JOK Notebook

Parakeet Problems

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:

This animal is known as follows in Japanese:

頬白鮫 (ホオジロザメ: great white shark; white pointer, Carcharodon carcharias)      cheeks + white + shark

The 鮫 kanji is non-Joyo.

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!






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