July 29, 2010

Which is harsher?

Which is harsher, kisama or temee? Linguistically they're both used the same way and have approximately the same meaning: "you, who I despise". I was under the impression that temee was stronger.

But as I think about it, I can remember two cases in anime of girls using temee. One was Suzuka in Macademi Wasshoi, and the other was Vita in Nanoha StrikerS. And I can't think of any case of a girl using kisama.

So I'm beginning to wonder if kisama is actually more harsh. I think the reason I thought it was less so was because it's used so heavily in DBZ by Vegita and Piccolo, and occasionally even by Goku, and those to whom it is addressed don't respond to it.

This isn't the kind of question a dictionary can answer. I need someone familiar with colloquial usage.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 07:58 AM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
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July 11, 2010

A Japanese question

In Saki ep 19 at about 11:41, Koromo says something that my various copies all translate as "Woe is me." (I think they all stole that translation from CrunchyRoll.)

I've been wondering what it was she really said. It sounds to me like "ikan ni sen". Could it be 遺憾に千, meaning "a thousand-fold unsatisfactory"?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 01:54 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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June 16, 2010

Japanese keyboards

Computer keyboards derive from typewriter keyboards, of course. The basic QWERTY layout we now use was created originally for manual typewriters to minimize the number of key jams, by physically separating the letters of common bigrams -- or so the mythology goes. Actually, part of the goal was to slow the typist down.

Regardless, we're still using it even though the original function has long since ceased to matter. (When's the last time you saw someone using an unpowered manual typewriter? When's the last time you even saw such a beast?)

What with Americans inventing all of this, and with English having a relatively small number of characters, it wasn't all that tough to fight them onto a typewriter keyboard. It's more of a problem for some of the European languages, especially in the far north, who have a lot more characters than English.

But for the Japanese, it's really a mess. A manual, unpowered Japanese typewriter bears no resemblance at all to one of ours. It has a tray of type pieces. There's only one key, but it's mobile. What happens is that you move a pointer over the type you want to use and press down. The type is popped up out of the tray, grabbed by a hammer, which swings it up to strike the page. When you release the key, the type is returned to the tray.

The tray contains the whole hiragana set plus maybe 50 or so very common kanji, and if you need a kanji not in the tray, you go to a file cabinet and get the one you need and drop it into an empty spot in your tray. It's an amazing device but it's also run by "hunt and peck" and an experienced typist can maintain a rate of maybe two characters per three seconds, with occasional pauses to visit the cabinet.

None of that makes a lot of sense for a computer data entry device, and what they ended up doing was to adapt American computer keyboards by giving all the keys alternate readings. You can switch the keyboard from romaji mode to hiragana mode.

That strikes me as very complicated. There are 74 characters you need in order to write Hiragana, even ignoring punctuation or any kanji. Fitting all of those onto a keyboard is tough. (I don't know for sure how they do it, but I assume that they're putting two characters per key and using the shift key.)

If we were designing a Japanese keyboard from scratch, without any knowledge of computing equipment history, how would we do it? It occurs to me that what you'd do is to create a double-action keyboard, to take advantage of the regular design of the hiragana set. Your left hand has 12 keys. Your right hand has 14. What are they?

Left hand: あ い う え お ん ゃ ゅ ょ っ わ を

Right hand: あ か が さ ざ た だ な は ば ぱ ま や ら

Most characters are created by simultaneously pressing two keys, one with each hand. To get す su you press う u and さ sa simultaneously. To get え e you press え with the left hand and あ with the right.

In other words, the first five keys for the left hand are the leftmost members of the rows of the chart and the keys for the right hand are the top characters of the columns. The left hand also gets single-action keys representing the orphans ん ゃ ゅ ょ っ わ を. Those get pressed without any right-hand key.

That's only 26 keys, evenly divided between the hands, which is very manageable. It leaves room on the keyboard for digits, borrowed punctuation marks, and shift keys for getting katakana.

To get kanji, it's the same as now: you enter in hiragana and the word processor substitutes kanji for kana when it can. If it picks wrong, you can put your cursor on the wrong kanji and use function keys to scroll through alternate choices.

Anyway, that's how I would design it...

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 12:07 PM | Comments (12) | Add Comment
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April 18, 2010

Today's borrowed word

Today's borrowed word is デジタルノベル dejitarunoberu.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 08:42 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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March 25, 2010

Translation -- a missed opportunity

In the first episode of Mai Otome Zwei, at 18:03, Mai has activated her power and some people are cheering for her as "Meister Mai", that being the proper form of address for an Otome.

It seems to be the case that various Otome pick up nicknames. Haruka is known as "Destroyer Armitage". Arika is known as Arinko, which is a cutesy nickname for a cute girl. But she's also known as Meteor Breaker Arika because she single-handedly destroyed an asteroid which was going to devastate Windbloom.

One of the kids calls Mai higeki no meister, which seems to be a nickname that Mai has picked up. And her reaction makes clear that she doesn't like it, but what can she do?

