JOK Notebook

So That's How They Say That!

Last week I fell woefully behind. I can attribute it to various things, such as my husband's birthday (and the birthday shopping beforehand), plus extra visits to the park to go running after two caloric birthday celebrations. But the truth is that I can't entirely understand where the time went.

Anyway, I've been scrambling to catch up because I'm determined not to let the one-essay-a-week schedule slip. But if it's sometimes hard to write one essay a week, it seems almost impossible to write two! I've discovered that, ironically, the only way to move through a big workload is to dive into the material more deeply than ever, engaging with it and poking one's nose around every corner until the sheer joy of discovery makes the hours disappear. And that's what has happened.

With that mindset I finally finished the first draft of the essay on 慢 (1837: arrogant; proud; boastful; sluggish; lazy), which seemed to hang over me forever. After polling people on Facebook about their understanding of 我慢 (がまん: patience; endurance) and how that concept fits with Japanese culture, and then after fretting about what position I would take, I devoted a sizable section of essay 1837 to that topic and am excited about what I produced. The large investment in a single section feels entirely worthwhile. 

On some level it amuses me that I spend weeks fearing the big, meaty essays when they're the ones that end up making my spirits soar once I become immersed. They're the ones I'm proudest to publish. I look forward to the short ones, thinking that they'll be easy and fast. However, if there's less to engage me, those pieces don't generate as deep a sense of satisfaction.

Yesterday I started a new essay on 到 (arrival; to reach; attain). I thought it would be fast but boring because it initially comes across as a wholly practical kanji, one associated with airport arrival times and the like. But the essay is neither fast nor boring! I definitely have to put in some hours. And to my surprise, I'm having loads of fun with it! There's much more going on with that kanji than I first realized. And somehow the essay now contains quotations from both "Jabberwocky" and the poem that starts "Bloody men are like bloody buses"! I never know where essays will go! 

While I've been down a rabbit hole of sorts, lost in these essays, I've encountered quite a few sample sentences that have made me exclaim, "So that's how they say that! I'll present an assortment here, along with the keywords that led me to them. Oh, and I'll show you some Japanese movie posters that I spotted last weekend at a movie theater complex in San Francisco's Japantown. For two weeks I had looked forward to a documentary about Japan, and though it was visually stunning, it was also terribly dull. I don't want to bash anyone's effort, so I'll withhold the title. But I will say that seeing movie posters in the bathroom was the highlight of that evening's entertainment.

Photo Credit: Eve Kushner

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory becomes チャーリーとチョコレート工場, where 工場 (こうじょう) means "factory." Johnny Depp's name appears in katakana across the top: ジョニー・デップ. You may have trouble seeing that. Sorry for the poor quality of the iPhone photo. I didn't think to bring a better camera to the movies!

1. Waiting Impatiently

Essay 1641 on 到 (arrival; to reach; attain) includes the keyword 到来 (とうらい: arrival), which appears in this sentence:

I'm impatient for spring to arrive.

私* (わたし: I); 春 (はる: spring); 待ちわびる (まちわびる: to be tired of waiting; wait impatiently)

What intrigues me here isn't 到来 but rather 待ちわびる. One can replace the わ with the non-Joyo 侘 (proud, lonely). As an autonomous word, 侘びる means "to feel down because things haven't gone as expected; be perplexed; feel lonely." When -侘びる attaches to the pre-masu form of a verb, -侘びる means "not to have the energy to keep going." So 待ちわびる means "not to have the energy to keep waiting" or "to be tired of waiting; wait impatiently." I've waited impatiently to learn a great term like this!

2. My Wish Has Come True

The same essay features 到頭 (とうとう: finally; at last; reaching a head), which people usually write in hiragana. The word is by no means new to me, but the kanji rendering is. Anyway, here's a useful sentence:

At last my wish was realized.

願い (おねがい: wish); 実現 (じつげん: realization)

How appealingly short and simple this sentence is! I've been fussed at for using とうとう at the wrong time and for preceding 実現 with the wrong particle. The net effect has been to create a mass of anxiety about expressing either thing. This sentence reassures me that even mere mortals can manage to say, "At last my wish was realized."

As this sentence has soothed me, I now have the courage to revisit my notes on the proper use of particles with 実現. Here's what I learned about it in the past:

a. 夢実現しました。
My dream has come true. (intransitive)

夢 (ゆめ: dream)

b. 夢実現しました。
I made my dream come true. (transitive) 

c. 夢実現しました。
My dream came true (but then something terrible ensued). (intransitive)

The "At last my wish was realized" sentence matches the first pattern.

Photo Credit: Eve Kushner

The Pianist becomes 戦場のピアニスト, where 戦場 (せんじょう) means "battlefield" or "battleground." Funny title! It's not as if he serenaded soldiers on the battlefield. I think simply ピアニスト would have worked.

3. No Matter How I Try

Essay 1641 on 到 also includes another great adverb: 到底 (とうてい: (cannot) possibly; no matter how). To my surprise, people use kanji more than hiragana for this common word, which breathes life into the following sentence:

I can't begin to understand this book.

本 (ほん: book); 分かる (わかる: to understand)

I can't begin to say how excited I am to know this structure!

Photo Credit: Eve Kushner

Out of Africa has generated a lot of Japanese text! I'll just focus on the biggest characters: 愛と哀しみの果て. The first kanji, 愛 (あい), is "love." The second word, 哀しみ (かなしみ), means "sadness." People usually write this term as 悲しみ; in fact, かな•しい is a non-Joyo yomi for 哀. Because this kanji can mean "grief" or "pathos," I wonder if they aimed for a heightened dramatic effect with this choice of character. Finally, 果て (はて) means "the end; the extremity; the limits; the result." I'm not certain which definition fits, but translating the whole title as Taking Love and Sadness to Extremes could work. So could The End of Love and Grief. Either way, it's a bummer of a title!

4. I Can't Take It Anymore!

While investigating 我慢 (がまん: patience; endurance), I found these great sentences:

This is the last straw!

限界 (げんかい: limit, bound)

You are sometimes very trying.

君 (きみ: you); 時々 (ときどき: sometimes)

The second sentence actually translates as "I sometimes can't tolerate you." This is a handy phrase to know if you want to alienate people in Japan!

5. Strong Tendencies

My study of 慢 also introduced me to the word 傲慢 (ごうまん: pride; haughtiness; arrogance; rudeness; hubris). With it came this clear and concise sentence:

He tends to be arrogant.

彼 (かれ: he); 傾向 (けいこう: tendency)

What a lot you can communicate with 傾向! It breaks down as to incline toward + to tend toward. It seems that people often use 傾向 in the phrase 傾向がある (to have a tendency). Good to know!

Essay 1686 on 排 Is Out

Today I've posted essay 1686 on 排 (to exclude, expel, reject; anti-; discharge, exhaust, drain; excrete). In writing it I encountered many more great sample sentences, including ones that translate this way: "He just brushed aside any objections," "He did not rule out the possibility of ending up with a disagreement," and "I have pain when urinating." (I don't, but if I ever want to see a urologist in Japan, I'm all set now!) Here's a preview of the essay:

Have a great weekend!


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