How to Find Stuff 2


Anyone recognize the image? If you were thinking Wikipedia, you are correct. While online dictionaries such as ALC are handy, as are electronic dictionaries and even paper dictionaries, Wikipedia is more precise. Find what you want in English and then pray that it has an equivalent entry in Japanese. Not only do you get the word itself, you get a whole page full of Japanese explaining the history of the thing and, if that thing happens to be athlete’s foot, how to get rid of the thing. That adds up to a lot of practice reading and a huge bump in your vocabulary. Reading one medium-to-long Wikipedia entry per day would be a really effective study strategy.

Apparently athlete’s foot is 足白癬 (あしはくせん) in Japanese, although for some reason that won’t 変換 properly. That might be because the vernacular is 水虫 (みずむし) – water bug. Damn that rainy season and this never-ending summer. I’ll be making a trip to Matsumoto Kiyoshi today.

Friday Puzzle – A Boy Named Who? Answer

A  boy named Mike, that’s who. The English is Mike, and the Japanese is 三毛 (みけ) – a tortoiseshell cat or perhaps calico in the US. They’re pronounced differently but have the same romanization. In Japanese it literally means three-hairs, referring to the three colors on the cat – black, brown and orange…although don’t some of those cats have white, too?

Beers to Robin and Thomas for continued participation.

The Friday Puzzle takes a summer vacation starting this week, inspired again by Car Talk. They’ve been on a summer break for the past three weeks and have been airing classic episodes. If you don’t listen, I highly recommend trying to get a hold of the episodes. They’ve been solid. If you subscribe in iTunes, it should let you download the past few weeks’ episodes.

号外 – 七夕


Today is the alternate date for the Tanabata (七夕)  Festival, so I thought I’d talk briefly about the grammatical pattern you see hanging from bamboo around this time – 〜ますように. It’s an interesting phrase to me, partially because, perhaps as an English speaker, it seems like an incomplete sentence. It means “(I hope / I wish) that X happens / comes true.” For example,

(I hope) I can get good grades.

(I hope) that my Japanese gets better.

I did a quick google search for “七夕 ますように” and came up with a bunch of interesting results, including this page full of wishes.

I put the “I hope” in parenthesis because it is only implied in the Japanese. The actual phrase is only a dependent clause. They had a small Tanabata presentation at one of my elementary schools a month ago, and a bunch of kids had to stand up and tell everyone their wishes. Some of the kids were so uncomfortable with the ending of this sentence grammatically that they stuttered a little です onto the end of their phrase. (サッカーが上手にできますように...です。)

Hope everyone’s wishes come true.


Note to Self – 言われました

Any time you want to say one of these phrases in Japanese

“He told me ____.”
“She told me ____.”
“They told me ____.”
“It told me ____.”
“The ____ told me ____.”

you should always be using 言われました.

Cool Compound – 大好物 (Updated)


The second set of new JETs arrived yesterday. They’ll spend today and tomorrow in Tokyo at an orientation conference and then will ship out on Wednesday to small towns and big cities across Japan. For the next month or so there are no classes, so they’ll putz around on the Internet, help the students practice for the English speech contest, and get used to life.

At the end of August, classes will begin and they’ll all be shocked at the low level of English at Junior High School. One particularly deep-rooted annoyance is the overuse and misuse of the word “interesting.”

Anyone who has taught a class or two will know what I mean. In Japanese, おもしろい means both interesting and funny. It means interesting as in “curious,” not as in “I’d like to research that thouroughly.”

So you end up with sentences like this:

Shin is an interesting boy.


I like volleyball. Volleyball is interesting.

Both perfectly normal grammatically, but a bit off, especially the final one, with the usage of interesting.

The funny thing is that while English teachers spend all their time griping about how narrow the vocabulary of their students is, their own Japanese vocabulary is probably equally if not more narrow. 好き is clearly the biggest offender here. This 好き, that 好き, beer 好き, Japan 好き. Yada yada yada.

An easy way to vary this expression is the word 大好物 (だいこうぶつ). As you can tell from the characters, it means, starting from the end, “thing-like-a lot” – something you really like/love/enjoy.

The usage is simple – Xが大好物です。Something is a 大好物 (to you). So next time you’re considering throwing out a 好き or 大好き, remember those annoying students who misuse interesting and use 大好物 instead.

UPDATE: This pattern is used strictly for FOODS that you like. Sorry for any inconveniences. Remember, making mistakes = good.