Broken English: Seen But Not Heard (Part 2)

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.

Continue reading “Broken English: Seen But Not Heard (Part 2)”

Hon’né and Tatémaé – Two Things You Have

A thing you’ll see a lot in Japan:

Guy X, in the presence of Guy Y, does something not so much rude as marginally acknowledging of his own needs as a living organism. For example, he might sit down. Perhaps he will gently move aside an object that is in his way. Perhaps he will go away so as to make it in time for a separate engagement.

Depending (but only marginally) on the relationship between Guy X and Guy Y, Guy X will bow–perhaps profusely–at this juncture, apologizing–perhaps profusely–for doing that thing.

Guy Y, in return, will bow and wave his hand in front of his face–perhaps profusely, perhaps even simultaneously, causing him to slap himself in the protruding face several times–and say something like “Tondemonai,” which can mean either “Think nothing of it” or “Unspeakably horrible,” for you see, being apologized to for something trifling is most certainly that.

Continue reading “Hon’né and Tatémaé – Two Things You Have”