October 30, 2010

In Japanese, White People Have No Experience

What? The post title sounds like what-ism? Wait, I haven't even talked about the black people part. Hello? Did you just hang up in the middle of my blog post? How do you even do that?

This time I am going to talk about something that was one of those things where I turned to the J girl I was dating and was like, I bet x is true about the Japanese language. And she was like what are you talking about. And then I looked it up and was all, yeah I was right! Kind of. For the dumb luck reasons. And then she's like, huh.

See there is this word, 素人 (shirouto) that means beginner, and this other word, 玄人 (kurouto) that means expert and they are antonyms. Know that the 人 in both of them means person. Based on their pronunciation*, I figured that they were at one time written as the much more intuitive 白人 and 黒人. Of course, if you can read simple Japanese you know that 白人 and 黒人 mean white person and black person respectively, and these days they refer to races. But back in the day they referred to beginners and experts.

From the sources I looked into, it's not clear how 白 (white) became 素 (foundation) (I had just figured it was to avoid confusion once white dudes started visiting Japan, but don't see any support for or against that). 素 could refer to the baseness of the beginner. The character for white used back in the day referred to a white-painted performer (I would hazard they mean geisha-like performers).

I also folk-etymologized myself into thinking that one gets a little dirty with experience. Nah, they just used the opposite kanji character than that of white.Gogen says that 玄 has "profoundly not plain" nuance, as opposed to 黒 (black). Even though Gogen wasn't sure about why they switched up the white kanji, it's cool with the reason for the black one.

白人 and 黒人 came along later, I guess, but it's amusing to this white boy to note that 白人 is still listed as being both a racial classification and a reference to beginners even to this day. Also, prostitutes. 黒人 is just a race. Or at least a skin color; I don't know if it implies geographical or anthropological concepts. Race is kinda silly and divisive concept anyways.

*: To summarize phonetic and kanji changes:
白人 shirohito -> 白人 shirauto -> 白人 shirouto -> 素人 shirouto
黒人 kurohito -> 玄人 kurouto

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Two Posts in a Month? Unheard of for This Blog (Etymology Post)

A short post this time. At least that's the plan. Never know when I am going to type up a bunch of stuff no one really cares about. Why just this morning I did a writeup of ways the Monster Manual monsters could be incorporated into Athasian cosmology. That is just one example of things I do all the time that-- hey, nice trick Claytonian, but we are getting to the meat of the post now! You sure? Yes I'm--D'oh! Stop that!

I was curious as to how 未曾有 (mizou, unprecedented) came about. So I looked it up on that Gogen site from the sidebar of this blog. Here's what I found. In the form of a breakdown, cause I love those.

未曾有 Breakdown
未 mi: heretofore
曾 zo: once
有 u: exist
gloss: not existing once before
origin: from the sanskrit adbhuta, via Chinese transcription, referring to the miracles and pious acts of the Bhudda. Towards the end of the Kamakura era of history, It became twisted to mean both good and bad unprecedented things.

I first noticed this word around the time former PM Aso Taro was mangling it. See, readings are hard sometimes for native speakers with elite educations too. I found an article about him and good breakdown for this word after typing the previous sentence. See, this post is not actually unprecidented at all. I leave you with a video of Asoisms:

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October 23, 2010

My Take on a Womb-a-Snatching Yoji

Did you ever watch a show and think, hey I've seen this plot before! Are all writers hacks these days or what? Well hack is an appropriate word as you will see when I dissect tonight's yoji in a macabre fashion just in time for halloween!

換骨奪胎 kannkotsudattai Breakdown:
換 kan: change
骨 kotsu: bones
奪 da(tsu): rob
胎 tai: womb (embryo)
gloss: adaptation of a previous creative work
part of speech: noun, suru verb

Change the bones, rob the womb? Yup. Make a frankensteinian monster and call it art! We only have so many ideas to go around anyways.

The recollection collection of a monk, one Eko of the Song dynasty, entitled 冷斎夜話 (reisaiyawa, Uncle Eko's Bathroom Reader of uh... Cold and Holy Trivia?) gave us this word's genesis about 1,000 years ago. It says,
Without changing the meaning, make that story. This is the bone-change way.

Using that meaning as your model, make a form. This is the steal-womb way.
[source] Well, thank goodness they spelled that out for us, or I wouldn't know what to steal and what to change.

Of course, examples of 換骨奪胎 are all around us. For instance, the American adaptation of Ringu may be considered one. A cool one I ran into recently is the GiantRobo remake, which in turn inspired The Big O (the ultimate 換骨奪胎 anime). Here's the intro:

If you are looking for more Halloween yoji, may I suggest the mountains of blood one. Also, I just added the Ancient Chinese Secrets tag to the blog. Check out those secrets to clean the blood out your clothes after you literally interpret this post.

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October 19, 2010

Bad Luck with the Ladies? Maybe You Should Consider Jewelry

I told you these old pic posts would fail to be daily. I took this pic with my cell in some magazine in a conbini. You need to click-zoom this one to see the guy's secret wrist magic, world-conquering laugh, and wonderful teeth.

Totally Awesome Product Literal Breakdown:
金も女も benjamins and hoes
自由になる will be freed up

次々と広がる one after another spreading out
幸運の good fortune's
連鎖爆発 chain of explosions
実現する realized
願望! dreams! 

巻き起こる swirling around
幸福の luck's
数々!! muchness!!

Yeah, I did it literally, but it still takes a lot of interpretation and the occasional making up of words to translate sales slogans.

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October 17, 2010

The Origins of Ika's Kanji (Exciting, But Keep Your Shirt on, Kids)

This vid (a vid not by me for once!) got me wondering about the kanji they use for ika, or squid, in Japan.

Thanks to the ol' Gogen, I found the information that I will provide in a breakdown.
烏賊 Breakdown!
烏 i= Crow
賊 ka=Enemy
Gloss: Squid
Why: An old Chinese legend claims that squid like to play possum on the surface of the water, hoping to lure in hungry black feathered carrion so that they can wrap them in in a tentaclely death grip. Thus the kanji for crow+enemy.

Now as to the verbal component of ika, nobody knows for sure, but some think it may have something to do with words like ikatsui (stern) or ikameshii (stern), or perhaps with word bits like i (expressing white)+ ka (expressing katai, or hard). All I know is ika wrestler is an awesome concept.

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October 14, 2010

The First of Many Daily Photos That Will Fail to Be Daily

Believe it or not, I haven't given up blogging. The pure exhastion that comes with teaching preschool (not English, but all subjects) has been keeping me down. But I have resolved to try and blog one picture each day at least. Because I have thousands. I'll just work my way up chronologically. Our first entry comes from a town in Nagasaki that borders my old haunt in south Saga-ken. I can't recall the town's name at the moment, but it had weird bus stands. Near the coast, they were all shaped like giant fruit, and in the mountains they had odd murals like the above one.  I can't explain what is happening. Do you know? In any case, this was kinda close to the random amusement park in the mountains with a herb theme and be-statued fountains that nobody but me ever visited. That's Japan for ya.

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October 9, 2010

All the Japanese You Need for a Visit

And don't worry, none of the tips I give in this video will make J peeps think you know Japanese and can be talked to in such a confusing tongue, due to the effect of the Foreigner Reality Displacement Field.

BTW, if you too want to own Cthulhuian tomes written in Japanese, I found one of them on Amazon.jp for 1 yen used:
YIG〈1〉—美凶神 (カッパ・ノベルス)

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