June 23, 2008


OK, what's the deal with this ship?

I figure it must be a hotel.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 11:38 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
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June 10, 2008

Today's Borrowed Word 001

I haven't done one of these in a long time. Today's borrowed word is サイキックス saikikkusu.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 08:44 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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June 07, 2008


Dan asks what the Japanese means on this poster (lower right corner). It includes both Japanese and English versions, but Dan suspects the translation isn't very exact and wonders what it really says.

I got it worked out that the Japanese is:




The English given was:

Posters saying "Don't litter with cigarette butts" are like children scolding adults with paintbrushes."

Unfortunately, my ability to plink along with the dictionary and a degree of inspiration has failed me. I've got the following down:

子ども kodomo == child
大人 otona == adult
posutaa == poster
禁止 kinshi == inhibit
絵筆 efude == paintbrush (with で de explicitly appended?)

I have an intuition that しかっている shikatteiru means "is futile" or implies something along those lines, but I'm probably wrong.

I can't figure out why boi at the beginning is in katakana. I also can't find it in the dictionary. I'm thinking that boi is a slang term for a cigarette butt, which is why it's followed by 捨て "discard, throw away" (and also why there's nothing else in the entire poster that refers to tobacco). If so, then the first sentence would be "cigarette butt discarding inhibition poster (some implied verb)".

The impression I get is that what the thing is really saying is, "A poster forbidding littering with cigarette butts is like a child punishing an adult by striking with a paintbrush." Which is a rather peculiar simile, and an even stranger thing to put on a poster of this kind.

UPDATE: shikatteiru is driving me nuts. Given that shika means "nothing but" I wonder if this really means "is no better than" or "is no more effective than".

Use of ga instead of wa after kodomo changes the emphasis. Updated guess: "A poster forbidding littering with cigarette butts: It's as useless as an adult being spanked with a paintbrush by a child."

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 06:09 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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May 30, 2008


I need help with a word. I have heard it a couple of times now in Tenchi Muyo: GXP and it sounds to me like anshisute, and as pronounced the "u" is dropped. That's obviously the imperative form of some verb. The first time they translated it as "don't worry" and the second time as "relax". What is the infinitive form of the verb they're talking about?

I figured out that 安心 anshin means "relief, peace of mind" but it's a noun. What is the verb they're using?

Actually, I think I'm wrong about it being an imperative. Looks like a gerund, except that it should be -shite instead of -shisute. Probably what I'm hearing is an idiom. Anyone have any idea what it is?

UPDATE: When Neige gets serious, she really scares me.


She play-acts the loli most of the time, so it's easy to underestimate her.

Seto toys with the other four, but never tries to play her mind-games with Neige. I think that's because Neige would, figuratively speaking, have Seto in a hammerlock almost immediately if Seto were stupid enough to take her on.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 08:43 PM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
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May 25, 2008

Today's strange fact

Hiragana, katakana, furigana, you've heard of all of those.

But have you heard of "hentaigana"? (No, it isn't a special script for use in porn.)

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 09:04 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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April 29, 2008

One "hai" will do

One of the running jokes in Shingu is that someone is told to do something, and they respond "hai hai" and get told "One hai is enough."

Usually it's Nayuta saying that, but just now I heard Hikari say it, and I think I know why they like the joke. It's not just that it's a bit rude, but also that the phrase is a nice one to say. (In case anyone's interested, it's DVD 4, title 1, time offset 08:06.)

I'm pretty sure what she says is hai wa ii kai and in practice, with a bit of sloppy pronunciation, wa ii becomes a diphthong, so it all rhymes, nearly. The cadence on wa ii is just slightly different, of course.

Most of that I understand. (Which is a bit terrifying, you know?) But I'm not sure which kai they're using. It doesn't seem likely that it's (the counter for occurrences) but it's not impossible.

But if it's not that, then all it really could be is 甲斐 which means "effect / result / worth / use / avail" and I think that's what it is. So what this means is "'hai' yields good result". Part of the problem is that the verb is implied. The 'hai' by implication is contrasted to 'hai hai'; there's no explicit "one" in the sentence.

Japanese sure is a foreign language...

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 09:06 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
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March 14, 2008


There are phrases in Japanese that I hear again and again and I get frustrated trying to look them up because I can't figure out how to parse the word boundaries.

I finally figured out mada ashita just now. In use it means "See you tomorrow" and I finally figured out that ashita is "tomorrow" and mada is "more, again".

