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Thursday, January 1, 2009

謹賀新年

きんがしんねん, kinga shinnen, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

Seeing as how I am the Daily Yo-Ji's one and only "Toshi Otoko" for 2009 (and, before any of you say it, no, I am not 36 or 48. Or 60, dammit!), I hereby take it upon myself to write the 1st Yo-ji of the new year.


As 2008 draws to a close (when this goes up, I, on the East Coast of the US will still be in last year, although those of you in Japan will already be in the future), I think I speak for my compatriots here at the Daily Yoji in expressing my deepest gratitude to you, the reader, for helping us get through the year. In our first full year, we saw a number of changes (hopefully for the better!) including the addition of Brett and myself to the "writing" staff, and the addition of the 2-kyuu grammar and Japanese Language Trivia features. (I know that I, personally, am looking forward to seeing Jeff and Brett continue with the 1-kyu grammar...)

I also want to let you all know that I have firmly resolved (kind of) that, in the new year, I will write oodles more entries for the Daily Yo-ji, hopefully with a more legitimate motif than "things that could possibly be said about Nirav" or "things that Nirav wishes people would say about him." With luck, 2009 will see us solidify our title of foremost Yo-ji Jukugo Site in English (not actually a title we got from anyone, but one that I'm going to go ahead and award to us, anyway).

Which brings us to today's (quite relevant, I might add) yo-ji, 謹賀新年.

The most common place that you will see this yo-ji is on what are known as 年賀状 (ねんがじょう - see the example at left), which translates roughly into "New Year's Greetings Cards." In Japan, Nengajo is serious business, and, as I understand it, all families send out their own to just about everyone they know, but especially those close to them and those with which they had some kind of contact in the previous year (I got ones from co-workers, people whose organizations I had visited, friends, and even the shop where I had bought my motorcycle). I remember visiting my former host-parents in Kyoto for New Year's in 2007, and Nengajo were arriving by the hundreds in the last days of the year, with even a few stragglers after the year had officially begun. They are very proper people, so they might be the exception in terms of number, but most households both send and receive a number of cards every year. Some people buy pre-printed ones, but many people make their own (any stationary store in Japan will have a little "Nengajo Corner" full of stamps, blank sheets, and everything you need to make your own original cards). Japanese people often compare the Anglo-American custom (which, I assume despite having no knowledge, also applies in other Anglophone countries) of sending Christmas cards, and the comparison is valid to a point, although 1) I don't know of many people who make their own cards and 2) Nengajo are sent regardless of religion (although my decidedly non-Christian family sends Christmas cards of one sort or another every year...).

The first kanji of this phrase is 謹. This character can also be read つつしむ, which means roughly "to control oneself" or "abstain." For our purposes, it will be most useful to get out of this a sense of restraint borne of humility - because it is in the phrase mostly to show one's deference to the reader/listener, and make it humble language. 賀 is an interesting character that means "greetings" or "blessings," or even something like "good luck." Brett, Jeff, and I all know it from the place name 佐賀、which is where we all met (although in that case it is most likely just an 当て字, and the meaning itself isn't really relevant beyond its auspiciousness). Put 謹 and 賀 together, and you get "My humble wishes..." This thought is conveniently finished as "...for the new year!" by 新年. 新 is rather easily "new," and 年 is quite obviously "year," and there you have it, a greeting for the new year.

Definition:

年明けの挨拶

Translation:

1) Happy New Year!
2) Best wishes for the new year!

Example Sentence(This is going to be a cop out)
お正月の郵便箱からは、謹賀新年の字で飾った年賀状があふれ出した。
On New Year's Day, the mailbox was overflowing with cards wishing "Happy New Year!"

2 comments:

Broan said...

Hey Yo-ji guys.

I asked how to use this on Lang-8.com to some native speakers, and they explained that it is a written expression, not a spoken one.

I didn't notice reading this on the blog, but perhaps I missed it.

Thanks for an awesome blog, haven't commented on it before, but have read quite a bit.

Nirav said...

Broan,

Thanks for the comment. You are absolutely correct; it is a written-only word (I should have been more clear about that when I was discussing nengajou). Even the example sentence really is something of a cop out, due to the fact that you really only see 謹賀新年 used in very specific written contexts and not as a common word.

May your 2009 be yoji-tastic!