Monday, August 25, 2008
1. You are a sad, sorry lot.
2. You should supplement your study, with the books we reccommended, or with any other books or websites. Try searching 2 kyuu grammar at Hopeless Romantic (in the links box). He posted them all while he was studying.
Also, I'm leaving on that hitchhiking trip I mentioned starting tomorrow. I'd love to do a Daily Yoji Travelogue, but as my internet access will be spotty, well... I'll do my best to get up some pictures, some vocab, and some trivia, sharing what I learn on the road, but I can't promise you any more than three posts from me over the next few weeks.
Brett, on the other hand, MIGHT start doing grammar on both Tuesdays and Thursdays, and he'll do his best to cover the Yoji business until I get back to America.
As always, thanks for reading!
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
All of my 送別会s are taking their toll, and when you add to that all the favorite restaurants and bars I just HAVE to hit one last time (before I leave for three months), I've been drinking almost EVERY night.
And that's how I picked up these two phrases.
Hair of the dog.
無理強い is kind of the opposite of an extremely common phrase that you'll hear Japanese people say a lot, to be polite, "無理しないでください." Since 無理 means "the impossible," or "the unreasonable," 無理しないで is "Don't try to do more than you can, or more than is comfortable for you." People will say this to each other at meals ("Don't feel like you need to eat EVERYTHING,") or at work, ("Don't overwork yourself"). It's a really useful phrase to know.
無理強い is something that you do not want to be on the opposite end of. It's when people who don't have the tact to say 無理しないでください, insist that you join in the fun, whether it be drinking, karaoke-ing, or smoking marijuana which, to be fair, IS what all the cool kids are doing. As you'll notice, it can have harder meanings (extortion?), but if you use it in the right context, like being hung over, drunk, or a few kilos overweight 無理強いされた, will translate as "I was pressured into it."
迎え酒, on the other hand, is just plain old "hair of the dog." For those of you who aren't native English speakers, or who don't know this expression, "Hair of the dog" is alcohol that you drink when you are hungover. Drinking a beer the morning after drinking ten beers, is supposed to make you feel better. 迎える is to greet, meet, or welcome, so 迎え酒 is pretty easy to understand. It's the sake that comes to pick you up.
Why "Hair of the dog?" Brett looked this one up, and found out that it comes from an old expression/superstition: "The hair of the dog that bit you," was held to help heal dog bites. If you were bitten by a dog, if you could retrieve some of that dog's hair, and put it in the wound, not only would you heal faster, but it was also supposed to prevent infection or disease, like rabies.
I personally prefer this method of dealing with dog bites.
Nothing, that is, except talk about summer vacation in 5 grammar points.
91) ～としたら ・ ～とすれば
In the case that ~,
This is one you'll hear quite a bit in normal speech, and it's not surprising why. The text even lists this point alongside old fallbacks like "なら、ば、と、and もし～たら" without any points on what separates it from them. The one usage point - it is tacked between clauses after sentences using dictionary form, or な adjectives + noun + だ. Piece of cake.
92) ～として ・ ～としたは
When it comes to ~,
Again, pretty self-explanatory, with the only condition that you can only use this after a noun.
Even in the case that ~,
Even if ~,
Again, an easy one that harks back to the days of 3級. The usage here is the same as any "~っても" construction.
Together with ~,
Along with ~,
In time with ~,
This one is a little trickier than the other ones this week. The first time I was introduced to it was the song 島唄, where you go to cross the sea 鳥とともに on the 島唄の風. Just remember that it might mean together with, but it's for intangibles, and if one thing changes, the other will, too. If you're going somewhere with a friend, then use more standard grammar. However, if you're planning an amazing cross-Japan trip in Spring where you'll ride motorcycles from Kyushu north "in time with" the 桜全線, then とともに is your best friend.
~when you don't have...
~ unless you do...
This one goes like this: Without A, you can't do B. You attach ないことには to a verb, adjective, or noun and it becomes something that is necessary to the second clause. My book example lists "Without knowing the address, there's no way to contact so-and-so, でしょう?"
Thursday, August 14, 2008
natsu kaze wa baka ga hiku
Short and sweet post today. Know anybody with a cold or do you have one yourself?
I got a little bit sick and started to hear this one from close friends. Make sure you use it with people who know that you're only teasing, because here's what it means:
Literal - Idiots catch cold in the summer
1. Only a fool...
On a short cultural note, I thought I'd bring up a point that I will argue endlessly with Japanese people. I'm curious to know what all y'all think.
