Thursday, December 30, 2010


Just bought De Mente's book on Japanese customs, mindsets, and phrases and am enjoying very much. Read on the way home and am reading now. I think I'd be a little annoyed if anyone put out a book purporting to Explain me, but maybe I'm reacting really to the lack of seem. And maybe it's more reasonable to generalize about a more homogeneous population.

Wrote to a copyeditor friend of mine about capitalization in the title. I find I want to capitalize for; it's against the usual rules, but there's something in the sense or weight that seems to justify it, just as we might cap On in "Take On the Challenge". In that phrase, on carries weight; it's not just a little particle that no one cares about, but actually part of the verb, to take on. Maybe it's that have a word for is in itself a kind of extended verb. What do they do to the object? They have-a-word-for the object. I think that's it. Anyway, if we weaken for by not capping it, then it starts to seem (barring italics) that we mean that the Japanese have a word for "it", which is entirely different and in fact not true. It's not that the Japanese have a word for it, but that the Japanese have a word for it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

習字: Haiku!

習字の先生 says that pretty soon we can start working on haiku! I've already chosen mine, one by Issa with a winter theme...though probably I should choose something that also works for summer, since I'll be working on it for a veeery long time. And we may not actually get there until spring.

明日、日本語のレッスン。。。元気の第二十。 Focus on humble forms. 今晩は予習(しておこう)。お頑張り致しおます。。。。

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

日本語の映画の「May Love Be Restored」。

日本の「May Love Be Restored」と言う映画を見てる。 Apparently it's based on a novel by Tsutomu Minakami, though even with Wikipedia's help I can't figure out which. I'm watching mainly for the 聞く練習 and thought I'd note any scraps of interest....
- Yuuko (夕子) goes to work in a brothel in Kyouto. When she arrives, she addresses the "mother" as what sounds like 奥さん and is corrected to お母さん, as I guess would be the usage in an okiya

- When お母さん (or whatever) says that Yuko is 一番若い (the youngest), she pronounces the "k" in "wakai" almost as you'd expect a /kh/, phlegmmy. I wonder what kind of accent that is

- They all seem to say はん instead of さん or ちゃん—haven't figured out yet which is meant. お母さん refers to the young ladies as はん when introducing them, and a servant refers to a client as はん. Maybe it's はん for the ladies only because お母さん is introducing them as on an equal level with Yuko

- When Yuko meets her 同僚 at the brothel, she says よろしいお願いいたします, rather than よろしく。。。 I wonder why the -いい rather than -いく

- Yuko refers to herself as うち. Is this related to お宅?

- When Seijun asks a favor of the head priest, he begins with, お願いがございます. Makes sense, but interesting to me because I've never seen ござる used that way before, without で. So, I guess, 例えば、「その映画は、見たことがある?」「はい、見たことがございます。」

- Funny translation moment: when the textile-shop owner gives お母さん 二万円, he tells her the check is good; the subtitles have him saying that the check "won't be dishonored". Not quite the sense of "honoring" a check!

- When one of the girls is speaking with someone offscreen, she thanks the person with what sounds like おおきに, which I've heard is characteristic of 舞妓 (geiko apprentices) in Kyouto but which I've found online as typical of the Oosaka dialect and derived (it seems) from 多い or maybe 大きい. That site also transliterates Oosakan すみません as すまへん—another example of an /h/ sound instead of the expected /s/ (as in はん rather than さん). Someone in the film also says いけまへん...

- More dialect: おいでやす, some kind of welcoming, to an incoming customer. And something that sounds like おあがりやす, which presumably is like the thing I saw in 元気 about inviting someone to enter a house ("step up" into the house), おあがりください.... Wonder what all this やす is. Per googling, it seems interchangeable with 下さい; so what's おぐ? Googling also yields おいでになってください, which suggests that お is honorific, but still.... おいで seems to be an imperative form of 行く/来る.... Seems to belong somewhere in the realm of 参る and いらっしゃる

- They also seem to be ending some words unexpectedly with はる. きてくれはったわ。。。。

- I think one of the girls calls another やかましや (while slapping her). (Nice coincidence if so, because I'm writing 喧 in shuuji.) Would that be the same や as in はずかしがりや? (Searching for やかましや has led me to a book of slang on Google Books that definitely bears further examination. やかましや is in the chapter "Repugnant Personal Traits".)

- Someone puts on a record and says something like 病気になりましょう. Can she really be saying that? (Alcohol may be involved.) Google finds more than 3 million instances of 病気になりましょう or 病気になろう The subtitle says "Let's enjoy ourselves.

- The less said about the American character who appears about halfway in, the better

- There's an おう adverb form again—along with おあがりやす they tend to say はよう, which presumably is 早い, as おめでたい/おめでとう. Still don't get that. (Does that mean おめでとうございます is a form of おめでたくある?)
More notes to come.

面白い: Back when I was learning the lyrics to 「修羅の花」, there was a moment where I quoted to 先生 some lyrics as 梶芽衣子 (Meiko Kaji) sings them in the version I have:
hieta mizu mo ni, hotsuregami utsushi
in the frozen water, a reflection of [her] disheveled hair
先生 suggested [冷えた水面に。。。], 水面 (minamo) being the surface of the water, lit. water (水) and mask/face (面). (Apparently it can also be pronounced スイメン.) Well, the Wikipedia entry on Minakami says his name can also be said 水上 (Mizukami)—again, mina vs mizu. Rikaichan will accept for 水上 either mizukami or suijou, but not minakami. Hmm....

Monday, December 13, 2010

What's the "gari" in 恥ずかしがり屋?

