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Let's talk holly. The standard translation (by Matsuzaki Isao 松崎功, about whom I know nothing) of Deck the halls starts out:

Hiiragi kazarou, fa ra ra etc.
Haregi ni kigaete, fa ra ra etc.
Karoru o utaou, fa ra ra etc.
Tanoshii kono toki, fa ra ra etc.

Let us decorate with [false] holly, fa la la etc.
Changing into our best clothes, fa la la etc.
Let us sing carols, fa la la etc.
[At] this jolly time, fa la la etc.

It's rearranged and simplified a bit, but you can see it's all there. But what's up with the holly?

Hiiragi is often pressed into service as a Japanese translation for "holly" (in the Christmassy sense), but in fact it's a different plant: Osmanthus heterophyllus, a.k.a. "false holly". Completely different order from actual holly.

As Wikipedia notes, the Old Japanese ancestor of hiiragi appears in the Kojiki. Etymologically it's supposed to be mimetic of the painful aftereffects of touching the plant (and therefore related to words like modern-day piri-piri, signifying among other things the mouthfeel of a spicy curry). The word also appears in the 10th-century Tosa Nikki:


In Flora Best Harris's translation:

1st Day, First Month.—New Year's day; but the ship still remains in the same place. Expecting to make use of the spicy flavor provided for our wine, it had been fastened on the roof of the cabin at nights, but the wind happening to rise, it was carried away, and lost in the sea. Besides, as this place is in the rural regions, we were not able to purchase potatoes, rice cakes, or edible seaweed; so that our only feast was soup made with the fish called "ai" dried and pressed; and with this as a relish we sipped our wine.

No doubt the ai, as he entered our lips, thought to himself:

"How luckless am I to be saluted by the lips of ancients like these!"

We on our part thought only of Kyoto with longings in which regret was mingled. "I wonder," we said to each other," how it is in Kyoto to day. Are the decorations of straw rope, the Nayoshi's head, holly, and the like displayed before the Imperial Gateway?"

As you can see, it isn't translated "holly," but rather — oh. Come on, Flora Best Harris, you had one job!

Merry Christmas, thanks for reading, and see you next year!


Makibito hitsuji o

I'm pretty much just gonna be doing carols from now until Christmas, you guys. Today: "Makibito hitsuji o", a.k.a. "The first noel".

Sidenote: There was a whole mini-flamewar at Wikipedia about whether to spell the last word of the English title "noel" or "nowell". I don't recall ever seeing the latter spelling before, but I guess that's the one used by the Church of England in their New English Hymnal. The first verse of the "standard" lyrics (translated by priest and Western music lover Tsugawa Shuichi 津川主一) is:

Makibito hitsuji o mamoreru sono yoi
Tae naru miuta wa ame yori hibikinu:
Yorokobi tataeyo, shu Iesu wa umarenu
That night when the shepherds were watching their sheep,
Marvelous song rang out from Heaven:
Rejoice and praise [Him], the Lord Jesus is born!

You can see a nice harmonized rendition here, with slightly different lyrics but basically the same setting.

As is traditional, Tsugawa has used archaic/literary forms — mamoreru, hibikinu — although the actual vocabulary is mostly still okay. (I dunno about makibito, but it's very clear from context and definitely-not-archaic words sharing morphemes like makiba, "ranch".)

What I noticed most about these lyrics is the use of tae naru. The standard spelling of this is 妙なる, which means that it's a native Japanese equivalent to the myo in Buddhist tradition (e.g. namu myōhō renge kyō 南無法蓮華経). In fact, tae naru/myō things appearing magically from the sky is not uncommon in Sino-Buddhist imagery. Like these examples from the Infinite Life Sutra (BDK translation, Inagaki/Stewart):

百千音樂 自然而作 無量華 紛紛而降

A hundred thousand kinds of music played spontaneously, and innumerable marvelous flowers fell in profusion from the sky.
其諸菩薩 僉然欣悦 於虚空中 共奏天樂 以微音 歌歎佛德

These bodhisattvas all rejoice together and, while poised in midair, play heavenly music and praise the virtues of the buddhas with hymns accompanied by wonderful sounds.

I think you could argue that Tsugawa's translation is just the latest in a long line of representations of divine apparitions broadcasting from the sky.


Kami/ame ni wa sakae

Today let's take a look at the Japanese versions of "Hark! the herald angels sing." This has been translated a few times; Wikisource has a convenient collection.

Before we get started, let's look at our base text for comparison: the standard contemporary version, by Charles Wesley, George Whitfield, and Martin Madan. (Sequentially — see Tim Phillips's summary of the history of the piece for more on this.)

Hark! the herald angels sing: "Glory to the new born King!
Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!"
Joyful, all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies;
With th' angelic host proclaim, "Christ is born in Bethlehem!"
Hark! the herald angels sing: "Glory to the new born King!"

So the first translation at Wikisource is from the 1891 Seikōkai sanbika 聖公会讃美歌 ("Hymns of the Anglican Church"). I've included a back-translation that's as close to word-for-word as seemed reasonable.

1891 Japanese translation of "Hark! the herald angels sing"

"Kami ni wa sakae, chi ni wa odayaka,
Yohito to kami to yawaragitari!" to
Mitsukaitachi no utaeru uta o
Hitobito kikite tomo ni yorokobi
Kyō aremaseru kimi o homu beshi

"Glory to God, peace on earth;
The people of the world and God are reconciled!":
Such is the song the angels [messengers] sing;
Let the people hear it, rejoice together
And praise the Lord who is born today.

Quite close to the original, especially that use of yawaragitari (about which I hope to post more sometime soon).

