Is it cool to use かっこいい in this way?



The other day I was playing sports, and I yelled at a guy for what I thought was a cheap play. However, later, after the game ended and I had chilled out, I realized that I had over reacted. It's sports, that happens.

So I went up to the guy and apologized, and amongst other things I said, I said something like:


My intended meaning was along the lines of, "[that] was uncool of me [to have acted like that]."

He seemed to get what I was saying, but we were doing a lot of back and forth, with him saying 「大丈夫{だいじょうぶ}、とんでもない」 and me saying 「いいえ、本当{ほんとう}に悪{わる}かった...」, and so on. You know how it goes. So my use of かっこよくなかった might have simply got lost among everything else said.

What I was wondering afterwards was if that was the right application of the word かっこいい. I was using it as a direct equivelant of how we use "cool" in English, which is pretty expansive.

While I'm confident かっこいい applies to style and ambience, I'm less sure about how かっこいい applies to attitude and action.

So, did I use it right? Is it correct usage to describe my past uncool actions as かっこよくない?

Can かっこいい be used in all the ways "cool" is used in English, or are there limitations and differences?


Posted 2012-02-05T02:30:51.343

Reputation: 23 440

Ah... the "I immediately mark everything down for no good reason and never explain myself" bandit has struck again. – Questioner – 2012-02-05T03:22:47.093

I hope this doesn't seem like obvious and patronising advice, but I think the correct thing to do if you're not sure is to assume idioms, slang and alternative meanings don't translate and rephrase your sentence unambiguously. It's for this reason that, when learning a word, I will always look up examples of where Japanese people have used it and then assume (until told otherwise) that those are the only meanings allowed. In short, never learn a word out of context. :) – Billy – 2012-02-05T16:26:55.793

1@Billy: I partly agree with your advise. To never assume. On the other hand, though, fear of experimentation can be detrimental. One way you reinforce learning is by making mistakes. Two good things can come of making making mistakes. One is that when you're confronted with being wrong, it makes a strong impact which informs you of the right way of doing things. The other good result is you can discover new things. After all, language isn't rigid, and it's entirely possible to come up with acceptable turns of phrase that native speakers haven't yet. :) – Questioner – 2012-02-06T01:41:14.840

Perhaps it's not even an issue of Japanese. Forty years ago, "that was uncool of me" probably would not have been understood by English speakers, even though the meaning of "cool" was basically the same as it is now. – Paul Richter – 2012-02-06T03:59:28.333

@PaulRichter: Agreed. Partially I'm wondering how the term かっこいい is evolving and how fast. I believe かっこいい is undergoing a similar shift in meaning as "cool" has done, but the question is to what degree they might be similar in their arc of progression. – Questioner – 2012-02-06T04:41:42.003

@DaveMG: Makes sense, and I somewhat agree with you. Perhaps I've accidentally swept under the rug what Paul said. I didn't even understand the title of this post correctly when I first saw it - not only is this use of "cool" to mean "acceptable" very modern and non-standard English, it's also very specific to America (and those who watch too much American TV ;)). It's unreasonable to assume words like "cool" and "かっこいい" (which aren't really that similar anyway, outside of a few contexts!) have developed in the same way, I think. I wrote my comment with this in mind, but failed to voice it. :) – Billy – 2012-02-09T03:52:23.747



The nuances of apologies can be quite subtle in Japanese, so many things are probably up to personal interpretation, but here are my 2 cents.

While you can definitely use かっこよくない to describe your attitude in that situation (no offense :p), using it in your apology could be taken as if you're more concerned about your appearance than whether you offended the guy by being rude to him. I'm sure he appreciated your apology and that you got the point across, but here are some expressions that might be safer in the situation:

大人気{おとなげ}なかった That was immature of me

口{くち}が過{す}ぎた I said too much


Posted 2012-02-05T02:30:51.343

Reputation: 13 861

1Interesting point about how it could be taken as being about my appearance. I intended it more as self-deprecating. However, now that you bring it up, I suppose it is a focus on my appearance, and I think that would be the same in English as well. Interesting. I suppose it's not a bad thing to want to clarify "I'm not usually like that", but you raise a strong point that to be acceptable it has to be couched in a clear context of "and I'm also very sorry for the effect it had on you." – Questioner – 2012-02-05T03:27:16.570

3Not your appearance but you are wrong translating 格好良くなった by "that was uncool of me". It should be translated "I was not cool"/"I was not looking good". That is why saying this will sound you are more concern about your "image" than anything else. As you said, 悪かった is good. You could as well say 言い過ぎた.

By the way, if the guy is not close to you, it would be also good to apologize using keigo. – oldergod – 2012-02-06T06:19:05.350

@oldergod: Ah... that was exactly what I was worried about. Thanks for clarifying. – Questioner – 2012-02-08T03:17:53.437