How much of a factor does temperature play in catching a cold?
Are you more likely to catch cold if the air conditioner is on?
Do you believe it's possible to get sick BECAUSE of air conditioning?
I always believed that colds are caused by germs, and nothing else. While cold temperatures might lower your body's resistance and make it easier to catch a cold, I refuse to believe that you're going to get sick just because the air conditioner is running. I can also understand that Japanese air conditioning systems dry the air out, which can cause your lungs, throat, and nasal cavity to get all 風邪気味.
However, the Japanese belief that air conditioning is a direct cause of sickness is a little bit too close to the Korean belief in fan death...
What do you think?
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Brett sent this one off to a friend of his on a list of kanji that might make a good tattoo, and I have to applaud his judgment. As far as elemental power goes, this is about as awesome as it gets.
1. As fast as the wind, as quiet as the forest, as daring as fire, and as immovable as the mountains
This is a phrase that gets used a lot in conjunction with samurai and battles, as it expresses the versatility to be able to respond appropriately to any situation or opportunity. It can also be used to refer to your business or your personal life as well. It's another one of those that's an abstract concept that works best on its own as a proverb, but if you want to work it into a sentence it often takes 心構え, just like 悪木盗泉.
In business too, you need a heart that's ready to be as fast as the wind, as quiet as the forest, as daring as fire, and as immovable as the mountains.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
it seems like ~
I heard/read that ~
When I first saw this phrase, I thought "oh man, I know the hell out of 「とか」, this'll be cake". Little did I know there's another usage beyond the "...and such" tag "とか" conveys for lists. Still, this one is pretty straight forward. It's a lot like "そうだ", and is best used in situations where you're talking about something you learned or observed third-hand.
Ex. 僕の日本人の友達とアメリカについてはなすたびに、かれらは「アメリカはとても危険な国だとか」と言っている。 やばいところもあるんだが、俺にとって困ったこと無し。
87) ～どころか (1)
~ is definitely not the case, but rather ~
~ is not true at all, it's ~
This is a fun little grammar point when you want to stress that something is completely contrary to a certain belief. It also asks no modification, and can be stuck between two clauses with very little effort.
88) ～どころか (2)
Of course ~, but even ~ is okay/not okay.
This one took me awhile to translate, partially because I looked at it from the wrong angle at first. I'll let the book's definition speak for itself as a disclaimer
So the idea is that of course 'A' condition is/isn't met, but 'B' condition is/isn't met, either/too. An example might help better than my ranting...
89) ～どころではない ・ ～どころではなく
~is DEFINITELY not the case
This one is simple - a more powerful assertion that something is not true. Think number 87 on speed.
90) ～ところに ・ ～ところへ ・ ～ところを
RIGHT as ~ happens, ...
just as ~, ...
Another pretty straight-forward grammar point, which means exactly what it appears to mean. My only glitch here is when to use に、へ、or を... but I'm afraid that's a question for a different grammar point.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Check the comments section for corrections from blue, a native speaker and friend of the Yoji.
Monday, August 11, 2008
This saying is not one that's very easy to fit into a framing sentence, but it's excellent to use as a stand alone proverb or expression. It works as a warning or an admonition to people who are considering doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons, but it works even better when those people are considering doing the wrong things for the right reasons.
1. The righteous never stray from the path
2. The ends don't justify the means
The kanji read as follows: bad tree steal spring (spring as in water, not the season) and when I read it I thought maybe it meant that "The bad tree steals the water from the spring," implying some kind of inverse lesson about how we should strive to not be like the "bad tree," but as I've learned the hard way, these kinds of speculative inferences about why something means what it does in Japanese are RARELY accurate. A little bit of web-research yielded the true origins.
This site, despite being one big visual headache, actual contains quite a bit of useful information about Japanese expressions. In fact, it might contain all of it. It says, if you can track down the section on 悪木盗泉, that it's a warning. No matter how hot it is, one should never sit in the shade of the bad trees; No matter how thirsty you are, there is no cause to drink from the stolen spring. It seems more poetic that way, doesn't it?
There are even some other similar expressions that make use of the bad tree imagery: 「熱しても悪木の陰に休まず」 or just ｢悪僕之陰」will do the trick.
