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Recently I've been reading the Spice and Wolf manga and came across two words for "idiot" I've never seen before: たわけ and 間{ま}抜{ぬ}け

Previously I've only encountered 馬鹿{バカ} and 阿呆{あほう}, with the understanding 阿呆 is the Kansai "version" of 馬鹿.

This piqued my interest so I searched a thesaurus, and I found all these words:
愚{おろ}か者{もの} / 抜{ぬ}け作{さく} / 与太郎{よたろう} / おたんこなす / おたんちん / べらぼうめ / とんま
and many many more, though they appear to be a lot less common (tell me if I missed something common).

Are the usages of these words simply down to personal preference? Or is there something that would cause one to choose one word over another?
Do the different words give off a different kind of "feeling", both of the person using it and of the person receiving it?
Are there any regional (or temporal) "biases" of the words being used (like how 阿呆 is used mainly in Kansai)?

I'm primarily interested in the first two words I mentioned, and how they compare to 馬鹿, but a more comprehensive answer would be much appreciated.

  • There are so many lovely expressions even in addition to what you have mentioned :D ボケ and 頭が悪い are other common ones, and there are longer expressions to the same effect: 脳ミソの腐ってる奴。 And yes, they all have very different nuances -- those nuances even change regionally! – Brandon Jun 8 '16 at 17:29
  • アホかいなッ! (filler) – istrasci Jun 8 '16 at 17:32
  • "十の島" is my favorite, though I've never used it or heard anyone use it, reasonably enough. – goldbrick Jun 8 '16 at 21:24
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馬鹿 vs 阿呆 is an interesting theme on linguistic geography. In fact it's once been thoroughly investigated by a TV program, followed by academia. Here is the full map of local vocabulary for "fool/idiot".

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(from this page)

In a very simplified way you can say あほ is prevalent in Kansai, たわけ in Greater Nagoya or Chubu, だら in some Japan Sea coastal areas, ばか widespread in other than Kansai, and so on. They also show a loose concentric distribution from the traditional linguistic center, that is, old capital Kyoto.

間抜け

This word mainly means "goofer", so slightly different from "idiot". We also say (間が)抜けている.

愚か者 / 抜け作 / 与太郎 / おたんこなす / おたんちん / べらぼうめ / とんま

Most of these words are outdated and you can't serious swear at people with them today. べらぼう is a typical Edo-ite speech. 与太郎 or 与太 is now likely to mean "tall tale" rather than "fool". 愚か者 may be the most literal word for "idiot", but not for real swearing, unless you're a stereotypical haughty person in manga.

There is a categorized thesaurus entry for 馬鹿, but I don't think many of them are actively used. In my personal experience, basic words compatible with "idiot" (within Standard Japanese) are only ばか, あほ, and ぼけ, and as a Kanto resident, I feel it becomes stronger in this order; but Kansai people might not agree with me.

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