I have an article online today over at CNNGo Tokyo. I give a brief introduction to 和製英語 (わせいえいご) and list a few of my favorites. One of these is キャッシュオン, which is a shortened form of キャッシュオンデリバリー. I learned the phrase at Dry Dock, but Ushitora also has キャッシュオン events. I love the way the word sounds, and it’s a lot of fun to overpronounce it. Although, whenever I say it now, I say it with a Cajun accent, a la Cajun Man.
While I’m here, I should go ahead and do a mini-rinkage post.
“Big (only) in Japan? Oshibori”
I’ve had a bit of reverse culture shock since I’ve been home. The most notable shock has been shoes in the house. Hate it. After that, I guess it’s a toss up between cash-less shopping, the frigid temperatures people in New Orleans keep their ACs set at, and eating food with hands. For the first few weeks I felt a weird sensation of never having enough money on me. In Japan, not having enough cash can have serious consequences – like having to walk home a really long ways or go hungry/thirsty for longer than is pleasant. I’ve gotten over it thanks to my debit card, which can be used just about everywhere in the U.S. I’ve also realized why people bring sweaters to the library – the library is super cold! Come on, people, 68F is not a normal inside temperature. The other weird sensation I have is that my hands are constantly dirty. Part of this is due to the lack of chopsticks, part of this is do to the prevalence of hand feedin’, and part of it is due to the lack of oshibori. I seriously miss oshibori.
I’ve got another article on the Japan Times Bilingual Page. Longtime readers will recognize the topic, as well as the little girl who hates bugs, from the contest I ran back in April 2008.
So, yes, いい is often used to say “no, thank you” and imply that something is not fine and not good, but it does also get used in the standard definition of good, fine, great. One way to differentiate between the meanings is applying a particle to the end. よ will grant permission to someone else, ね will express your pleasure with something and/or seek confirmation, よね seeks to confirm okay-ness, and ぞ is a useful way to cheer someone on.
When I was on JET, we coached the speech contest kids, and I have vivid memories of one of the Japanese English teachers saying いいぞ、いいぞ in a slightly gruff voice when the kids did a particularly good job. It was kind of like “attaboy, attaboy” or “now you’re cookin’ with gas” – that type of thing. Definitely a nice little phrase to keep in your wallet for the right situation.
Quick TOP SECRET breakdown of possible English tone equivalents (as usual, getting used to it is far superior to translation):
いいよ – “Sure, go ahead”
いいね – “That’s nice!” “That sounds good!”
いいよね – “Not a problem, right?”
いいぞ – “That’s the stuff!”
Dammit, I missed a bunch of particles, as noted in the comments by Leonardo. They are:
いいな – “Lucky! (a la Napoleon Dynamite)” “That’s nice!”
いいわ – “Sure thing.”
いいわよ – “Sure thing, hot stuff.”
いいけど – “I guess…”
いいけどね – “T’were it only true…”
I’m cursed for some reason. Whenever I try to watch the movie Paprika, I’m always interrupted. I’ve made it halfway through several times, but inevitably something comes up and I’m forced to pause it, promising to finish at a later time. Last night I only made it 15 minutes in before I realized I would have to bail. That was still enough time to see this fansub failure:
Sure, it’s an accurate translation from a certain point of view – it is what comes out of her mouth (the line in Japanese is 「イッツ・ザ・グレーティスト・ショータイム！」) – but clearly the film is referring to the Ringling Brothers’ famous slogan “The Greatest Show on Earth,” so I think a better translation (that takes into account the philosphy underlying my inequality posts) would be “Time for the Greatest Show on Earth!” Or, if you don’t want to trample on the Ringling Brothers’ intellectual property, “Time for an amazing show!” “It’s the greatest show time” is a failure of English.
I must finish watching this movie soon. I’ve vowed to finish watching it before I see Inception so that I can figure out if it inspired any of the movie. And I should probably see Inception before school starts. So in the next week or two.
A couple of updates to old posts. If I added them to the actual posts at this point, no one would notice, so I thought I’d make a separate post.
“Project Management Lingo – 改行”
In the comments Arline reminded me of one of the commands that can be used to count characters in Microsoft Excel and Open Office. “=len(target cell)” will count all of the characters in the target cell. Note that this is all the characters regardless of line breaks. If you’re working with material that has line breaks within cells, then the easiest way might be to open up a separate file, do the translation line by line counting the characters with =len, and then pasting the final result back into the cells of the original file.
“Underrated Phrase – そうですね”
Check out the final Collabo-Ramen video! Did you notice the way that Komuro-san was answering my questions? For each of the two questions I included in the video, she begins her response with そうですね. Note the tone that she uses – this is exactly what I was referring to in the Japan Times article. Using this そうですね when responding to questions will make your Japanese sound much more natural.
“Who will feed the Haruki Murakami fans online?”
