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Well, Japan doesn't fall to deliver. I assume that this is meant as something like "individual," in the sense of "self-ish," but whether it's word play or misunderstanding is unclear:

I'm not sure what kind of imēji イメージ (image") or nyuansu ニュ アンス ("nuance") this store is trying to project, but I doubt that anyone would want to tell their friend that they bought their latest hat or bag at a shop called "Selfish".

Perhaps the Japanese specialists among us might be able to tell us which of these expressions translatable as "selfish" the shop owners might have had in mind:

jibunkatte 自分勝手

samoshī さもしい

mushinoī 虫のいい

butsuyokushige 物欲しげ

shiiteki 恣意的

jiko chūshin 自己中心

rikoteki 利己的

[Thanks to Nathan Hopson]


  1. David Eddyshaw said,

    August 4, 2014 @ 12:23 pm

    Possibly returning the compliment of the British restaurant chain Wagamama …

  2. Elonkareon said,

    August 4, 2014 @ 12:28 pm

    I would not be in the least surprised if that was exactly what they intended. It's like "come in and spoil yourself", "do something selfish for a change", etc.

  3. leoboiko said,

    August 4, 2014 @ 1:52 pm

    It's because their bags look good on selfies.

  4. hector said,

    August 4, 2014 @ 1:54 pm

    @ Elonkareon:

    Agreed. The store is aimed at women. It's saying, "Indulge yourself. Be irresponsible. Forget your budget. Come in and buy something that'll make you feel good about yourself."

    And, you know, really, isn't "be selfish" the basic message of almost all advertising?

  5. Ross Presser said,

    August 4, 2014 @ 3:26 pm

    "Selfish" is a store in Beverly Hills, CA and in Chicago, IL.. Perhaps they have a branch in Japan as well.

  6. Ross Presser said,

    August 4, 2014 @ 3:28 pm

    Aha … SELFISH(セルフィッシュ)

  7. Ross Presser said,

    August 4, 2014 @ 3:30 pm

    Appears to be phonetic.

  8. Stephan Stiller said,

    August 4, 2014 @ 6:29 pm

    It might be intentional "scandalous branding" (for lack of a better expression). I am reminded of shirts prominently spelling "fcuk" and a shirt I've seen in Germany a long time ago, reading "Zicke" (≈"bitch", but toned-down, more like "difficult female person").

  9. Matt said,

    August 4, 2014 @ 8:30 pm

    Here's their webpage, and here's another page with an interview confirming that Elonkareon and hector are absolutely correct:


    "Translated literally, the store's name, 'Selfish' means 'wagamama'. The 'wagamama' of the designer's creative intentions made reality; the exacting and 'wagamama' work that craftsmen perform based on these designs; [the resulting products] meeting the 'wagamama' demands of our clientele: all of these 'wagamama' are included [in the intended meaning of the store name], says the manager."

    That's a pretty loose translation, but basically they're saying that they get the best designers and craftsmen and let them do whatever they want, in order to meet the super-demanding standards of their clientele. "Wagamama" is one of those words that often gets translated poorly into English because although it can be used to describe straight-up negative selfishness it can also be used on a spectrum that extends all the way up to Steve Jobs-style uncompromising belief in one's own judgment and refusal to compromise. (Which can be a positive thing, even in Japan.)

  10. Victor Mair said,

    August 4, 2014 @ 10:58 pm

    For wagamama, Google Translate gives "self-indulgence", which sounds pretty good to me. On the other hand, the British restaurant chain that goes by the name "Wagamama" defines the brand name as meaning "naughty child".

    In the latter case, it seems to me that something was lost in translation. I remember when I first encountered that explanation at a Wagamama in Heathrow airport, I was very puzzled why a restaurant like that would want to be thought of as a "naughty child".

  11. Mark F. said,

    August 4, 2014 @ 11:23 pm

    Well, if "wagamama" is really a noun then "selfish" can't be a good translation of it, irrespective of nuances of meaning. Right?

  12. R Fandango said,

    August 5, 2014 @ 12:10 am

    @ Mark F.

