It’s Harrison Ford in Star Wars. It’s John Wayne in, well, any number of his films. A bit closer to each of us personally, it could be that certain co-worker or classmate that we all have been around, or it could have been that particular teacher or coach while we were growing up. Essentially, we have all had contact with people who are defined by today’s word, tsundere, even before there was a single word to define it.
Whether you refer to it as a sort of firmness or “tough love”, it is odd to think that a personality type that is so prevalent in daily life as well as in modern and ancient works – even the Old Testament could be considered a loose example – doesn’t have a word to define it. Even more surprising is the fact that the word to describe this personality type would come from anime bishōjo video games, which are dating sims based around interactions with attractive girls.
Tsundere are generally defined as the people who initially can seem to be distant, cold, and standoffish even to the point of appearing to be somewhat hostile; however, this initial aloofness is a deceptive mask that, over time, gives way to reveal a tender, compassionate, caring side of the personality. The word itself is a portmanteau derived from combining the Japanese term for turning away in disgust “ツンツン (tsun tsun)” with the term for becoming head-over-heels in love “デレデレ (dere dere)”. Breaking it down even further, there are 2 distinct types of tsundere, depending on which personality aspect is the most dominant: Type A is generally more distant overall, but shows affection through tormenting, teasing, or playful hitting the object of their affection; whereas Type B is more friendly and outgoing in general, but distant with the object of their affection.
Though, with many words stemming from anime, the origin of the term is rather murky, we do at least know when the term was popularised. As mentioned before, the term comes from bishōjo video games, but, in a more specific sense, tsundere’s initial popularity comes from a 2001 adult visual novel called Kimi ga Nozomu Eien (君が望む永遠), literally meaning ‘The Eternity You Desire’.
Like many other anime-originating words, our term found its way to widespread usage via the Internet, specifically (and unsurprisingly) on 4chan’s anime board, where it was initially used to identify the traits of both specific users as well as the board as a whole. Still, considering that this is a common personality trait, there’s no surprise that, once there would finally be a word for it, the term would quickly spread.
So, now that there’s a term for all of the tsunderes in your life, you can easily identify them and let them know how much you appreciate them, even if they will never return the compliment, at least not publicly.