Sound Effect: bari bari

バリバリ (baribari)

This is one of the broadest Japanese sound effects. There are four main situations in which it is used:

  1. When eating something like potato chips
  2. When something is being scratched
  3. When something is being ripped
  4. When electricity crackles through the air

In spite of the disparate uses, I would offer that the reading should be rip, rip.

Here’s why.

When you eat potato chips, your teeth are ripping the chips apart; they are too brittle to resist even the incisors and canines.

When something is being scratched, a fraction of the surface is being ripped off.

When you rip something, it makes this discordant noise.

When electricity rips through the air, it crackles.

In all cases, バリバリ (baribari) describes a ripping sound while an object is being ripped (that is, is stripped of its cohesion).

In a somewhat more figurative sense, バリバリ (baribari) can be used to represent letting rip with an electric guitar while rocking and rolling.

This isn’t English, with one word having ten meanings. One verbal sound effect only corresponds to one sound. That sound may be used in four or five different circumstances, but it is still one sound – or category of sound, if you will. Combining such a sound effect with images in a manga provides all the context a reader needs to “get it.”

J Sensei

About J Sensei

Blogger, writer, linguist, former Japanese> English translator, rusty in French, experienced in Japanese, fluent English native. Writing for and various blogs. Skype: jeremiah.bourque (messages always welcome). E-mail: [email protected]
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One Response to Sound Effect: bari bari

  1. Nico says:

    Thanks i had no idea how to translate that onomatopoeia!