A couple of related ones that I've finally realized are used constantly that I can't figure out how to parse sound to me like soyukoto and doyukoto. I have something of a suspicion that the core of it is koto "thing, fact, matter, reason". But I'm far from sure of that and I can't parse the rest of it. It's been driving me nuts. Anyone care to help me out with this?

Whatever they are, those phrases are very versatile, meaning variously "What have we got here?" or "That's the way it is" or "Is that so?" or "What the hell is that?" or a lot of other things. It can be snide, or reaffirming, or an expression of disbelief, or an expression of agreement. Sometimes there's a da after it, which of course is the copula.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 01:54 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
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February 12, 2008


There's a word I keep hearing in DBZ. And the other night when I rewatched some of the battles with Valkyrie Ghost (in UFO Princess Valkyrie 2) I heard it once there, too.

It sounds to me like kurae and they shout it when tossing a big energy blast at someone. It's always translated as "Take this!" I presume it's the imperative of some verb, but I can't figure out what. Anyone have any idea what it is?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 06:46 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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December 13, 2007

Three women

Brian writes about a Hanzi myth: the Chinese do not use the same symbol for "crisis" and "opportunity". Which reminded me of another: "the Chinese symbol for trouble is two women under one roof."

I'm pretty sure that one's wrong, too, but I decided to do a feeble attempt at testing it. Hanzi is too much for me, but I do have at least a passing familiarity with kanji now and know where some tools are. So I decided to see what I could learn from that.

The kanji for "woman" is 女. It's three strokes. I used Breen's radical search to see what I could find, looking for kanji with 7-9 strokes which included that one.

And I did find an odd one. Let's make it really big:

It's three women. It's pronounced kan (and a lot of other ways) and it means "mischief". It also means "noisy". Isn't that marvelous? For instance:

姦計 kankei means "trick"
姦策 kansaku means "scheme"
姦人 kan nin means "villain"
姦智 kanchi means "craftiness"
姦しい kashimashi means "noisy, boisterous"

UPDATE: This is a test. This is only a test:


This has been a test of the emergency Pixy broadcasting system. If it had been an actual emergency, you would have been directed to tune your browser to Ambient Irony.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 08:17 PM | Comments (10) | Add Comment
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December 04, 2007

Three syllable words

I'm rewatching Shingu. There are a lot of unusual people in this series, but two stand out in one particular way as being the most unusual.

It's a subtle thing that I noticed a long time ago, but in anime girls and women virtually always have lighter skin than boys and men. Apparently light skin on a woman is considered an element of beauty, or so I've been told. I've heard that skin lightening creams are a common costmetic.

So getting back to Shingu, the two most unusual characters are Weinnul and Isozaki. Weinnul is male, but he's so fair he's nearly albino. His skin is lighter than that of any of the female characters. Isozaki, the PE teacher at the school, has distinctly dark skin by comparison to the majority of the male characters.

They're both foreigners, though. (Ahem)

On a different note, I recently started noticing how many wonderful words Japanese has that are three syllables which can be used alone as complete sentences. ("Three syllables" to the ear of a gaijin, of course; in terms of overt cadence they vary quite a lot.) So I started making a list:

tashkani -- you have a point / naturally / of course
sasuga **
yappari -- as I thought
shou ga nai -- it can't be helped (resignation) (short for shikatta ga nai)
mattaku -- for crying out loud (frustration)
yokkatta -- thank goodness (gratitude for good outcome)
shimatta -- darn (annoyance)
mochiron -- of course (confirmation)
wakatta -- I understand
yameno -- knock it off (imperative form of yameninaru "to be discontinued")
bakana -- that can't be right! (disbelief)
urasai! -- shut up!
masaka! -- of course not
maitta na -- you got me!
shikari -- get it together!
ganbatte -- Go for it! You can do it! (imperative of ganbaru, to persist)
abunai -- watch out!

What got me thinking about this was sasuga. It's a wonderful word, a magnificent word, and one which is a bitch to translate into English. In Card Captor Sakura when someone said "sasuga Sakura-san" they'd translate it as "Nothing less from Sakura". More commonly translators say something like "just what we'd expect from..."

It's such a wonderful word; it's interesting that you have to use a pretty complex phrase in English for it.

Yappari is a closely related concept, in some uses, but there's a difference. When used in those kinds of contexts the main difference is that sasuga means someone is living up to expectations, whereas yappari usually means someone is living down to expectations.

UPDATE: Another one is so da ne which often translates really well as "ain't that the truth."

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 07:28 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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