I guess, conceptually, we have some similar sayings in English. "The road to hell is paved with good intentions," springs to mind. And with the Japanese cultural emphasis on ideas of karma (因果応報), you can imagine how an evil deed performed by a good man might negate his goodness, or how a noble deed accomplished by immoral means can't really be counted as a noble deed.
I've found some other examples of uses of 悪木盗泉 that prescribe a がんばって、ガマンして code of living, like on this site, SomeGirls_blog, run by a guy who seems to be very 男ポイ. He seems to be lamenting a female friends impending divorce (or horrible marriage), but here's what he says the 悪木盗泉の心構え male is responsible for:
男なら、どんなにプレッシャーが掛かっても前に進まないとね。Sounds a bit like a martyr-complex to me. I wonder what a woman's work consists of?
A man must press on, no matter how much pressure he is subjected to.
A man must work to make the people in his life happy, no matter what difficulties this may entail.
A man must be strict and relentless in his own discipline so that he never makes any missteps, never strays from the path.
A man is responsible for himself, and even if he is all alone, he must make sure that all of his actions are just.
The company president is up to some shady dealings, and even if it means my neck, I'm gonna keep on the righteous path and go public with it.
Friday, August 8, 2008
ga ryou tensei
A while ago, I read the English translation of a book called「 蛇にピアス」 ("Snakes with Piercings," or "Pierced Snakes" might have been a better title than Snakes and Earrings, which it was published as). It's about a young girl who gets involved with some guys who are into body modification and sado-masochism and possibly murder? I didn't think it was anything really special, but it looks like it's sensationalist enough to warrant a movie! You can check out the trailer at the bottom of this post.
Anyway, I mention it because the main character gets a mural tattoo on her back of a Kirin, the mythical Japanese (er... Chinese) beast most famous in the west for being a brand of beer.
I can't remember if she specifies it, or the tattoo artist advises it, but she ends up deciding not to have the Kirin's pupils drawn in. This is because of an ancient Japanese (er... Chinese) legend, which also gives us today's yoji, which means something along the lines of "Adding the eyes on the painted dragon."
1. The finishing touches.
2. The final strokes.
Look at our English equivalents. We use the painting metaphor, or the work of art metaphor to talk about finishing anything from a project at work, to an essay, to a meal, but why does the Japanese version specifically name a dragon? And honestly, if you were going to draw a dragon, or any animal-like thing, would you really draw the eyes last? Here's the legend that answers these's questions for you:
This is not the only incident in Japanese culture where the painting of the eyes garners significance though. Do you know about the still practiced tradition of painting eyes on Daruma?
梁に”張僧ヨウ”という名画家がいました。あるとき彼は、 金陵（現在の南京）の安楽寺の壁に竜を描くことを頼まれ、４匹の白い竜の図を描きました。その竜は、今にも壁を突き破って天にも昇りそうな勢いがあり、 見る人すべて息を飲みましたが、不思議なことに、瞳が描き入れられていませんでした。
不思議に思った人々が彼に理由を尋ねると、彼は、「もし瞳を入れたら、竜が天に飛んでいってしまうからだよ。」と言いました。 しかし、人々は信じることができずに、是非、瞳を描き入れるように彼に求めました。そこで仕方なく彼が４匹のうち２匹に瞳を入れると、たちまち稲妻が走って、壁が壊れ、２匹の竜は雲に乗って天に飛び去ってしまったのです。 あとには瞳を入れなかった２匹の竜だけが残ったそうです。
Somewhat perplexed, the people asked Yo for the reason he had not done so, and he answered simply "If I were to give them pupils, they'd take off into the sky and be gone." But of course, the people couldn't believe this, and demanded that he complete the mural by painting the eyes, without fail.
Having no recourse, Yo began to comply. He painted the eyes on the first dragon, and was putting the finishing touches on the second when all at once a bolt of lighting struck, shattering a portion of the wall, freeing the two completed dragons who hopped onto the nearest cloud and rode it away into the sky. After that, it seemed like a good idea after all to leave the remaining two white dragons without any eyes.
They even have Darumas that you can buy in toy vending machines, along with a sticker set to use for the eyes, like a cheaper, spiritual version of a Mister Potato Head.
Last note, but it's important to talk about the usage of 画竜点睛. While it can be used to refer to simply the fact that something is finally done (the all important Google image search reveals that it's used for things like business openings, building projects, those models of anime characters that hobbyists assemble themselves, or in mischevious references to a particular practice of omission common in manga: NSFW), it's mostly used like this:
画竜点睛を欠く, which means "lacking some final important detail without which, all the other work is useless."
