2014-04-21

MinikuLOVE

"MinikuLOVE" is a service that will hold on to your old-flame memorabilia for you so that you don't have to worry about your current flame stumbling upon it while you're in the shower. You can also pay an exorbitant fee to have a professional recording made of any love letters that might be in the box.

Is this real? Is anything? I don't even know any more.

Certainly the parent company is real. The whole thing seems to basically be a stunt to promote their API.

Here's the linguistic side. Mini and "love" are from English, of course. Kura is a very old Japanese word for a storehouse, which may have originally derived from a word meaning "place where things go/sit", as seen in old words like takakura "high seat", negura "sleeping place [for birds]", etc. The non-obvious part is that in Japanese "love" traditionally becomes rabu — so "MinikuLOVE" is actually just "Minikura" + bu.

2014-04-17

Accomplishment

Another one from Satō Issai 佐藤一斎's 19th-century Genshi shiroku 言志四録 ("Saying what I think: Four records"):

管絃在堂。聲聞四方。聞也。巖石倒谷。響徹大地。達也。
Musical instruments are in the hall; they can be heard in every direction. This is renown. A boulder falls into a valley; the reverberations shake the very earth. This is accomplishment.

Here Satō is referring to the distinction Confucius makes in Analect 12.20 between 聞 ("renown", or "notoriety" in Legge's translation linked above) and 達 ("accomplishment", or "distinction" in Legge). Anyone can draw attention to themselves. Not everyone has the kind of virtuous gravitas that attracts attention naturally.

2014-04-14

Appreciation

From Satō Issai 佐藤一斎's 19th-century Genshi shiroku 言志四録 ("Saying what I think: Four records"):

看月観清気也。不在円欠晴翳之間。花看花観生意也。存紅紫香臭之外。
One gazes at the moon to appreciate its purity, not its phase or visibility. One gazes at the flowers to appreciate their vitality, not their color or fragrance.

So, for those keeping score at home, not only are we to look at the moon, not the finger, we must also avoid paying too much attention to whether the moon is full, obscured by clouds, etc.

Or, put a bit less facetiously, Satō is directing us to look beyond outer forms. I do not think it is a coincidence, for example, that this item mentions the moon and flowers specifically — a dyad symbolizing nature as an object of elegant appreciation in the Sinosphere generally ("春江花月夜"), and the subject of Japan's two great "viewing" traditions, hanami and tsukimi.

(Note also that the early history of hanami involved appreciation of plum (ume) blossoms rather than sakura; the specific flower viewed is clearly not the point.)

Update: Should that translation actually be something like "... appreciate its purity, which is not found within its phase or visibility"?

2014-04-08

Naljja

There were a few news stories last week about North Korean drones (in South Korea), but I didn't notice the linguistic connection until now.

According to the Washington Post, for example:

South Korean officials suspect the drones were from North Korea because Korean-language letters on their batteries are written in North Korean style, [Defense Ministry spokesman] Kwon [Kihyeon] said.

Chosun Online reports:

坡州に墜落した無人機は、エンジンのバッテリーの裏にハングルで「起用日」「使用中止日」と書かれていることが分かった。「日」という文字は韓国とは異なる北朝鮮式の表記だった。

Roughly: "It was learned that the drone that crashed had "起用日" and "使用中止日" written on the batteries on its engine in Hangul. The character [corresponding to] "日" was written in the North Korean orthography, which differs from the South Korean."

An article from the JoongAng Ilbo further reports that "起用日" is not a word in use in South Korea at all, although they assume it means the day when the product began to be used.

The orthography in question was apparently "기용날자"; you can see a picture here. The South Korean way to write this would, I am given to understand, be "기용날짜". So the spelling is equivalent to nalja (North) or naljja (South), I guess. This seems to be a case of what Wikipedia calls Indication of tensed consonants after word endings that end with ㄹ, although that very heading appears to be a mistranslation: the Japanese version of that section clearly specifies word endings that include ㄹ, and notes that the two examples given are not exhaustive. In any case it appears to be a purely orthographic difference.

(Note: After figuring this out, I was able to search for "nalja" and "naljja" and found this article at the Kyunghyan Shinmun, which seems to back up what I pieced together. Whew.)

Any Koreanists in the audience want to correct and/or elaborate on this? For example, where did this difference come from in the first place — does it reflect regional variation or uneven evolution?

2014-04-03

Idekuri

Here's a mysterious entry from the Shinsen inu tsukuba shū 新選犬筑波集 ("Newly selected mongrel Tsukuba anthology"):

Tsuki omoshirokarikeru yoru kuriuchi nado iu waza asobikeru ni:
  Yama no ha ni/ tsuki wa ide kuri/ muku yo kana
Playing "chestnuts" on a night with a brilliant moon:
   At the mountain's edge/ the moon comes out - a night to peel/ boiled chestnuts

So, the point of this poem is the overlap between tsuki wa ide (moon comes out) and idekuri ("boiled chestnuts"). I could not figure out a way to recreate anything corresponding to this in my translation. Ide is from ideru, a variant of contemporary yuderu "boil" (compare /iku/ vs /yuku/) which appears in the Jesuit Vocabulario:

Ide, zzuru, eta. Cozer couſas de comer.
Ide, zzuru, eta. Cook things to eat.

The mysterious part is that no-one knows what kuriuchi, which I have translated "chestnuts" and which literally means "chestnut-hitting," actually was. It's mentioned in a few contemporary sources, so it seems to have been a thing (as the kids say), but no-one bothered to actually write down the rules. The Nihon kokugo daijiten points out that we do know what "walnuts" (kurumiuchi) was — basically marbles, except with walnuts — and hypothesizes that "chestnuts" was similar.

2014-03-31

Ochi ni

An entry from Makimura Shiyō's Ōsaka kotoba jiten that caught my eye:

Ochi ni (Noun) A corruption of ichi ni ["one, two"]. After the Russo-Japanese war, "Ochi Ni Pharmaceuticals" employed disabled soldiers as drug salesmen, sending them out in groups of three to five to promote their wares by speaking of their war experiences and accompany themselves on the accordion as they sang: "Ochi ni, ochi ni, Ochi Ni's medicine is effective against gallstones, heartburn, munesukashi, stiff shoulders pre- and post-partum..."

I'm not sure what munesukashi was — something to do with chests and emptiness?

Note that there is no systematic correspondence between /o/ and /i/ involved here; I assume that the ochi ni pronunciation was something that the soldiers picked up in training (and possibly exaggerated for theatrical effect afterward).