I’m pretty sure you’ve done this before when you were young: whenever you made a mistake, you’d stick out your tongue unconsciously, even without realizing it!
There’s a word in Japanese onomatopoeia for this: “pero”. When the word is repeated twice, it gives the cute impression of someone or something (usually a child or pet) licking an object.
Like a little kid quietly sitting in a corner, delicately licking a huge, rainbow-coloured lollipop. Or even like how a puppy is following its owner around the house, frequently putting out its tongue to give a friendly or loving symbol of affection. Make no mistake; “pero pero” is an action that will melt even the toughest of hearts.
But if you’re describing a dog that is currently bounding towards you in total abandon, licking your face and hands in excitement because it hasn’t seen you for a long time (in their defense, a few hours is an eternity in dog time!), we usually use the onomatopoeia “bero bero”.
“Bero bero” is also used to talk about the funny faces you make when trying to get a baby to laugh, or when someone annoys you and you stick your tongue out at them when their back is facing you. Your face contorts into weird, dramatic expressions. This is known as “bero beroba”.
Actually, “bero bero” has another meaning, but I’ll save that for next time. Until then, let’s work hard together! Ganbatte ne!
Akiko Nishio is the principal of A to Z Language Centre, with over 20 years of experience in teaching Japanese. She has a soft spot for good books, travelling, and ice-cold beer.