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SMAC! Web Magazine

LOST (and FOUND) in TRANSLATION #010 – “BURIKKO”

Do you treat your male friends the same way you treat your female friends? Probably not. Our attitude tends to change a little when we’re dealing with someone of the opposite sex. Usually for the better. After all, when confronted by a potential mate, we want to show ourselves in the most flattering light, right?

Today, we’re going to look at a certain personality type that takes this concept to the extreme.

Today’s word: ぶりっ子 (burikko)

“Buri” means to “to act” or “to behave”. The word “Ko” (子) means child, but often refers to a female (you probably know that lots of Japanese female names end in “ko”: Momoko, Ryoko etc.)

A burikko is someone, usually a female, who acts cute and helpless for the purpose of attracting the opposite sex.

This is a relatively new word. It comes from 可愛い子ぶる子 (Kawaiiko buru ko – A girl who acts cute), which was eventually shortened to “burikko”.

LFT_010 burikko
Image by Yamazaki-sensei. Note how the burikko transforms in the presence of an attractive male…

Usually, they’re pretty normal. But in the presence of an (attractive) male, a burikko might do things like:

  • Talk in a high, anime-like voice.
  • Refer to herself in the third person (small kids do this in Japanese, so it’s considered cute).
  • Overreact when seeing something cute or eating something delicious.
  • Puff up her cheeks when angry.
  • Tug on someone’s shirt when trying to get their attention.
  • Pretend to cry.
  • Pretend to be dumb.

Etc.

Now, guys love this sort of thing, but if you’re a girl who just read that list, you might be feeling a little… irritated. This brings me to my next point: burikko are usually hated by members of the same sex, and the word is generally used in a negative sense!
So be warned that if you want to be noticed by sempai, you might lose a few female friends along the way!

However, if you’re writing a manga, you might want to consider adding a burikko character. You could have a girl who is cold and calculating in private, but acts cute and innocent in front of the boys. This kind of character makes an excellent “love rival” for your heroine! Or you could have a rough, sporty girl, who’s usually crass, but when a handsome guy appears, she transforms into a kawaii type (annoying her teammates!)

I think in the west, we tend to think of “cuteness” as something purely visual. We don’t think of it as something that can be faked. But in Japan’s “Moe” culture, cuteness goes beyond looks. It’s in the way a character speaks, moves and behaves. Manga artists should make a study of these things. And the rest of us can pick up some good tips as well!

What do you guys think of burikko? Is it wrong to show off for the opposite sex? Is there any Japanese slang that you’re curious about?
Let me know in the comments!

Penmaru