Take the 2-minute tour ×
Japanese Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Japanese language. It's 100% free, no registration required.

In Liza Dalby's book "Geisha", while talking about onsen geisha, she mentions various pejorative terms from the general public. She mentions "korobi" (roll-over, presumably 転び) geisha, and "Daruma" (a doll that tumbles down, presumably だるま) geisha, both of which I understand the imagery of.

But how does the term "shomben geisha" (小便芸者, I assume) work? Dalby translates it as "toilet geisha", and jisho.org describes 小便 as a colloquial word for urine. I understand that it's a derogatory term, with the same ultimate meaning as the other two terms, but not the imagery involved. Is it because of the male anatomy used with 小便?

(By the way, Dalby also notes that skilled artists exist in the onsen towns, sentiments that I'd echo)

share|improve this question
    
FYI, だるま can also be written 達磨. –  istrasci Jan 27 at 15:26
3  
小便芸者... New word for me... –  Chocolate Jan 27 at 16:36
1  
Similar English terms like "piss-poor" exist too. –  Flaw Jan 28 at 5:17
add comment

2 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I do not claim to know the origin of this particular term [小便芸者]{しょんべんげいしゃ} but I have reasons to doubt the male anatomy hypothesis.

In the most vulgar kind of Japanese, [小便]{しょんべん} is sometimes added to a noun like a prefix to express the speaker's hatred or strong disrespect of the object. The nuance it carries is much worse than "good for nothing". For this purpose, 小便 is pronounced しょんべん rather than the dictionary reading しょうべん.

Examples: 小便[議員]{ぎいん}(Diet member)、小便[役者]{やくしゃ}(actor)、小便[国家]{こっか}(nation) 、小便[飲み屋]{のみや}(bar), etc.

Thus, I would tend to assume that the term 小便芸者 came by this route.

share|improve this answer
    
「小便小僧」しか知らん。--- –  Chocolate Jan 28 at 13:53
    
知らんでもええて、上述の言葉は。知ってたら逆に怖いわ。 –  Tokyo Nagoya Jan 28 at 14:07
add comment

小便芸者 means a poor geisha. Because such geisha often excuses herself from playing shamisen(三味線) or performing Mai(舞) to fudge on.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.