Before learning this vocab, I was under the impression that sugoi was 100% positive 100% of the time. I thought it meant something regarding “Awesome!” “Amazing!”
However, with the recent new review item batch from July 25th, the vocab for sugoi was added. There I found that sugoi can mean both Amazing/Wonderful and Terrible/Awful.
From the little amount of Japanese TV programmes/movies I have seen, saying “Sugoi!” as a sentence on its own is of course perfectly fine grammatically. But how does a Japanese person know what meaning is being conveyed there? At least when spoken, there is some sort of emotional context, but this is not the case when the word is written.
In reality, is there some grammatical difference between the two meanings, or am supposed to get the meaning purely from context?
I’m not that experienced when it comes to stuff other than light novels and childrens’ books, but the way I’ve seen it used in books is something like “凄く (negative word here)”, which means basically means something like “very (negative word here)”. That would probably be pretty weird to translate as “wonderfully (negative word here)”, so I personally just assumed that’s why it has the negative-sounding meanings too.(“awfully scary” probably works better than “wonderfully scary”, for instance)
Since I’m pretty insecure about most things, I’ll add my usual disclaimer about this just being the way I’ve seen it used, that I am capable of making mistakes, and that it’s fairly late at the moment
So it’s kind of like the word very, and if I say"That’s very!" in Japanese, it is implied that the context is positive?
“Very” is an adverb, so saying something is “very” doesn’t make sense. Instead, think of 凄い as “amazing”. 凄く is the adverb form, so “amazingly”, or as we’d usually say in English “very”.
Obviously meanings and translations will vary, but hopefully that helps.
The second context sentence shows an example of ‘terrible’.
The rain is awful, isn’t it?
It’s kind of the same with ‘yabai’, right? Could mean both something positive or negative.
This example sentence from Bunpro is pretty interesting. I would have thought that 凄い匂い would mean amazing smell but nope.
Edit:I hope it’s legal to post a Bunpro example sentence
How does no one get confused by this.
Maybe it could be compared to Awesome?
If I say something is awesome, then an intuitive interpretation would be “amazing” or “super”. However, in its most deconstructed sense, it is simply something that bring out awe in people. That awe could be in the context of something terrible. We simply don’t use it that often. A giant monster could be awesome, as in that it invokes a sense of fear and respect, rather than it being a good thing.
This is definitely a common usage of it, but it also gets used for negative things all by itself, at least where I live. I’ve had conversations with people where they were talking about how awful someone is where they’ve said 「凄いねー」. Those times it’s easier to infer that it’s negative, but it throws me off regularly with other conversations that are less objective.
I think “awfully” also works here and maybe helps to illustrate its dual usage a bit more. Even though awful is decidedly negative, you could also say someone is awfully good at something, which is clearly not a bad thing.
Yep, this is another one that gets thrown around in a variety of contexts and isn’t always super easy to interpret either way for non-native speakers. Maybe even more so than 凄い.
It’s similar to ‘incredible’ in English - can be bad, it’s just to have some emphasis. If somebody does something nasty, you might say “You’re just incredible.”
A conversation that I had in Japan (I say conversation, but it was small-talk) was “It’s so cold today!” “It’s incredibly cold!” 凄く（すごく）was used.
Isn’t the negative meaning the original one?
I believe that’s what I learned, too. I think it’s close to “terrible” or “awesome” in the sense of “a terrible strength” (or “terrible lizard”!)
Where something is so X that it inspired fear.
I view it’s progression closest to “awesome,” which used to be mean, well, something that inspired awe, but has now been watered down to “pretty cool eh?”
Some words are like this. They seem to take things to an extreme, either positive or negative. Like とても、なかなか、全然, and similar ones that can be used one way or the other. Dunno how common it’s in practical use, but at least from the grammar I’ve read they can be used in either way.
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