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This is a frequent problem that I think many Japanese learners experience. You look at some Japanese sentences, and you understand the words, and most, if not all, the grammar, and yet still, it just doesn't seem to mean anything.

That is the case when I look at this ad that I recently saw on the subway:

enter image description here

The text says:

本当のガキ大将は、弱い者いじめなんて絶対にしなかった。

昔話でもしながら、ま、一杯。

In kana:

ほんとうの がきたいしょうは、 よわいもの いじめなんて ぜったいに しなかった。

むかしばなしでも しながら、 ま、 いっぱい。

And my rough translation:

The leader of the gang never bullied the weak ones.

While talking about old time, hey, have a glass.

がき means more like "punk", but in this case since it's plural, I opted for "gang". 一杯 means a full cup, but I went with "glass" as in "have a glass of beer".

The second sentence, that one should enjoy a beer while talking over the old times seems clear enough.

But... the leader of the bullies didn't pick on the weak? Am I reading that right? And if so... It's a weird assertion. Isn't the leader of the bullies by default complicit in bullying?

The picture adds to my confusion? I think the kid on the far left is the leader of the bullies, the kid with the broken net is the victim, and the rest are the gang. It looks like the leader is the one who broke the net...? It seems to contradict what the words say.

What the heck is going on? Does it mean what I think it means and I'm not getting some cultural aspect in order to understand it? Or does it not mean what I think it means?

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You are missing the most important part. In the lower right, it says '...バー'. This is an advertisement of a bar that has a concept/theme of the old nostalgia that Matt mentions. That is clear from 昔話でもしながら. The part right before バー probably has something to do with the concept, but I can't read from the picture, and neither did you transcribed it. –  sawa Aug 23 '11 at 1:48
    
I did not miss that part, it just wasn't the key detail that would have made me know what 餓鬼大将 means. The bar, by the way, is 神谷バー, Kamiya bar in Asakusa, kamiya-bar.com and it is awesome. I've been there a number of times, and it is always an experience. –  Dave M G Aug 23 '11 at 5:02
    
I see. It looks like the concept of this bar is 下町, and that is where ガキ大将 in this advertisement becomes relevant. –  sawa Aug 23 '11 at 8:21
1  
ガキ大将 is read as がきだいしょう, and 昔話 is むかしばなし. I hesitate to edit these (especially the reading of ガキ大将), because that is partly the point of the answer: it is a compound word and has its own connotation. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Aug 23 '11 at 20:11
    
@Tsuyoshi Ito: I corrected むかしばなし because that is something I did know but had simply forgot. However, I left in the がきたいしょう because, as you say, that was integral to the source of the question. Thanks for pointing out the errors. –  Dave M G Aug 24 '11 at 0:00

1 Answer 1

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Apologies if you did already realize this, but it seems like maybe your troubles are arising here because you aren't aware of the range of meanings of the word ガキ大将. (You can find it in Daijirin and Wikipedia etc. using the all-kanji spelling 餓鬼大将.)

It has a lot of cultural baggage attached -- the Showa nostalgia level is over 9000, for starters -- but an important point is that it doesn't necessarily mean "leader of the bullies" as in someone to be avoided. Sometimes, the gakidaishō is just the toughest, bravest member of the local gang (= kids who play in the area), and therefore their leader -- someone who protects them from bullies, who are not part of the gang. And of course, there can be gray areas, kids who are bully-ish but have strange changes of heart: think Giant in Doraemon and Nelson in the Simpsons.

I think that this is the point of the ad: "Back in the day, the real gakidaishō [the kids we looked up to] weren't bullies." The picture is a bit blurry, but maybe the point is that the kid on the left isn't the gakidaishō -- he's the bully! And so the gakidaishō and his friends are on the right, rushing to the scene of the crime to teach the bully a lesson.

As for the second part, yeah, you are surely right on there.

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So, one would translate to "A gakidaishô worthy of the name" instead of "The real gakidaishô" for a less litteral traduction, wouldn't one? Your explanation makes a lot of sense, nice. –  Axioplase Aug 22 '11 at 8:54
    
@Axioplase: Yeah, something like that would be OK too. You would probably hash out the exact wording in your corner office in Manhattan after receiving your six-figure advance from the client, though ;) And Dave -- Glad to have helped! Now we just have to wait for someone to come in and point out that I totally missed all the irony or something. –  Matt Aug 22 '11 at 10:11
2  
@Axioplase I think it's okay to leave it as it is, for example we have a sentence like "Real programmers program using butterflies". –  syockit Aug 25 '11 at 16:36

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