Thursday, July 21, 2011

More About the Japanese Language

The Interesting Ones

Ukiyo-e is the name of the Japanese woodblock print technique. There are some very famous ukiyo-e prints, one of which is to the right. I recently found out what it means.

uki = float
yo = world
e = picture

This means that the woodblock prints are pictures of things floating on the surface of the world, they are inherently temporary and unpredictable. Deep, no?

The word for baseball is yakyuu.
ya = field or fielding
kyuu = ball

It's literally "field(ing) ball."
Interesting note, baseball clubs in high schools here are apparently very strict. The "mandatory buzz cut, militaristic" variety of strict.

The word for drinking is のみます、nomimasu.
You can also use that word to describe what you do with soup or medicine. One of my fluent friends clarified that nomimasu means not just "drink" but "to consume without chewing."

I have no punchline for that, I just thought it was interesting. (おもしろい、omoshiroi)

To say you like something, you can use the word suki. It literally means "a favorite."

すしが すき です。
Sushi ga suki desu.
I like sushi.

To say you like something very much or love it, you can use daisuki. It literally means "big favorite."

ピザが だいすき です。
Piza ga daisuki desu.
I love pizza. (Pizza is a big favorite!)

That sort of touches on one of the kinds of Engrish I like the most. Not the kind where something is way off the mark and makes no sense (although those can be downright hilarious), but the kind that makes sense and I know exactly what's being said, but I would not think to use that phrasing if I were trying to communicate the same idea. I see this most often on stationary sets or gift bags – places where the actual words don't really matter as long as it's short and cheerful. It's endearing and makes me smile.

The Funny Ones

In the US, there are a few different drinks aimed at replenishing electrolytes and generally quenching thirst. In Japan, you probably won't find Gatorade or Powerade, but there are others.

One is Pocari Sweat.

As it was described to me, Japanese people think, "When you sweat, you drink Pocari."

Americans think, "There is a Mr. Pocari. This is his sweat."

I like the stuff. It has some light flavor, but unlike what Gatorade has become in recent years, it doesn't make me more thirsty when I'm done with it.

Then there's Calpis. It's one of those drinks that is a flavor by itself and also a brand. It's a slightly milky uncarbonated soft drink, which makes it sound less appealing than it really is. You can get different flavors of this beverage and a number of foods (mostly candy) flavored like it.

For sale in some English-speaking countries they changed the name to Calpico.

Why? Because when Japanese people see "Calpis," they think, "Calpis."

English speakers think, "Did you say 'cow piss'? I'm not drinking that!"

I don't enjoy this as much as I enjoy Pocari Sweat, but I do like it. Partly because I enjoy saying it out loud.

It's the same reason I ordered a Nobbly Bobbly from an ice cream truck in the UK once. Some words just amuse me.

Completely Random

I had to buy this note pad. I couldn't not. In big letters it says PANDA PANTS! I'm a sucker for alliteration and the idea of pandas in pants amuses me. But that didn't seal the deal. The clincher was the text at the bottom.

Mama no pantsu wa tottemo ookii yo!
Mama's underpants are very big!

I don't know how they decided upon that particular bit of text or why the small panda is hanging out in the pantsu in question, but I do think it's hilarious.

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