[Man, adult life sure is busy sometimes–even when you hardly have any extracurricks! Anyhoo, let’s all just pretend this blog went up a week ago when I wanted it to, and that its content is still totally timely.]
So hey, here’s a way to get me to care for ten minutes about basketball.
Over the last week or so, my Facebook feed and indeed the internet at large have been all a-flutter with talk of “Lin-sanity;” that is, the state of being driven (clinically) insane by the adept performance of a man named Jeremy Lin, in the sport of basketball.
Ordinarily, Facebook posts about basketball would be like Mario Kart-style speed boost strips under my mouse’s scroll wheel, but this case has proven to be an exception due to the surrounding political drama, and plus I’m on a Trackpad over here.
There are some things in language that can only be seen via the written word and not heard via the spoken. This can be inconvenient when you’re caught without a pencil or have lost both your writing hands in battle with the enemy, but it also stands to reason, in the same way that a painting of an incident differs from a verbal description of that same incident.
The flexibility of the written word also allows the clever to do artistic things with writing, as illustrated in my previous posts by the Japanese examples of ate-jiand fake furigana. To summarize these two concepts for the lazy or overwhelmed, ate-ji is kind of like classy puns made of Kanji. Since you can’t “hear” a Kanji, they must be written. Fake furigana is like typing “read: [blank]” where the [blank] is filled with pointed lies instead of the actual correct reading of the tagged word. Example: “Rebecca is a woman (read: witch).”
So yeah! In my last post on the “unspeakable” foibles of language, I was talking about ate-ji. And then I finished. To summarize, they are kinda neat, kinda annoying, but often serve as a testament to a man or woman’s mastery of kanji. They’re kind of like puns if puns had dignity.
Today I want to talk about the other thing I mentioned in the last post–“fake furigana.”
So first I should probably explain furigana for the noob crowd. Basically, in Japanese you’ve got three writing systems: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. Hiragana and Katakana are what they call “syllabaries,” which is kind of like alphabets, except that each character is a whole syllable, like ka or u or chi or go. Mastering the syllabaries is a simple matter of memorizing some 46 characters (each), which really isn’t that hard at all, given the distinctive vibe possessed by many of these characters; I swear, some of them just inherently look like the sounds they make. か is totally ka and there’s no unseeing it once you’ve seen it.
You can do a lot with the written language–even do things you couldn’t do with the spoken word. Modern Japanese explores this quite a bit through the frequent application of ate-ji and what some people like to call “false furigana” (there may be an actual name for this, in which case, please somebody tell me what it is!)
So let’s look at these. Ate-ji could be described as the creative assigning of substantially irrelevant kanji to a word, in an attempt to provide onlookers all the convenience of a phonetic representation whilst still preserving the tedium of writing with kanji and the confusion of that kanji not having any pertinent meaning.