The word “baka” has been all over TikTok with many people confused about its real meaning.
But for once, this isn’t a case of new TikTok slang so much as it is just a mere language barrier. Here’s what the Japanese word actually means.
What does ‘baka’ mean?
It turns out that baka is a Japanese word for “fool” or “idiot,” according to the TikToker @areshimo.
Luckily, @areshimo schooled his followers on the origins of the word — and did so with some very beautiful Japanese calligraphy.
He explained that baka combines two Japanese characters: the character for “horse” — which reads as “ba” — and the character for “deer,” which reads as “ka.”
According to @areshimo, the term is derived from a Chinese story in which an emperor tested the loyalty of royal officials by presenting them with a deer while calling it a horse. Those who referred to the deer as a horse were considered “loyal fools” who would always side with him. Thus, the phrase horse-deer — or baka — was formed to describe fools. Pretty cool.
So why is ‘baka’ all over TikTok these days?
The word is being used by a lot of anime and manga fans. In fact, the hashtag #baka has over 1.2 billion views on TikTok at the time of writing.
Influencer Ian Boggs gave a quick rundown on how to use the phrase correctly, lest you want to end up offending someone.
Boggs said depending on your tone, it can mean “idiot, stupid or dumb” and it never, ever means “cute” as some have been led to believe.
Some more ‘baka’ tutorials
User @masaebation gave a step-by-step tutorial on how to actually use the expression. It included making the most annoying face possible and using the word to irritate people.
TikToker @showsuzuki also showed how to say baka in different ways. They demonstrated shocked, sad and flirty versions.
For the polyglots out there, @yurieoh gave a tutorial on how to say baka multiple ways in Japanese.
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