Since I wrote this post about Murakami’s/Murakami’s publisher’s Internetal ineptitude, I noticed that my Facebook profile was devoid of Murakami. That’s strange, I thought, I could’ve sworn I had him as one of the two authors I like under the “Books” section of my profile. (The other being Barbara Tuchman. “The Zimmerman Telegram” was a weird combination of all my interests/ethnicities – intrigue between U.S., Mexico, Japan and Germany. My father’s family is Mexican-American, and my father’s mother’s family were Germans who immigrated to Mexico.) I searched for Murakami on Facebook, and sure enough, the unofficial page had been deleted. There is now an official page run by Knopf, AND it’s being updated frequently. This has all happened in the past week and a half, however, so we’ll have to wait and see if it gets properly maintained or ignored like the Random House site.
I have to thank my senior year Japanese teacher for this one. I can’t remember exactly what lesson she was teaching when she mentioned this phenomenon (perhaps it was job-hunting related since several of us were going to graduate soon), but I remember being very surprised at the way そうですね is used to respond to questions – even questions that don’t have a definitely yes or no answer. She said that whenever you are asked a question, the first thing out of your mouth should almost always be そうですね, with a slightly extended そう and ね, to imply that you are in deep thought and considering the question. It’s just the way they do things in Japan, so get used to it and start using it to your advantage. I love using it as a moment to gather my thoughts before I give an answer in Japanese. You can read more in the article I wrote for the Japan Times Bilingual Page earlier this week.
Regular readers may recognize 〜なんですが、 as a very basic エアバッグ表現, one of the most helpful ideas I ever learned in class. This そうですね thing may be the second most helpful.
I was out in Futako Tamagawa walking around with my parents this past week, and I noticed this as we walked up to the entrance of the Garden Island annex of Takashimaya:
Yup, those are trucks parked in a special spot for 納品車 – vehicles making deliveries. Closer inspection reveals…
…that the regular parking lot is just over to the right.
This sign was interesting to me because it was the first time I’ve seen 納品 used for actual, physical deliveries. I’d used it often in the office, as I wrote when I introduced the compound, but it was always in regards to nebulous, digital deliveries. Very cool to see it out in the real world.
I have a column in The Japan Times today, “Take your taimingu when translating loan words.” The general idea and many of the examples should be familiar to long time readers, but I use a new example as my main piece of evidence: the video game term タイミングよく.
Here’s the build-up:
Japan has a long history of commandeering words from other languages and making them its own. Kobo Daishi, one of Japan’s first exchange students, allegedly brought back thousands of kanji from China in the eighth century. Words from Portugal and Holland arrived through Nagasaki roughly 1,000 years later. More recently, Japanese has borrowed from English and other languages, and hence there are now legions of words that require thought before you can convert them back into their source language.
Go buy a copy or check it out online.
Quick, what’s the first thing you hear when you go into a restaurant in Japan?
I was taught to always respond with 一人, 二人, 三人, etc. My sensei told us to never say 一名様, 二名様, 三名様, etc., but she never told us why. I only learned why a few years back when I went to the Shibuya TGI Fridays with my friend Yoichi.
When greeted with the question above, Yoichi answered, 二名. Awesome, I thought, Yoichi’s badass enough to answer with the stuff the sensei told us not to use! Then I realized he had dropped the 様. なるほど. 様 is what makes the phrase honorific-polite and therefore strange if you use it on yourself – you’re only supposed to honor others higher than yourself. Get rid of the 様, however, and 一名, 二名, 三名, etc. becomes just another way to count people.
Which leads to the unbreakable rule: Never 様 yourself.
That is unless you have had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!
Japanese companies love the concept of 相乗 (そうじょう) – different groups working together to produce something that is greater than the sum of its parts. Toy divisions within a company making figurines of characters from the video games produced by a different division of the same company. Characters from one title making cameo appearances in another title. Collectible trading cards that appear in video games and anime television series.
This, my friends, is synergy, and basically it’s a way to draw consumers into loops of consumption that boost the company’s bottom line. In Japanese, synergy is 相乗 (そうじょう). I don’t have a feel for how often U.S. businesses use “synergy” in their consumer propaganda (advertising), but it is used quite frequently here. I first encountered 相乗 after I started working at my former company when I was checking the translation of some sort of annual report – year-end figures down, yada yada, still we have our best-selling series that always sell reliably, yada yada, if only we can get some synergy going, yada yada, repackage old content for a new platform or give it a couple new bells and whistles, ta da!
“Synergy” in English feels a little catch-phrasey to me, but I think 相乗 in translation should be kept simple; just find a way to translate it as “synergy” no matter how the Japanese is used and keep the English from sounding too weird. Never use weird forms like “synergistic” or “synergism.” This is probably one of those words you’ll only ever have to recognize: don’t plan on using 相乗 anytime soon.
While corporate synergy is nothing more than a catch phrase strategy to suck cash from bozos like us, Internet synergy is what makes the world go round. If you think about it, the Internet is nothing more that an elaborate Rube Goldberg machine. There are big flashy patches of content out there, and things like Twitter, Facebook, and blogrolls are the little springs that whirl and tumble about helping make connections. Sometimes the links just sputter out like a decent one-liner tweet, but other times connections produce nice collaborations. It’s the Internet, stupid. And synergy is the way you play the game.
In addition to Collabo-Ramen, I’ve got a couple other mini-synergies in the works. The latest is Kotaku – they just syndicated my post on project management. Others coming soon.