December 20, 2008

Remember this word

卑しい iyashii -- (adj) greedy / vulgar / shabby / humble / base / mean / vile

What a marvelous word! (It's from the first episode of Mushishi.)

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 10:16 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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December 01, 2008

Ken

I've been confused about how ken gets used in certain words. One meaning of it is 剣 which means "sword". That one's used in 剣道 kendou which is, of course, the study of how to fight with a katana.

But 拳 is also pronounced ken and it means "fist". Alone, that isn't a word in Japanese but it's used in a lot of other things. For instance, it's used in 拳法 kenpou which is the name for a style of Chinese empty-hand fighting.

Reason I ran into this is that a lot of the weird techniques in DBZ include ken in their names, and they didn't involve swords. (The only sword in the series belongs to Yajirobe.)

Based on usage, I had come to the conclusion that ken also meant "technique", but if there's any such reading of it, I sure haven't found it. (jutsu certainly means "technique" but that's different.)

I'm still not clear on what "ken" is involved in the technique called tayoken, which results in a brilliant light that permits the user to escape. It's something Tenshinhan developed, but Goku and Krillin both know it, too. In DBZ we see Krillin use it three times and Goku once. The English translation was "Solar Flare", but since it doesn't include either a fist or a sword, I'm not clear on what it was supposed to be.

Anyway, in Ranma 1/2, I presume that neko ken is probably the "fist" reading. Does that seem right?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 11:57 PM | Comments (8) | Add Comment
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October 07, 2008

Grammar Puns

Japanese as a language has a couple of cases of what, for lack of a better term, one could call "grammar puns". One of those is "Yo!"

yo is a particle, and as a sentence terminator it indicates emphasis. Just as "ka" as a sentence terminator is the verbal equivalent of a question mark, "yo" as a terminator is the verbal equivalent of an exclamation point.

Japanese allows you to leave out sentence parts which can be deduced from context, so when someone calls you by name and you respond "Yo!" it means the entire reply was omitted, leaving behind only the emphasis.

Or at least that's what I think is going on. Am I right about that?

The other case I noticed recently, which I'm also not quite sure about, is in the first episode of Kirameki Project. Kana is skipping school in order to work on her robots (which is something she does quite a lot) and Rincle is nagging her about it (which is something she does a lot). Rincle starts grumbling, and says, "Kana-sama, tara!"

Kana is one of the three princesses of Genes, so the -sama honorific is appropriate. "tara" isn't a word, so what did Rincle mean?

It occurred to me that "-tara" is the verb conjugation ending for the provisional tense. So Rincle is grumbling about how things might come out, without specifying either a subject or an actual verb to make more specific just what she's grumbling about.

Does that make sense?

As such, I think she's rather abusing the "you can leave things out" aspect of the language by taking it to ridiculous extremes. It's possible that like "Yo!" this is something in moderately common use, but I bet it was intended to be witty the first time someone did it.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 12:42 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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October 01, 2008

Adventures with google

Some of my best ideas happen when I'm going to sleep. Problem is, I don't remember a lot of those later. (So how do I know they're such good ideas? Good question.)

Today when crashing out for a nap, it occurred to me that it would be interesting to see what turned up if I did a google image search for "熊パンツ". That's "kuma pantsu".

It wasn't what I expected, actually. Only 136 hits, and the first page is completely SFW. Very disappointing.

UPDATE: What made me think of such a thing? Well, Hibari wears 'em in Cyberteam in Akihabara.

UPDATE: I might mention that they only show up twice in the show, very briefly both times. The show is remarkably light on lolicon fan service. The three "birds", all grown women, are the main purveyors of fan service, and they're the ones who star in the onsen episode.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 04:40 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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September 19, 2008

Borrowed word 20080919

This borrowed word is easy! カーボンファイバー kaabonfaibaa

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September 03, 2008

Japanese language -- Tadaima Sanjyo

There's a phrase I've heard several places that I can't figure out. It sounds to me like "tadaima sanjyo" but that isn't right.

Nene says it in the first episode of Kirameki Project at time mark 18:35. Bart Garsus says it in the second to last episode of Vandread: The Second Stage. In both cases they say their names and then follow it with that phrase e.g. "Bart Garsus tadaima sanjyo". What it means is "I, Bart Garsus, have arrived!" or "I, Hyper-Nene, am here!"

"Tadaima" is, of course, the phrase everyone announces when returning home. What I can't figure out is the other word, or words. My first intuiton is that it would be a verb, but I can't figure out what.

Help?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 08:54 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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August 16, 2008

Article problems

I've heard that one of the things that Japanese students who are studying English have the most problem with is learning how and when to use the definite and indefinite article. That's because Japanese has no equivalent.

Here's a beautiful example (via): "Fly with the wind. Have a scent of the earth. Become a close friend of the nature. After all, you are on the record!"

That's good enough so that it doesn't deserve to be dismissed as Engrish. But it isn't quite right, either. There are six articles in there, and five are pretty much right.

If you were an English teacher, how would you explain why there shouldn't be an article in front of "nature", when all the others are right? I don't know if I could really come up with anything better than "well, that's just how it is."

I guess the reason is that "earth" in this context refers to a thing, but "nature" is a collective plural. Nature isn't one thing, so you can't use the definite article with it.

Then you have to explain that "nature" has multiple meanings, and for some of the other meanings the definite article is completely correct, such as in the phrase "that is the nature of things".

UPDATE: Actually, at the end they may have meant "You are on record!" That article may have been wrong, too. I'm not absolutely certain what they were trying to say. (It would probably help if I had a clue what the game is about.)

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 08:13 PM | Comments (21) | Add Comment
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July 08, 2008

A cool word

I just learned a cool word: 餓鬼共 gakidomo. The dictionary says it means "those damn kids". (Now if only there were a single word for "get off of my lawn", we'd be set.)

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 06:29 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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July 05, 2008

Kirameki Project: Kill that guy!

In the second episode of Kirameki Project, there comes a point where Kana orders Junerin to really fight Big Mighty. It requires Kana to get steamed, so she screams out the order -- which makes it a bit hard to understand.

The subtitle translates it as "That robot... take him out!" What I think she says is aitsu wa yate! But it's possible she says yata.

"aitsu" is that guy and "wa" is the topic particle. And I'm thinking that what we have here is the imperative form of yaru. Which means "to do" but also means a swarm of other things, one of which is "to kill".

I know that yatta is the simple past tense of yaru. Is yate the imperative? If not, what would the imperative of yaru be?

UPDATE: It's possible she said yatai.

UPDATE: No one? Hmmmph...

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 08:45 PM | Comments (15) | Add Comment
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June 30, 2008

"That was a sweet sound"

At one point in the second episode of Kirameki Project, the giant robot Junerin gets hit in the face by a piece of flying debris. It leaves a black mark along one of her cheekbones (which of course, she doesn't have bones, but leave that there).

It also makes a rather loud clanking noise. The crew of Big Mighty hear it, and Honda, the engine guy, says something that they translated as "...sure was a sweet sound."

To me it sounds like what he said was ii oto shitta na. I've got ii as "good", and oto as the noun "sound". And trailing na is a variant on trailing ne. Is shitta the simple past tense of shitteiru "to know"?

That doesn't seem right; that translation of shitta doesn't really make sense in context. "I knew that sounded good, eh?" Doesn't make sense to me.

UPDATE: Aha! shita is the simple past tense of suru "to do", and I heard it slightly wrong. So it would mean "That did sound good, didn't it?"

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 11:06 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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