March 22, 2014


Where we'd say "Ready Set GO!" the Japanese say sei no. (two beats, not three.)

I've long wondered just what it is that they're saying. The dictionary wasn't of any use. A couple of days ago it occurred to me that it's one word, not two, and now I think I've found it:

性能 seinou "ability, performance"

I suspect at this point its become an idiom and the literal meaning of it no longer matters, but I'm guessing that's what it was. Anyone know if I'm right?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 05:49 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
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1 I know it's the first line in the song Ren'ai Circulation, so I checked lyrics.  It was written "せーの", even though there's kanji in the lyrics elsewhere.

Searching on that (a million hits on google), I found a couple other references.  It's also the title of Yuyushiki's OP (and occurs in the lyrics several times there as "せーのっ!").  And it's a TV drama that ran in the 80s.

So if it became "seeno" from "seinou", it took a roundabout path, I think.

Posted by: Mikeski at March 22, 2014 09:58 PM (Zlc1W)

2 ...and I do the same thing, mis-hearing the -e  sound as -ei.

I almost never hear a -tte form verb as "teh", it almost always sounds like "tay".  -te sometimes sounds right, and -shite almost always sounds right (especially when they slur out the "i" completely and say "shteh").

Posted by: Mikeski at March 22, 2014 11:01 PM (Zlc1W)

3 JMdict has seino/seeno as "all together now!", etc. The interesting bit is that they list issei no as a variant, and いっせい (一斉) means "simultaneous".


Posted by: J Greely at March 22, 2014 11:18 PM (+cEg2)

4 So apparently I'm wrong. Thanks!

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at March 23, 2014 04:47 AM (+rSRq)

5 So "seino" is also a valid pronunciation... maybe my ears aren't always as bad as I think they are.

Posted by: Mikeski at March 23, 2014 04:18 PM (Zlc1W)

6 The etymology given by online sources is this:

The Meiji navy was partially modeled after the French navy. When French sailors would hoist a sail, they would shout "hisser, hisser" (hisser=hoist, pronounced /ise/) all at once. The navy picked up the term, and explained it as something you say when you work together (like rising a heavy object). The term then developed into several regional variations.

Posted by: cuc at March 23, 2014 10:04 PM (imfQ2)

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