おかげで vs. せいで

After the last posts, I got an email from a friend reminding me that there was one more element of おかげ(さま)で that I needed to discuss before I could run it into the ground. Here’s the email:

E-mail from a colleague I’m in contact with made me think of your post recently. (Context: discussing her school closure due to SNOWMAGEDDON up in Seattle):


Sounds like she is have a pretty sweet snowcation. So, yes, おかげで has another usage, which is closer to the ので and で that I wrote about in the past – it’s explaining causality, in particular beneficial causality. Because of/“thanks to” the snow and the school closure, she’s been able to read and study French and do yoga and damn you for living in a cold climate! I want a snow day! In the sentence above, おかげで is used at the beginning of a sentence, but you could easily use it as a conjunction and mash the clauses together: 休校になったおかげで、久しぶりに読書した。

This is the way that I first learned おかげで, which is partially why I was confused when I heard it as an idiomatic greeting. I knew that someone was being thanked, and I may even have had a sense that the someone had been dropped (pronoun drop yo) and was an implied “you.” But “you” hadn’t done anything for me! So why was I supposed to be saying お陰様で元気です? Because that’s what they say. When used as an idiomatic greeting phrase, you don’t have to consider the “beneficial causality” as much.

There is an equal and opposite conjunction せいで which is used to explain negative causality. For example, 雪が降ったせいで、自動車事故が増えた。

Personally, I loved watching all the videos the last few days of Seattle drivers running into each other in the snow because that’s exactly what would happen in New Orleans. I, however, mastered snow driving in Fukushima. The best policy is just not to drive (as long as you have sufficient supplies of chocolate and beer).

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!

Cool Particle – で – Causality

My brothers came for a visit over the holidays, and we had a small 手巻き寿司 party in their honor. One of my roommates brought his genki new girlfriend, and she brought her own even genkier girlfriend who is extremely interested in conspiracy theories. I don’t know how the subject came up, but it turns out that Treyvaud, also in attendance, is a descendant of a freemason. When she learned this, genki girlfriend’s genkier girlfriend got really excited and proceeded to explain an elaborate conspiracy theory only to be distracted midway through by a particularly tasty-looking slice of maguro.

When she finished eating, Treyvaud prompted her to continue her story with a simple, little で? It was awesome – so simple but perfect for the situation and extremely effective. She then said, “で…” and then continued her story.

This is a great example of the two different roles of で – conjunction and implier of causality.

Today let’s look at how it implies causality. The most common examples are ので and それで。 They have essentially the same role, but ので works between two clauses in a single sentence whereas それで begins a new sentence. Observe:

I drank lots of beer, so I became tired.

In more natural English: I got tired because I drank a lot of beer. (It’s tempting to maintain Japanese sentence order when you first start translating, and I’ve produced some embarrassing examples myself, but I think it’s fine to flip stuff around BECAUSE ENGLISH IS A DIFFERENT LANGUAGE.)

A couple of usage notes:

– You may be familiar with から in a similar role. (ビールをいっぱい飲んだから、眠くなった。) They are very similar. The main difference, according to my Japanese teacher in college, is that ので is more polite than から and should be preferred when talking to people more えらい than your measly self.

– After verbs, all you need is ので, but after nouns you should use なので. For example: 月曜日なので、仕事に行かなくてはならない。 I’s Monday, so I gotta work.

– In spoken Japanese, ので often gets slurred to んで. Example: 明日するんで、心配するな。I got that shit covered tomorrow, yo, so just chill.

And the それで variety:

If you don’t use them, compensatory vacation days expire after three months. So I’m thinking of taking a half day off next Wednesday and going to see a movie.

In both cases, the で acts as a police officer blowing his whistle and pointing an accusatory arm to the left. This! This is why that stuff to the right is happening!

Let us speak of で’s conjunctive abilities next time.