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This comment can be seen very often on Japanese message boards.

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up vote 15 down vote accepted

KY is short form of 空気読めない (Kuuki Yomenai)

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It means like "clueless to the situation" or "doesn't know what's going on". – istrasci Jun 2 '11 at 2:11
It is also used in daily conversation and isn't limited to the internet or BBS – Mark Hosang Jun 2 '11 at 2:12
Recently, we don't use KY very much in Japan. – Kentaro Masa Jun 2 '11 at 2:25
Somehow KY fad has receded. When used to criticize somebody, it means 空気読め(Kuuki Yome!, read the situation will you!) instead. – syockit Jun 2 '11 at 2:37
@Kentaro what is used to imply KY then? – Pacerier Jun 15 '11 at 4:06

It means kuuki yomenai. A friend explained this concept as follows:

In Japanese culture, the social protocol calls for utmost attention to the right "atmosphere." Certain actions can only be considered appropriate when the "atmosphere" of the time and place allowed for them to be carried out. In Japanese lingo, it is "reading the air" (空気を読む)and for every person deemed to be lacking in such skill, the term "KY" ("cannot read the air, "Kuki Yomenai," 空気読めない) is ruthlessly (albeit sometimes jokingly) applied. The presence of these KY people is definitely a source of massive awkwardness and discomforting bluntness in any social gathering, whether work-related or otherwise.

Well, being careful to avoid KY-ness is obviously of high importance in certain work conditions. In the presence of one's superiors, or worse, external guests, doing anything KY, i.e. making overly argumentative comments against the others, aggressively doing something that should be reserved to the superiors, and so forth, as a new graduate, is bound to be highly humiliating and irritating for the superiors.

Sadly, one common example of KY is when leaving work. Unless you avoid KY, it will be considered rude for you to leave work, but of course this depends on the environment.

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