Everyone has bad habits, tendencies, or mannerisms. On top of that, everyone in the world loves to complain and ridicule the bad qualities of others—sometimes themselves as well. In Japanese, one of the most effective ways of ridiculing others for something is done so by using the word 癖, which literally means “habit” in the negative sense.
In this lesson, we will learn how this word is used in the grammar expression くせに, which is seen in cruder contexts asくせして, to mean “even though/in spite of” when used to express annoyance, criticism, anger, etc.
As mentioned in the introduction, 癖’s basic meaning is to describe habits, mainly bad ones although not limited to them. For instance, “biting one’s nails” would be 爪を噛む癖 and “waking up early” can be expressed with 早起きの癖.
What should I do to fix a bad habit?
I’m going to get hooked to this taste!
In Ex. 2, you can see how X｛が・は｝癖になる is used to mean “to get hooked to X.” Interestingly, 癖 may also refer to kinks and curls in things like hair, rugs, etc. For instance, “to straighten out one’s hair” can be expressed with 髪の癖を直す and the word 癖毛 means “frizzy/unruly hair.”
The pattern 癖に, usually written out as くせに, attaches to nouns, adjectives, adjectival nouns, and verbs as demonstrated in the chart below. Its meaning, as mentioned in the introduction, is “even though/in spite of” and is used when describing annoyance, criticism, anger, a complaint, etc. It is semantically synonymous with the particle のに with the only true difference being the extremely negative connotations implied by くせに.
|Nouns||Noun ＋ の・である ＋ くせに|| 男｛の・である｝くせに|
Even though you’re a man…
|Adjectives||Adj. ＋ くせに|| 古いくせに|
Even though it’s old…
|Adjectival Nouns||Adj. Noun ＋ な ＋ くせに|| 簡単なくせに|
Even though it’s easy…
|Verbs||Verb ＋ くせに|| 買うくせに|
In spite of buying…
Grammar Note: Noun ＋ であるくせに is not used in the spoken language and is seen in somewhat old-fashioned speech.
Below are example sentences of くせに following the various parts of speech as shown in the table above to show an array of negative critical connotations.
I hear that she still has her mom do her laundry even though she’s an adult.
Kenta doesn’t want to play outside all even though he’s a kid.
Mr. Tanaka, despite being Japanese, doesn’t appear to like speaking Japanese, huh.
Despite being a new graduate, that person sure often talks like he knows everything, huh.
She isn’t funny at all despite being a comedian.
One could say that expressions like “even though you’re a man” or “even though you’re a woman” can be treated as forms of sexual harassment.
It’s slow moving despite being a wild animal, huh.
Huh, sea water isn’t even a big deal even though it’s an alligator.
Spelling Note: ワニ can seldom be seen spelled as 鰐.
It’s so strange that he/she won’t spend like crazy despite being Chinese!
I’m so jealous that Inohara is popular even though he’s dumb!
How dare you slack off when you’re actually fine!
I hate people who make others out to be idiots even though they themselves are idiots.
You sure think a lot of crazy stuff for someone who’s wise.
I really hate men who only have pride with no education!
You don’t yearn for war when you’ve never experienced war!
My boyfriend, you know, knows but he won’t tell/teach me.
Don’t act like you don’t know when you’re the one who did it!
Even though that’s all you’re hurt?
What are you so embarrassed about now? You’ve already failed three times…
What? Even though you yourself have messed up…
In far critical, often derogatory contexts, くせに can be seen as くせして. This implies slightly older grammar in which に and して share some degree of interchangeability with the latter being more emphatic, thus this form of the expression.
Even though I'm Japanese, I’m a complete outsider about Buddhism.
So you don’t even know stuff like that despite being a kikokushijo, huh?
Word Note: 帰国子女 refers to children of Japanese expatriates who then return to Japan.
Even though I’m Japanese, my Japanese grammar is absolutely hopeless.