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Say you're having a conversation with someone broadly in the same line of work as you whom you don't know very well, in an only mildly informal setting—like, near the snack table after a talk you both attended or something. One of you has asked the other about something technical and the other is in the middle of explaining. You admire some of their work, and want to mention this as a brief aside amidst the "cut-and-dry" technical talk. (American?) English speakers will often introduce such statements with a brief opening phrase that sets it apart from the "serious" material: "By the way, I just wanted to say, I really enjoyed your massive treatise on duck courtship rituals from 2012," or, "Oh, just as a side note, I thought your kazoo madrigal was really great, it was so inventive!" Does something similar happen in Japanese, and if so, how does it play out?

The best guess I have is using「お伝えしたいことが……」, which seems to capture something akin to "I wanted to say" with the right combination of formal and conversational(?) But I feel like there are probably other approaches that would also work (provided that that phrase even does work which I'm obviously not sure of). There's also 「言っておきたいことがあります」and variants but of course those seem more along the lines of "There is something I want to tell you" which is maybe not quite right for this case (too much like you're preparing to admit something, maybe).

There's also terser phrases like「ところで」or「ときに」.「ところで」seems maybe a bit too terse and informal…? 「ときに」seems maybe a bit closer but also kind of overly casual(?), and also it seems to carry stronger connotations of "sometimes" or "now and again" or the like that might kind of clash weirdly with this usage(?) Maybe there are ways to work these sorts of words into larger constructions that would have the right nuance?「ところで、お伝えしたいことが……」perhaps…? I'm a little worried「ところで」is just slightly too familiar but I'm not positive—maybe it would come down to personal style or the particulars of the conversation?

There's also much stiffer phrases like「注記として」or「補足として」but it seems kind of weird to use those outside of like a formal written document or at best a prepared lecture or something. Again, though, maybe I'm wrong.

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  • Now I want to hear this kazoo madrigal. Inventive would indeed be the word I would think. :-)
    – A.Ellett
    Nov 6 '21 at 14:45
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    @A.Ellett I have a kazoo and a music degree laying around the apartment somewhere so I'll see what I can do XD Nov 6 '21 at 21:47
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Only ところで sounds right to me. It’s quite neutral in register.

お伝えしたいことが is inappropriate for the same reason you suspected 言っておきたいことがあります might not be quite right, although it is less bad just because it doesn’t use the subsidiary verb おく.

ときに in the sense of ところで sounds archaic.

This means there is no good equivalent for “I just wanted to say …” in this context because ところで just means “by the way.”

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  • Thank you for the advice. I get the impression then that ところで is maybe also more neutral in atmosphere than "by the way" in this context then? I think my impulse to tack on "I just wanted to say" or "just as a side note" in English is because only saying "by the way" gives a slight feeling of foreboding—the person might stiffen a bit or be a bit on alert, maybe closer to お伝えしたいことが and such. If you say, "By the way, I just wanted to mention…," I think it helps communicate that your side comment is lighthearted and nothing to worry about. Would you say ところで is also relatively "non-ominous"? Nov 6 '21 at 21:40
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    @ZoëSparks - I cannot tell how ominous “by the way” sounds to English speakers, but ところで certainly seems to cover a wider range of situations. In fact, Japanese learners of English tend to overuse “by the way.” In any case, declaring what you are going to do as with お伝えしたいことが definitely has a contrary effect. It will make the listener stiffen. If you need to add some prelude after ところで, it should be something along the lines of 別の話ですが or 全然関係ないですけど.
    – aguijonazo
    Nov 7 '21 at 3:39
  • Thank you, this is all very helpful. It sounds like generally ところで alone would be fine, but if you want to say something really beside the point adding something like 別の話ですが might be appropriate to smooth the transition, like "Also, this is totally unrelated, but…" in English? As a side note (ha), my sense is that the ominousness of "by the way" is very context-dependent. In a situation where the conversation is lighthearted and you don't know the person well, "by the way" can convey that you need to say something more serious/uncomfortable than the overall tone easily allows for. Nov 7 '21 at 4:28
  • What about ちなみに? Nov 7 '21 at 12:08
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    @IgorSkochinsky - It would sound strange. You use ちなみに when you are going to provide a side note that is somehow related to the main topic. Besides, what you are going to tell after it is usually something you know (knowledge), rather than what you think (opinion).
    – aguijonazo
    Nov 8 '21 at 10:15

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