5

A person asks another if he knows the meaning of a certain word and he replies:

ううん、なんとなく使っているけど、でも、こう、なんていうか、...

No, I somehow use it but ??? ...

My guess is that it means "Why do I say it?" but なんて doesn't mean "why". Can this phrase be decomposed or is it a fixed thing I should learn?

6

なんていうか (or なんというか) in this context is a filler phrase used when one is trying to find an appropriate phrase. It's an equivalent of "let's see", "what can I say" or "you know", and you should memorize it as-is.

7

It's a filler phrase.

It doesn't really mean much, but it's like asking yourself "How should I put it?" The speaker doesn't quite know what to say next, so they say that. We do the same thing in English sometimes.

0

The other two answers are literally correct: なんていうか... is an idiomatic phrase that may be translated as "how should I say..." but may vary depending on context.

That said, I'll offer a dissenting opinion: without more context it's hard to say, but it's reasonable to guess that the speaker actually has a fairly negative opinion of this thing they're using, but doesn't want to complain or be directly negative about it. This is not an uncommon trend: for example, the word "いまいち" is now by convention understood to mean "not passable" even though it's thoroughly indirect.

As a listener, being asked to complete the trailing sentence, I would assume that the speaker is definitely not having a fun time with whatever it is.

This doesn't conflict with the interpretation offered by either of the two answers prior to this one.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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