I’ve already written a little about my first trip to Japan. I was one of four interns sent to various companies in Okayama. One of my friends was sent to a big conglomerate company, and one of the things they had was a museum with dinosaurs. One day she had something similar to the following conversation.
Anna: Umm. Excuse me. When will I receive this month’s dinosaur?
Supervisor: Dinosaur? Well, you can’t receive it, but we can show it to you today.
S: Yes, is that okay?
A: That is great!
They then proceeded to show her the dinosaur just as promised, much to her surprise. She was actually asking for her monthly paycheck. Paycheck (給料、きゅうりょう) and dinosaur (恐竜、きょうりゅう) are very close in pronunciation and very easy to confuse. They are inverts, which is easy to show if you romanize it – both look like this ky_ry_, but the former is kyuuryou and the latter is kyouryuu. Coworkers at a normal place of work could probably figure out what she meant, but she was unlucky enough to work at a place with dinosaurs on the premises.
The other invert that often messes me up is 給食 (きゅうしょく、school lunch) and 恐縮 (きょうしゅく、a word I know how to use but not how to translate concisely).
I find that the easiest way to keep track of inverts like this, is to really latch on to the meanings of one part of the compound. For example, I always think of しょく as food/eat, which makes it easy to distinguish. I also think of りゅう as lizard/dinosaur. I still hesitate before I say these words sometimes, but all I need is a second to get them straightened out.
Can you think up any inverts where only the small よ and ゆ are flipped?
REMINDER: I’ll post the answer to last week’s puzzle next Friday.