Let's keep our example sentence in China as well.
I worked as hard as I could on this, but because I didn't check my translation with someone who can speak English, this translated sign is worthless due to my inability to finish it off properly.
Here's that trailer I promised you.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
はこ いり むすめ
hako iri musume
This term is used a lot for only-daughters, and where we might translate it as "daddy's little princess," or merely "over-protected" or "sheltered" it literally means "the daughter who gets put in a box."
You can use this in a friendly manner to tease a girl who's an only child, or if you are "daddy's little girl," you can refer to yourself as such. I'm gonna try it out next time I hang out with my girlfriend's family, because whenever I see them we always end up having a long 感動する conversation about how great and special she is.
Side note: I wonder if you can mix-and-match this phrase with 玉手箱 (たまてばこ; tamatebako) or 宝箱 (たからばこ;takarabako), which both mean, treasured box or treasure chest? A 宝物 (treasured item) goes in a 宝箱, so would a 宝箱入り娘 make sense? I'd worry about the fact that 玉手箱 has other connotations. Pandora's box is called a 玉手箱, as is the box that contains Urashima Taro's lost years... This one might be better confined to the pages of Jokes that Japanese People Might Not Get.
tonari no shiba ga aoku mieru
I'm officially out of my old house (no more moving gripes mixed in with the yojis) and crashing at Brett's apartment for a few weeks. I can't promise that this means I'll be more productive because, as I've realized, my ability to write the yoji with regularity was largely related to the fact that I had a job, or, that is to say, on the the fact that I was obligated to sit at a desk for long periods of empty, empty time. Now that I'm out, even when I'm not busy, I have a million other things that I can do. Walk around Saga Castle, play Smash Brothers, go swimming, boost my ego by walking through crowds of JK at Youme Town (a mall chain in Japan) and draw pitying looks from my girlfriend, who knows exactly how NOT カッコいい I am.
Sounds nice, right? But then, I'm not getting as much studying done as I used to. Maybe I was better off working at Kawa Chuu after all?
Just kidding. I just wanted a way to segue into today's ことわざ.
Literal - The neighbor's lawn looks bluer (greener).
1. The grass is always greener on the other side.
Good one to know, as apparently, it expresses a universal tenet, true of humanity no matter where you go.
Also good to know that even though 緑 (みどり; midori) means green in Japanese, in a lot of instances (traffic lights and newbies for example) are referred to as 青い (あおい；aoi), blue. This is not because of a different concept of color categorization, but actually because of a linguistic phenomenon common in a number of languages that aren't English, one that has no real bearing on today's post but is fascinating, so I will link it here: grue.
Again, in the spirit of trying to be nice to you guys, this expression is used commonly and will be instantly recognized, requiring no long-winded explanation on your part (which, I usually screw up so badly that any hopes of being perceived as knowledgeable in the ways of 日本語 go right out the window).
Lemme know if you find any situations to try it out in!
Thinking back on my old college days... man, that was fun. Partying all the time, hitting on all the girls in sight, and no matter how much I drank, I NEVER seemed to get hungover. Comparing that to my life as a working man... I can't help but think how much better it was then.
But if you remember it realistically, it was pretty rough! Eating instant ramen every day, having no money at all, if you didn't borrow a cigarette you couldn't smoke, and your mom was on your case about money like twice a week! It was terrible! Isn't your comfortable life now better than that? Sounds like a case of "The grass is always greener..." to me.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Or maybe it's just that today's grammar points happen to be easy ones.
Either way, we're gonna breeze through them so I can get back to moving.
~ is. DEFINITIVELY.
I remember a conversation I had when I first got here: someone kept talking about their friend's こと. It was ｢友達のこと」 this and ｢友達のこと」 that, and I had NO IDEA what a こと was. I was like "Who is this friend, and what are they doing with this こと thing?" 「こと」のことが分からなかった。In reality こと just means "the thing about..." and is just used to highlight the concept you're talking about. 「彼のこと」 is "the thing about him." Or even simpler, ｢彼のことが好き」 is "I like him." こと just draws a neat little box around the idea of "him" and doing this is EXTREMELY common in Japanese.
～というものだ works kind of the same way, except that you use it in situations to express your own very strong opinion (often oppositional) about what is the DEFINING characteristic of whatever you're talking about. For example, this is what my girlfriend's dad had to say when he found out that I do the bulk of the cooking:
He was joking... kind of.
