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I hear 別に used as "not in particular", did this usage come about just directly from the meaning of "separately"? So when used, it means that someone has a separate interest, like, etc. and hence they don't particularly have the interest, or share the like?

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No, this negative expression means "Not really", "I'm not interested", "I don't care", etc.

I think this 「別に…」 is the shortened form of "別に言いたいことはない" or "別にそういうわけではない", and 別に here roughly corresponds to particularly.

Something positive, like "これとは別のものが好きです" or "私はこれとは別に、言いたいことがあります" is not what the speaker want to say.

  • Naruto's answer sounds good to me. I think Naruto's English translation ("Not really", "I don't care" etc.) conveys this well, but I also want to explicitly note that I've been told 別に could come off as rude, curt or at least very casual when used in reply to someone asking about a potential interest. (Please someone let me know if you disagree!) – Anonymous Sep 24 '14 at 5:32
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    @Monburan Yes, "別に" can be very rude, and the best-known example is this one. But a single-word answer is always rude in an interview anyway :) – naruto Sep 24 '14 at 5:49

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