Flatter, toady

These past few days have pressed me, a little, for time, so here are two newspaper cartoons from Meiji 10 (1877). The cartoonist is HONDA Kinkichirō 本多錦吉郎 and the original place of publication was the Marumaru chinbun 團團珍聞, one of the Meiji era's great satirical newsmagazines — but I saw it in SHIMIZU Isao 清水勲 and YUMOTO Kōichi 湯本豪一's 1989 collection, Meiji man'yōshū (明治漫葉集, "Myriad Meiji mirth").

First up, we have the "Gekkyū-tori" 月給鳥, "monthly-salary bird":

This is a pun on 月給取り, "receiving a monthly salary." At the time, to mock such people was, it seems, the done thing. Who knows? We might get down to that point again eventually.

The caption here (I'm not sure if it was Honda's original or rewritten by Shimizu and Yumoto) is: "Gathers in Western-style buildings, sleeps with mistress-bird by night. Its call is 'Money, money'" (洋館作りに集まり、夜は妾鳥を抱く。鳴き声はマネー、マネー). Outward indications of Westernization were irresistible targets for post-Perry Japanese satirists, who saw quite clearly the vanity and hypocrisy (both imported and native) that no top hat or monocle could conceal.

Next up, the "Ganari-ya" 我鳴屋, "braggart", a pun on kanariya, "canary":

Caption sez:

Some cry 'Discontent, discontent; rights of the people, rights of the people," while some, of the subspecies Preeneria, are kept in newsrooms and cry 'Flatter, toady' (不平、不平、民権、民権と鳴くものや、亜種の物知り気鳥の中に新聞社にかわれてオベッカ、ベンチャラと鳴くものもある)

Note that this guy is wearing Japanese clothes. He may be an asshole, but he's our asshole.

(Note: Preenaria in the above corresponds to monoshiri-kidori in the original, which literally translates to "person who pretends to know a lot" plus a pun on "bird" (tori).)

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不平:"Discontent"? or "Inequality?" (If we're talking 民権 in the next breath.)


I thought maybe so, but then I thought maybe the "complaining" nuance was more important. I guess I jumped wrong...


Also now that I think of it maybe "Boor" or "Loudmouth" would be better than "Braggart" too...


If you ever get a chance to watch Hiroshi Shimizu's <I>Arigatau-san</i>, a specimen of salarybird is relentlessly mocked throughout the film. The moustache, especially, brought out his unfilial and unfamilial snobbishness.


Of all the difficulties there are in translation, I think puns have to be just about the hardest. I think it's really amazing how you are able to both grasp all the double-meanings of the puns themselves, but also come up with an English equivalent that captures the spirit of the original pun.


Well, except when I just explain them, like most of the cases above... but yeah, puns are very rewarding! If you like puns

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