Who Dat?!

Speaking of Subway, I often pick a footlong after lunch and keep it in the fridge at work. I get super hungry right around 6, so they’re nice to have on days when I have to work overtime. After the boss man has left (“the Syach,” as we like to call him), I sneak over to the tables that are cubicled off in the corner of the office and eat half. I save the other half for a little later when everyone has gone. (Quick sidenote: in Japan, a full sandwich is listed as 30cm but still gets the designation フットロング.)

On Monday I was eating the first half of my sandwich, just staring out the window, when one of the Sales guys peeked his head in and laughed. I think I mumbled something like ごめんなさい, and he said いえいえ、誰かな~と思って… and then left.

The meaning of what he said is pretty straight forward here. Literally “Who is that? I thought…” Or in more natural English, “I was wondering who that was…” The point I’d like to make is that this is not a complete sentence in Japanese. He easily could have said 誰かなと思った, but instead it ends on a gerund, and much like the で discussed last week, there is a bit of causality implied. This makes more sense when you fill in the final clause of the sentence: 誰かなと思って、顔を覗かせた。In natural English, “I just peeked in wondering who was in here” or maybe “I just wanted to see who was in here.” (Other alternative second clauses include, ここに入ってきた or ちょっと見てきた.)

The point is that while the gerund clause modifies the implied, invisible clause, it’s the main point of the sentence since the implied, invisible clause is obvious to both parties. Most excellent. It also reminds me that you could probably go a whole day in Japan using only gerunds. Reminds me of my No 僕 Challenge, but I’m too lazy to try this one.

And for those who didn’t recognize the title, Geaux Saints!

6 thoughts on “Who Dat?!

  1. Nice tie together. I am in the Saints corner this weekend, but more just because it would be cool. I am bored of Peyton anyway.

    Great explanations – As my Japanese improves (mostly by ear these days than by design) I wonder about some of the little quirks I engage in. You have been pointing out many recently that I second guess myself about – awesome and thanks!

    That said, I will continue to second guess because sometimes (er, often) I am just outright wrong or weird, but posts like this help me clear up a few things.

    I am pretty sure the Footlong issue applies in most metric countries? I would be very surprised if in NZ the footlong I ate this morning was anything but 30cms.

  2. What about something like the English “Just wondering who it was…”? That’s not a complete sentence either (no subject or main verb), but I’m pretty sure I’ve said that before and that it would pass muster as native if not textbook English.

    I use this construction in Japanese fairly regularly, but I have to admit that as often as not it’s to mask the fact that I’m not entirely sure which verb form to use in what would otherwise be the second half of the sentence!

  3. Nice post. I’m definitely with Julia in that I often leave my sentences hanging, cause it’s a lot easier to let a Japanese dude’s brain do all the grammar-work for you.

    I also think it’s totally reasonable calling the hotdog a ‘footlong’ rather than a ‘thirtycentimeterlong’.

  4. soma36 – Yeah, it’s hard to realize your own quirks sometimes. At one of the CIR conferences for JET I was listening to a JET give a presentation in Japanese and I counted the number of times he said と思うんですけれども and it was off the charts – like 20-30 times in the presentation.

    Interesting about the footlong – seems like such as disconnect, although the “foot” is a pretty handy measuring tool regardless of whether it’s official or not.

    Julia – Like your translation! And I totally hear you. I think I use it because it sometimes lets you imply something that it would be embarrassing to say.

  5. Possibly – I guess 30cms seems natural to us because that is the size of our rulers at school – and we think of 30cms as being roughly a foot (knowing that that is wrong). Which leads me to ask – does the US have “footlong” rulers?

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