82) ～というものではない ・ ～というものでもない
~ is NOT (necessarily/always) the case.
Kind of like the opposite of the above, but used in the same way that you can use わけではない. Also used to stress a strong (often oppositional opinion). You could tell a rich dude, 「Settling every problem with money というものではない. 」
We often talk about differing attitudes about 飲み放題 (all you can drink) bars or restaurants. Americans might say you pay your money, then try to drink as much as you can to maximize your value. Japanese people might say:
~ rather than
Used, again to express a sense of disagreement, though not necessarily as strong as the preceeding two.
~ even though
This one, instead of being just another annoying incarnation of "but," gives you a way to introduce facts that conflict with other facts.
Isn't that dude a Republican?
Yeah, but even though he's a Republican, he hates the Bush administration.
(This example reminds of something I always want to try (see below), but in Japanese. The problem is that the person I was talking to would probably just be like, "Yup, just as I suspected.)
85) ～とおり（に） ・ ～どおり（に）
~ just as
~ exactly like
You'll hear this one a lot or read it in the 字幕 at movies as 「そのとおり」translates as "Exactly."
The trick with this one is that you can only use it to compare reality with a prediction or expression of that reality. Follow? You can't say "Your cat looks just like my childhood cat" using とおり. You can only say things like: This movie is just as bad as the review. It rained, exactly like the forecast said it was. When someone says, "You think Japanese is hard, huh?" you can say ｢そのとおり」 because what they've guessed about you is exactly true (if it happens to be true, that is).
Monday, August 4, 2008
But you'll be happy to know that studying pays off. Today I've got two new conversation friendly yoji for you. No insane levels of obscurity today. While we usually present yoji together if they have some meaning or characters in common, today I'm giving you two that I learned simultaneously.
The first is something I am actively involved with, and the second... well, let's take a look.
2. Singing one's own praises/ tooting one's own horn.
3. Self admiration.
1. Two hearts beating as one.
2. Working/Being together as though inhabiting one body
3. United, body and soul.
The kanji for 一心同体 are basic enough, (one heart, same body) but it marks a milestone for me. Remember how excited I got the first time I was able to guess the meaning of a yoji just by looking at it?
This time, when I heard this one for the first time, I was able to identify it as a yoji (yoji that begin with 一心 or 一身 are common), understand the meaning, and correctly guess all the kanji. All by myself! And that was how I learned 自画自賛... by bragging about it too much.
You can use 一心同体, as you might expect, in relation to love, but it's also applied in other senses as well. You can see how the idea of 一心同体 might resound powerfully in the Japanese consciousness. Try using it in some of the same contexts that you would use 一致団結.
自画自賛, on the other hand, goes well with 調子乗っている.
Last year our baseball team, working together as one, did their best and won Koshien. But this year, they're spending all their time singing their own praises; it looks like they're the only ones who think they're gonna repeat.
Friday, August 1, 2008
While one of the concerns of this blog is finding obscure yoji that will wow onlookers and require a bit of reading into Chinese history, we also realize that sometimes you just want the yoji without all the smoke and mirrors. In that situation, this is the yoji for you.
1. Cutting to the chase
2. To speak clearly and frankly
3. Get to the point
To 単刀直入, the origin of the phrase is revealed in the breakdown of the kanji. You just grab a single sword and charge the enemy, because really, what else is there to discuss?
One would do well to note that one should be careful when using it with superiors. That's not to say that you can't use it at all, but that when using it you have to deploy it with all the 敬語 trimmings if you don't want to seem like a disrespectful, ungrateful oaf. The best use, perhaps, is in preceding a plain-spoken point you're preparing to make to a friend that might come off as unnecessarily brusque otherwise. That can be useful in a second language since you're not always able to garnish dialogue with all the nuances you would otherwise employ, and throwing out a 単刀直入 can make that lack of filler seem more intentional, and thus AWESOME.
Since I'm honestly a little conflicted about lingering on about a phrase that expressly demands I do the opposite, it might be appropriate to arm you with the other side of this idea: 遠回し(toomawashi). The meaning of this one? You guessed it - beating around the bush, or approaching something in an indirect manner. The expression listed above is a little rough to fit into conversation, so try 遠回しに, as in 「遠回しに言うな、お前！」, or...
The vice principal is always speaking to me in this round-about way. It would be better if he could just get to the point.
See what I did there?