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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Japanese Language Trivia of the Day:

Hi everybody! It's Jeff, and it's been well over a month since the last time I made an appearance on The Daily Yo-ji, so, yeah... sorry?

I came back to Japan on December 1st, and spent 6 days on a strict regimen of Japanese study and yakitori consumption, and on December 7th, I sat the ******* in Fukuoka, which I have vowed not to talk about at all until I get the results in February.

Since then, I've been picking up some money doing Eikaiwas, I got a translating gig that hasn't actually sent me any work yet, and starting in January, I'll be stocking shelves for *******, which I vowed not to post on the internet, because I don't want to get kicked out of the country. At least not before March, when I've got a good shot of getting a legitimate, visa-fied teaching job again.

All of that, however, is NO excuse for not posting on the Yo-ji, because I've definitely had plenty of time. So today's language trivia are directly related to my recent failure to contribute.


上の空
うわ の そら
uwa no sora


 and



ぼうっとする
boutto suru

Both of these words can be defined as "spaced out," but as I've found, the first of the pair, 上の空 has more of a connotation of "inattentiveness." Rikai-chan will add "absent-mindedness," but I think that American English speakers think of that word as synonymous with "forgetful." Here it should be taken quite literally. Your mind is absent.

It's when everyone is talking about something, or there's something pressing that demands your attention, and suddenly the conversation gets directed your way, or the time comes to act, and you realize that you haven't been mentally present for the last five minutes. Or if you zone out during practice, and suddenly there's a football in your face-mask.

When using it in a sentence to explain why you dropped the ball, you might be inclined to try to add に and use it as a location, because it can be thought of as "the upper part of the sky," I'm not sure this is correct. Native speakers simply say 「上の空でした,」 which might stress more of the concept of blankness, or emptiness that 空 connotes.

The second piece of language trivia is, I think, one of those fun phrases, unique to Japanese like じっと見る or はっきり言う, where ぼうっと matters more for the sound of the word than for any unit of meaning it might contain. ぼうっとする is to just completely space out, and it's what I've been doing more often than I should. If somebody asks me what I did today, I (wouldn't but) could answer honestly, 「ぼうっとした。」

Other than ways to pass time, or states of existence, both of these are also passable ways to excuse yourself if you ever pull one of those non-native speaker stunts where you tune out when the conversation's not directed at you, and then suddenly someone brings you back in. Saying 「聞いていませんでした、」 SoftBank お兄さん style is a little abrupt, so saying 「すみません、上の空でした,」 would probably flash your Japanese skills and divert everyone's attention from your rudeness. 「すみません、ぼうっとしていた、」 means the same thing, but doesn't sound as nice.

As far as other usages go, if you wanted to say something sweet to a boyfriend or girlfriend, you could try saying something like this: 「仕事中だったのに」 or 「パーティで、皆と盛り上がるはずだったのに、上の空であなたの事を想い出した。」 "Even though I was at work," or "Even though I was surrounded by everyone (else) having a good time, I was miles away, lost in memories of you."
Choose your target wisely though. The line is remarkably similar to one of the lyrics of a popular Japanese song from the movie"Swallowtail Butterfly" by pop star Chara.



It's a great song, but I was amused to see that her pronunciation of 事 is off enough that an internet search for the lyrics reveals a number of people who have, jokingly or otherwise, posted 「あなたの肩を想い出した。」

1 comment:

Bamboo said...

I dunno, thinking of shoulder sure pulls my mind away from whatever it is I'm supposed to be doing at any given time!

...

Anyway, these are darn useful and I'm sure I'll take the foreign edge off of my speech, thanks!

Yesterday I was playing frisbee with some friends and since it was everyone's first day back after 冬休み we were messing up a great deal. So instead of using nice phrases like「すまん、上の空だった!」, we were screaming at each other to「集中して!」. I even had the opportunity to throw out a「集中してったやんけ!」. Good times, but next time I'll use the slightly more appropriate one I've learned today. ;)