Presumably it's some kind of かりる.... Per Jisho, there's a 恥ずかしがる; not seeing why that's necessary, since 恥ずかしい should act as a verb on its own.... What would be the difference between 恥ずかしいです and 恥ずかしがります?

Isn't there a descriptive suffix that's like that がる, for expressing how other people seem to feel? Maybe that's it.

Here's what someone online says about -がる:
It is a derivational morpheme that makes a verb when suffixed to the adnominal form of an adjective. Adjectives used with -garu express emotion (kowa-garu, sumana-garu) cognition (mezurashi-garu, abuna-garu) and desire (hoshi-garu).
Interesting: this thread says that がる has specific connotations of being [adjective] to such an extent that the effect is visible to others. So, maybe, 妹は車が欲しいだろう but 妹は車を欲しがっている—with を. 正しいかなぁ。 So, someone weeping and rending his/her garments might 悲しが(ってい)る, I guess, and the sort of person who does that a lot might be a 悲しがりや. I suppose that would be different from someone who is, 例えば, 強い or 厳しい.

Not at all clear on what the passage above means with cognition. どんなことが珍しがるかなぁ。

Off to read 元気 chapter 20!

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Have come across this quotation and am trying to figure it out. The first part seems straightforward:
taisetsu na no ha
The important thing
The next two parts are more difficult for me. We end with a "da yo", so the basic structure seems to be the usual "A ha ... B desu". There's a parallel "to...(by) oneself / on one's own" (自分で). "自分で知っているって事" is throwing me: knowing on one's own, but then that's quoted (or "what's called / the thing spoken of as"—what's spoken of / referred to as knowing on one's own? "自分のしたいこと" should be "the things one wants to do", and the を means it's the direct object of...what? Must be 知る—but then why the いる form? And how much of the thought does って cover? Maybe I'm overinterpreting the 知っている. Maybe it boils down to "the important thing is for a person to know what s/he wants to do". But that's not satisfactory for ってこと. What's called knowing on one's own? The important thing is the thing called knowing on one's own what one wants to do? 難しいなぁ。

Maybe the って doesn't need to be so literal. There are about 22 million instances, per Google, of "って事だよ", and 44 million of "ってことだよ". Plenty in romaji, too, plus misc "tte" that don't make a lot of sense to me.

Googling tells me it's a saying from the Mu-Min Valley. The source seems to be something called Snufkin (スナフキン). It all seems to be from a book and Finnish. So I've been looking around for likely quotations from Snufkin and the Moomin Valley, which is a pretty good sign that I've done as much thinking about this as I'm going to.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


I'm reconsidering my approach. I've been going at 日本語 through the written word—media sources, kanji, etc.—but I've found it maddening how unreliable kanji can be, with so many meanings and readings, connected in ways that are sometimes (though not necessarily obvious) sensical and sometimes situational, or completely unconnected or coincidental. (例えば、享ける、請ける、受ける、浮ける) Given the history of the writing system, and kanji in particular, and the problematic relationship between kanji and spoken language, maybe it makes more sense to approach Japanese the other way, through speech rather than through writing. I've looked for easy-to-read books in the past, but maybe now I'll try for manga or whatever else would help. Of course, the best would be immersion, to help me move from Japanese-as-object-of-study to Japanese-as-means-of-communicating-with-people. Right now, it seems like an endless road of which I'm barely at the start!


うけなかった。* After reviewing some practice tests, I realized that I really am not ready for N3 and there's no point in faking my way through an exam for a certificate to say I am. I knew when I signed up that it would take a ton of studying (漢字や文法や単語など), and I've been so busy with work that I haven't put in the time. 勉強時間が足らなかったほど、忙しかったんだ。 だから昨日、試験をうける代わりに、アパートを掃除したり、会社の仕事をしたりした。 The listening section (聴解—懲戒!) alone probably would have sunk me. 残念だけど、しょうがいね。 Next time.


Saturday, December 4, 2010


難しかった! Three two-character sets for 連綿, then five or six variants of り in 変体仮名, then 楷書 (for me, 寒鳥喧). My renmen and hentaigana weren't nearly as good as they've been in practice during the week, but that may well be because I've been less critical on my own. ;-) Kaisho can be exhausting, much more tiring than gyousho 行書 or sousho 草書, because every stroke has to be just so—entrance, movement, ending, etc. Even doing just three or four characters at a time, as we are now, can be a real commitment. My 寒 and 鳥 are OK (though just barely) and coming along; I had no corners whatsoever today and will have to work on that, among other things. (May have been the brush I was using, 翔雲, but I need to be able to make it work regardless.)

The real problem for me in this set is 喧; tough to align the character well when the first thing you have to write is the hen (口, kuchi), in the middle of blank space, and that commits you to the spacing of the more complex tsukuri (宣, sen). So, as is often the case, you can ruin the character almost before you begin, by beginning your 口 in such a way that no possible adjustment of the 宣 alignment/spacing will make the end product look decent. And, of course, it has to align horizontally with the other characters and vertically with its space on the page....ムズカシイ。 沢山練習したほうね。

A real difficulty with writing kaisho, for me, is that sometimes I get so intense with the individual strokes that I lose sight of the overall spacing, alignment, and feel of the character—ie, I end up with some good strokes and some strokes that need work, but no unified kanji or set of kanji. I guess it's a good thing that I can usually recognize when my writing looks really amateurish; part of the process is learning to distinguish good work from bad, even when it's my own.

JLPT tomorrow. N3. I have practically no hope of passing it, so I'll study as much as I can tonight and then just have the experience of taking it. 聴解 alone will probably sink me. But しょうがない。