The following sign brought up all sorts of feelings for me, which is weird because it's about parakeets, and I don't think I have deep-rooted issues about parakeets:
Photo Credit: Eve Kushner
Even though I spotted the sign on a street in Tokyo, I somehow assumed it was an informational placard like one you'd see at the zoo, explaining all about this type of bird. I was quite saddened when I finally analyzed the Japanese and understood this part:
I’m looking for my parakeet
セキセイインコ* (common pet parakeet);
捜す (さがす: to search (for something lost))
I felt even sadder when I found out the details of the escape:
On Saturday, March 1, after 11:30 p.m., my parakeet unfortunately flew away from my home in Yanaka Block 2.
3月 (さんがつ: March); 1日 (ついたち: first of the month); 土曜日(どようび: Saturday); 午前11時半 (ごぜんじゅういちじはん: 11:30 p.m.); -過ぎ (-すぎ: after); 谷中 (やなか: section of Tokyo); 二丁目 (にちょうめ: Block 2); 自宅 (じたく: one’s home); 飛び出す (とびだす: to fly out); -て行く (-ていく: aux. verb meaning “getting away from”); -てしまう (indication of regret)
Then, toward the end of the sign, I felt quite confused by this part, which begins with 頬 (cheek), the kanji of the week:
頬 (ほお: cheek); 紫 (むらさき: purple); 班 (group)
Can you spot the source of my confusion? I'll block the answer with a preview of the newest essay:
I was then elated (my third strong emotion!) to figure out that 頬に紫の班があります contains a typo! That's why I was confused! I mean, I'm not happy that anyone made a typo, but this was one of my few experiences of realizing that, rather than feeling defeated by Japanese text and thinking the problem was on my end.
The sign says 班 (group) rather than 斑 (spot). These look-alike kanji both carry the yomi ハン, so it's an easy mistake to make—especially when all churned up about a missing parakeet. Here's how the line should have read:
There's a purple spot on the cheek.
頬 (ほお: cheek); 紫 (むらさき: purple); 斑 (spot)
Much of the rest of the text also describes the lost bird. Read the following parts and see if you can fill in the blanks:
The head is ____, and the body is ______
頭 (あたま: head); 身体 (からだ: body)
The wings are ______
羽 (はね: wings)
The ____ are white
尾羽 (おばね: ____); 白 (しろ: white)
I'll block the answers with a photo from essay 2111, in which I examine the kanji for various animals that have been named for their cheeks:
Okay, here's the way to complete the sentences:
The head is yellow, and the body is light blue
頭 (あたま: head); 黄色 (きいろ: yellow);
身体 (からだ: body); 水色 (みずいろ: light blue)
The wings are blue and yellowish-white
羽 (はね: wings); 青 (あお: blue); 黄 (き: yellow);
かかる (-ish); 白色 (はくしょく: white)
The tail feathers are white.
尾羽 (おばね: tail feathers);
白 (しろ: white)
The sign also says that the bird’s 名前 (なまえ: name) is 言理 (ことり), which is clever ateji; 言 must come from 言葉 (ことば: word), a reference to the way parakeets can talk. And ことり should be a play on 小鳥 (ことり: small bird).
I find it quite inspiring that the Japanese use wordplay even when naming their parakeets!
Have a great weekend!