Japanese language study - nukeru

Thursday, February 9, 2012
日本語 抜ける

Japanese language study - nukeru

The Japanese word nukeru is frequently encountered, but tends also to be a word many learners of Japanese don’t become that familiar with.

In its principal dictionary defintion, nukeru means to fall out, escape, come loose, be omitted.
Toshi o toru to doji ni, kaminoke ga dandan nukete iku.
As I get older, I lose more and more hair.

Nanto, keiyaku wa menseki joko ga nuketerun da!
WFT? The contract is missing a waiver clause!

Sentaku suru koto ni yotte, iro ga nukeru.
It loses color with washing.

Ki ga nukeru literally means “to lose spirit,” but is used in the sense of being exhausted, feeling spent, or, in the case of beer and the like, to go flat, or lose fizz.

But nukeru is often found as a suffix to other verbs, with the meaning of “going through.”
For example:
iinukeru (“say” + nukeru) is to “explain away,” or “answer evasively.”
kakenukeru (“rush/dash” +  nukeru) means to “rush through” or “rush by,” especially in the sense of coming from behind and passing.
kirinukeru (“cut” + nukeru) means to “wriggle out” of or “break free” of something, “get through” something, “emerge from” something, or “ride something out.”
kugurinukeru (“dive” + nukeru) means to “slip through” e.g. a cordon, or “evade” e.g. the law.
supponukeru (“clean, completely” + nukeru) means “to slip through” (your fingers), or “clean forget.”
zubanukeru (“zuba,” as in “zubazuba” (“straightforwardly) + nukeru) means to “tower above,” “be the best by far.”
tsukinukeru (“jab” + nukeru) means to “pierce/break through.”

There are many more, but you get the idea: nukeru on the end of a verb gives it that extra sense of “throughness.” Think of nukeru not just the action of “falling out” or “escaping” but as the subsequent path taken by something that has “fallen out” or someone who is “passing through” or “escaping”: like the flight of a homerun hit, the trajectory of a goal shot, the whoosh of a comet across the sky - just passing through.

Nihongo no kaiwa ni wa “nukeru” ga nukete wa ikenai!
You can’t go leaving nukeru out when speaking Japanese!

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