JOK Notebook

Close to Me

A few blogs back, I talked about this sentence:

And then the two of them involve the adults around them and start to make a plan.

2人 (ふたり: two people); 周り (まわり: around); 大人 (おとな: adult); 巻き込む (まきこむ: to involve, drag into it); 計画を立てる (けいかくをたてる: to make a plan); -始める (-はじめる: to begin)

At that time I discussed 巻き込む. Now I want to focus on 周り. Even though this common word doesn't look complicated, it managed to surprise me anyway. 

My proofreader defined 周り as "around," but "adults around them" seems awkward to me, so I wondered if "vicinity" might work instead. 

"Around" is better here, he said, given that "vicinity" is for things that are physically near each other. He lives in Japan and added, "I’m not in your vicinity in any way, but I’m one of the people around you JOK-wise, and 周り sounds closer to this 'around.'" I had no idea 周り could convey that.

The same word cropped up again in a conversation with my Japanese language partner Kensuke. We were analyzing a difficult sentence in an email from Gomita, my frequent correspondent, and Kensuke said this:

People who use this kind of Japanese are rare. They’re not around me.

日本語 (にほんご: Japanese language); 使う (つかう: to use); 人 (ひと: person); 珍しい (めずらしい: rare); 僕 (ぼく: I, for men)

Thanks to my proofreader's comments, I now know that Kensuke may not have been talking only about his colleagues and friends. Perhaps he was referring to his stratum in society, the sort of people he is likely to know. His kind of person wouldn't use such rare terms.

One more word of this ilk jumped out at me this week as I wrote the forthcoming essay 1290 on 彩 (color; paint):

身近 (みぢか: near oneself; close to one; familiar)     body + near

The term caught my attention for two reasons, reminding me of what I wrote about ぢ in a Thematic Explorations piece and presenting me again with the problem of "near oneself; close to one" as an awkward translation of 身近. We don’t have a word like this in English, so I suppose the translation is bound to sound strange.

Incidentally, I found 身近 in this subtitle:

How to Draw the Subjects Around You

モチーフ (motif, from the French motif); 描く (えがく: to draw)

When writing the same essay, I excluded a different book title but fell in love with a word from its Amazon synopsis:

原風景 (げんふうけい: indelible scene of one's childhood; earliest remembered scene)     origin + scene (last 2 kanji)

A scene from one's origins! The original scene! However you interpret it, this term has a great deal of emotional power, practically plumbing the depths of one's unconscious. After all, remembering that first scene is much like recalling an important dream and trying like mad to hold onto the sparse details.

I'm also intrigued by this word because I saw Kore-eda's After Life not long ago, and in one indelible scene the characters talk about the age at which people form their earliest memories. 

Writing essay 1290 also turned up this gem:

青菜に塩 (あおなにしお: feeling sad or downhearted; down in the dumps)
     greens (1st 2 kanji) + salt

What in the world is the etymology? If you're depressed, add salt to steamed spinach and it'll work wonders, just as chocolate does?

No, when one sprinkles salt onto greens such as spinach, the salt sucks the water out of the leaves and the greens wilt, resembling a downhearted person!

Kanji is the best antidepressant I know, so if you are indeed 青菜に塩, or even if you aren't, be sure to check out the newest essay:

Catch you back here next time!


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