    No, it's not that simple. Japanese doesn't really have a word class corresponding to English adjectives, but instead has two classes of words – one verb-like, and one noun-like – that cover adjectival meanings. 我侭 wagamama is a word of the latter sort; it can behave either as a noun ("self-indulgence"), or as a so-called "na-adjective", a sort of adjectival nominal ("self-indulgent"). This page and this page on Wikipedia explain some (but by no means all) of the complications involved; someone better versed than I in Japanese linguistics can probably explain the situation better.

  13. Matt said,

    August 5, 2014 @ 12:38 am

    Not necessarily, because in Japanese it's an "adjectival noun" (a.k.a. "na adjective") that can be used as a noun or as an adjective:

    – wagamama na kodomo = "wilful child"
    – kodomo no wagamama = "child's wilfulness"

  14. dainichi said,

    August 5, 2014 @ 12:40 am

    @Mark F.

    "wagamama" can be a noun or, in the form wagamama-na, an adjectival noun.

  15. Akito said,

    August 5, 2014 @ 5:07 am

    Off-topic, but

    > samoshī さもしい
    > mushinoī 虫のいい

    I would spell these samoshii and mushi no ii, the final -i being a suffix itself constituting a syllable.

    > butsuyokushige 物欲しげ

    The correct reading is monohoshige. The reading butsuyoku doesn't combine with -shige. In fact, shi is part of the adjective hoshii.

  16. richardelguru said,

    August 5, 2014 @ 6:20 am

    I hope not too OT, but there are weird English shop names in England! One time visiting London I took a photo of a shoe-shop called 'Author' which was weird enough, but it was right next to a bookshop. Unfortunately the book shop was not called 'Cobblers'.

  17. David Eddyshaw said,

    August 5, 2014 @ 4:21 pm

    "Wagamama" overlaps in sense with "selfishness", "wilfulness" and "self-indulgence in luxuries." I suspect the choosers of the name have simply mistakenly assumed that the English word "selfish" has just the same semantic range as "wagamama," which is after all an ever-popular type of error in foreign language learning. (Or, more likely, that they rightly suppose none of their clientele will care anyway, and English is cool.)

    On the other hand the explanation of the word given by the UK restaurant chain is probably just blather.

  18. David Eddyshaw said,

    August 5, 2014 @ 6:53 pm

    Matt, above, has given an unbeatable example for "wagamama" as a hooray word: Steve Jobs' approach to Apple products; total self-focus in *making* luxuries. Which is hardly part of the usual sense of "selfishness" in English. In fact, thinking about it, if only "Selfish" actually did mean just the same as "wagamama" it would have been a perfectly good idea for the name of the shop.

  19. Jo Lumley said,

    August 8, 2014 @ 8:53 am

    Just wanted to expand a little on some of the points above about the word class of wagamama. It occurred to me that it's unusual as an adjectival noun in that it can be used in the same form as adjective and noun (setting aside the question of which might be derived from which). Typically, Japanese adjectival nouns need a nominalizer such as -sa to function as nouns, and a zero-derived form is likely to be unacceptable or at least rather marginal. Do proficient speakers of Japanese have any comment about the acceptability of wagamama-sa as a nominalized form?

  20. Akito said,

    August 8, 2014 @ 1:13 pm

    Not necessarily. Some function as as full-fledged nouns without the suffix:

    – Kenkou(??sa) ga ichiban (da).
    – Wagamama(?sa) ga sugiru.
    – Daiji(*sa) wo toru.

    Sometimes the suffix is called for to denote degree:

    – Bakasa kagen.
    – Shoujikisa no doai/mondai (da).

    The stem alone would not stand as a noun:

    – Shizukasa/*shizuka wo motomeru.
    – Benrisa/*benri ni chuumoku(suru).

    I don't know if there are hard-and-fast rules. Native speaker but no specialist.

  21. Brent said,

    August 13, 2014 @ 8:26 am

    Turns out there're actual a few businesses in the US that also use the trademark name "SELFISH". There are actual 6 active trademarks using only the term SELFISH. You can search here: USPTO search tool . Must be a trend.

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