JOK Notebook

Free Association

Here's a test of your associative powers! Match the following:

1. car accident     a. bone
2. courtyard b. ball
3. recurring pattern c. mountain
4. knack d. weasel
5. climax e. garden

I'll block the answers with a preview of the newest essay:

Okay, here are the answers.

1.b. "Car accident" and "ball" match up in the second definition of this term:

玉突き or 球撞き (たまつき: (1) billiards; pool; (2) vehicular pileup)     ball + poking

The breakdown (which applies to the first kanji rendering) is perfect for billiards or pool, but a vehicular pileup? The idea is that if many cars rear-end each other in a chain reaction, it's much like the way pool balls crash into each other all at once. Clever analogy!
2.e. "Courtyard" and "garden" go together in this word:

中庭 (なかにわ: courtyard)     middle + garden

If you have a U-shaped building or one organized around a quad (as at many old Western universities), the garden at the center would be a 中庭.

3.d. "Recurring pattern" and "weasel" go together! Whereas English speakers often use the metaphor of a revolving door to mean “recurring pattern,” whether a large personnel turnover or a high number of sexual partners, the equivalent term—回転扉 (かいてんとびら: revolving door)—does not serve a figurative purpose in Japanese. 

Instead, people tend to use いたちごっこ for “recurring pattern" or "vicious circle." This very common word literally means "weasel play"; いたち corresponds to the non-Joyo 鼬 (weasel), and -ごっこ means "something done together; game of make-believe." I assumed this meant that weasels play games in a repetitive way, but Japanese Wikipedia says that this term refers to a child's game from the latter Edo era (1603–1867). And this game was endless, according to my proofreader's source, which is where the figurative usage comes into the picture.

4.a. "Knack" corresponds to "bone." I'm thinking of this word:

コツ (骨: knack, getting the hang (of something)) 

My proofreader says that although his sources don't mention the etymology, he figures that if you get the hang of something, it’s as if you’ve understood its framework or core. He notes that the Japanese seldom associate コツ with 骨 nowadays. 

I found コツ in marketing copy on a book about neatening messy rooms:

Let's tidy up rooms in an inspiring way using 25 bits of know-how, shifts in thinking, and tricks.

ノウハウ (know-how); 考え方 (かんがえかた: way of thinking); 部屋 (へや: room); 感動的 (かんどうてき: moving); 整理整頓 (せいりせいとん: keeping things tidy and orderly)

5.c. "Climax" goes with "mountain" in this term:

山場 (やまば: climax; turning point)     mountain + place

Just as a climax can be defined as the "highest" point of something, 山場 essentially means "where it's a mountain" or "where it peaks."

Right when this blog has built to a climax, it's time to end it for today! Have a great weekend! And don't forget to check out essay 1730 on 扉. It's one of my favorite topics and characters!


Add comment

Log in or register to post comments