゃ):
Meaning: ‘be reckless, rash, careless, crazy’
Don’t require such a reckless thing as ‘Study for 12 hours every day’.
12. 無茶苦茶 (むちゃくちゃ):
Meaning: ‘be chaotic, be totally messed up’
A lot of illegal acts by the government have been found. That’s totally messed up.