The fansubbers translated that as "the tragic meister". I just looked it up and they missed a great opportunity. Higeki means "tragedy, disaster" and they could have translated that as "the Master of Disaster".

I'm waiting for Bob to get in the new release of Nanoha A's (any day now) and then I'm going to put in an order. I realized recently that Mai Otome Zwei is available in R1 (although only at 480p) so I'll guilt-buy it. I wonder how the official translation handles this nickname?

(It's sad. I already have Nanoha A's, but the Geneon release had fouled up audio on the first few episodes. I'm buying a replacement in hopes that Funimation remastered it and fixed the problem. Also, the Geneon DVDs were pressed badly and my drives have a hard time reading them. I'm also going to be buying Strike Witches which I already bought from Crunchyroll and then later downloaded as a fansub. And I'll buy Mai Otome Zwei which I already have as a 1080p fansub. The only thing I'll be ordering that I haven't seen is Akiballion.)

UPDATE: Speaking of missed opportunities, looks like I screwed up the delivery address on my game order. I got a call from FedEx to ask about it, and at this point I'm betting it won't be delivered until tomorrow.

But I might be lucky. The FedEx tracking site shows the address exception, but the expected delivery date hasn't changed. So maybe I'll still get it today.

UPDATE: No, they didn't deliver it, and I feel like an idiot. I don't know what I was thinking when I entered the address.

I lived in this complex 30 years ago, before I moved to Massachusetts. When I put in the order, I used the house number for the building I lived in 30 years ago, not the one I live in now.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 11:49 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
Post contains 441 words, total size 3 kb.

March 08, 2010

I want to unread this

"rubber-band-powered flying-panties" -- only in Japan!

See it here.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 11:44 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
Post contains 14 words, total size 1 kb.

February 13, 2010

Japanese -- no yatsu

I've been noticing no yatsu quite a lot. It always follows someone's name. Suga-kun in Saki uses it (e.g. Yuki no yatsu) and for a while I thought it was "man speech".

But Queen Mashiro in Mai Otome Zwei also uses it, "Arika no yatsu". The no is a particle but it doesn't make sense as a possessive. It might be a linking. But I think phrase is an idiom, a phrase which has a meaning other than its literal reading.

yatsu is a less-than-respectful way of referring to a person of either sex. The whole phrase is lightly derogatory, a way of expressing contempt or displeasure or distaste.

So I've been thinking about how you'd translate Arika no yatsu and I think I'd go with "That Arika".

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 08:29 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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February 09, 2010

Japanese -- iiyoii?

There's a word I keep hearing in some situations which I can't parse. Lafiel uses it at the ends of her sentences several times in the first part of the first episode of Banner of the Stars and Eineus (same seiyuu) uses it once in the first episode of Macademi Wasshoi.

It sounds like ee-oh-ee and I'm wondering if it's ii yo ii which would be translated as "Good! good." That can't be it, though. I can post a video clip if need be, but does anyone have any idea what she's saying?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 10:49 AM | Comments (8) | Add Comment
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October 04, 2009

The Tokyo Death Squad

Regarding my recent post about the custom otaku pistol, James has a story about Japanese visitors to a gun range in Ohio.

And indeed it seems that no one ever taught them the first rule of gun safety: never point a gun at something unless you intend to shoot it.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 10:40 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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October 01, 2009

A couple more words

Now that I've figured out how to extract out useful video snippets, I can begin to pursue questions of certain words and phrases I've heard that drive me nuts.

Two of them today, both from Macademi Wasshoi. The first (4.5 megabytes) is from episode 8. There's a ghost wandering the halls of the Magician's Academy, saying something which gets translated as "Use me. Please use me."

I finally figured out that the key word in there is tsukatte which I think is the imperative of tsukaeru. Problem is that there seem to be two different verbs which are closely related: 仕える which means "to serve, to work for" and 使える which means "to be useful, to be serviceable".

Also, onegai doesn't really quite mean "please" though it's often translated that way. What it really means is "wish" or "request". In the charming Japanese way they have of omitting most of the words in sentence clauses, when used this way then idiomatically it means "It is my wish" or "It is my request".

It has the same effect as saying "please" but there's a subtle difference which I think really matters this time.

It sounds to me like she's saying onegai atashi o tsukatte. The "o" is a particle indicating the object of a verb, so what I think she's really saying is closer to "I want to be useful" rather than "Please use me".

I extracted out a pretty big section because Falche says it once, and the little girl says it twice. (Except that Falche says watashi.)

The second (630 Kbytes) is from episode 3. Falche has just said something about Miyabi (which I didn't include) and Miyabi says something which means "You got that right" more or less. It sounds to me like gomeeto. It bugs me because I keep wanting to hear omedetou and that isn't what she's saying.

Setsuna says exactly the same thing on the beach to someone (I won't say who because it's a spoiler) in the second to last episode of Shingu.

Anyway, in this case I don't have a clue what is being said, and it's driving me nuts.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 08:41 PM | Comments (10) | Add Comment
Post contains 361 words, total size 2 kb.

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