Next up we have a version from Sanbika 讃美歌 ("Hymns"), published in 1903 by the Christian Literature Society of Japan (教文館). I'm only going to give the first two lines from now on.

1903 Japanese translation of "Hark! the herald angels sing"

"Kami ni wa sakae, chi ni wa odayaka
Hito ni wa megumi are!" to utaeru...

"To God, glory; to earth, peace;
To people, mercy let there be!" they sing...

This one departs from Wesley's phrasing and goes straight to the source, i.e. Luke 2:14. In the most recent translation that would have been available at the time (the 1887 "Meiji Version" 明治元訳), the phrasing is very similar:

Luke 2:14, 1887 Meiji Version

天上(いとたかき)ところには栄光(えいくわう)神にあれ 地には平安(たいらか) 人には恩沢(めぐみ)あれ

Ito takaki tokoro ni wa eikō, kami ni are; chi ni wa tairaka, hito ni wa megumi are.

In the highest place, glory to God let there be; on earth, peace; towards people, mercy let there be.

My paraphrase is especially stilted to preserve the order; the KJV version is more familiar:

Or as the KVJ has it:

Luke 2:14, King James Version

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

However, as any fule (or Latinist) know, this is a mistranslation. The 1917 Taisho Revised Bible (大正改訳聖書) addresses this issue, and has the verse as follows:

Luke 2:14, 1917 Taisho Revised Bible Version


Ito takaki tokoro ni wa eikō, kami ni are; chi ni wa heiwa, kami no yorokobitamau hito ni are.

In the highest place, glory to God let there be; on earth, peace towards the people in whom God rejoices let there be.

Which is much more like, say, a more contemporary English translation of the verse:

Luke 2:14, New International Version

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.

Presumably as a result of this change, the Hymnal Committee (讃美歌委員会)'s 1931 Sanbika 讃美歌 ("Hymns") contains a suitably updated version of the hymn too, and that is the (a?) version that is still sung today:

1931 translation of "Hark! the herald angels sing"

"Ame ni wa sakae, mikami ni are ya;
Tsuchi ni wa yasuki, hito ni are ya!" to...

"In Heaven, glory to God let there be;
"On Earth, peace to people let there be!" ...

Note that the hymn translators carefully left out the "on whom his favor rests" part. Might have been purely metric, might have been political (minority religion, etc.), but I like to think it was because they just recognized that pedantically circumscribing the peace proclaimed by the angels would make for a sucky hymn.


Morobito kozorite

Christmas carols are the Jurassic Park of Japanese — an isolated environment in which long-extinct vocabulary was revived to roam free. Here's the Japanese equivalent to "Joy to the world," for example:

Morobito kozorite,
Utai matsure!
Hisashiku machinishi,
Shu wa kimaseri,
Shu wa kimaseri,
Shu wa, shu wa kimaseri!
Let everyone gather,
And welcome Him with song!
The long awaited
Lord is come,
Lord is come,
Lord is, Lord is come!

I think it's fair to say that morobito and kozoru are extinct. Shu is at best Christian jargon (I'm not sure if it's still used or not). There appears to be some confusion about whether utaimatsure means "welcome with song" or "humbly sing," (etymologically it all came from the same place) but either way, the imperative matsure is at least rare. Hisashiku is still in use, albeit a bit stiff. The verbs matsu and kuru are alive and kicking, but they are of course conjugated archaically, so that shu wa kimaseri, "The Lord is come," is notoriously opaque to the children who learn it.

There's another way in which this song is similar to a Jurassic Park dinosaur: it is not what it seems. Just as John Hammond's dinosaurs were partly reconstructed with frog DNA, "Morobito kozorite" is in truth not a translation of "Joy to the world" at all. It is a translation of "Hark the glad sound":

Hark, the glad sound! the Savior comes,
The Savior promised long;
Let every heart prepare a throne,
And every voice a song.

See? There's that long awaited, and textual evidence that _utai matsure is indeed supposed to be two separate verbs (sing + enthrone), not a verb and an auxiliary (sing + [+humble]).

Note that there is a Japanese translation of "Joy to the world" that is actually a translation of "Joy to the world". Actually, there are a few; here's one:

Tami mina yorokobe,
Shu wa kimaseri!
Kokoro o sonaete,
Iza mukaeyo,
Iza mukaeyo,
Iza, iza mukaeyo!
Let all people rejoice,
The Lord is come!
Offering your hearts,
Welcome ye Him,
Welcome ye Him,
Welcome, welcome ye Him!

No heaven or nature singing, but clearly much closer to the "Joy to the world" we know and love (seriously, it's the single most beloved carol).

How did this situation arise? Wikipedia has the whole story, but in a nutshell, these translations were made back in the olden days when corporate media hadn't rendered the connections between words and tunes quite so rigid. The first version of "Tami mina yorokobe" was presented set to the tune "Winchester Old", while the words set to "Antioch" (the "Joy to the world" tune) were those of "Morobito kozorite". "Tami mina yorokobe" did have a note, it seems, saying that it could also be sung to "Antioch," but I guess the damage was done.

Incidentally, there's another version where the second line is Mukaematsure! which is, I think, meant as verb + auxiliary (welcome + [+humble]). Perhaps that's muddying the water around utai matsure comes from.


Cheap books and onomatopoeia

First, a public service announcement: everything in stock at University of Hawai‘i Press's online store is 40% off for December 2 only. (Hawai‘i Standard Time, natch.) Angela Yiu-edited book of freaky Japanese modernist fiction, 1911-1932? 40% off! W. Puck Brecher-penned meditation on eccentricity and madness in early modern Japan? 40% off! Newish Heisig book? 40% off! Intriguing-sounding new book on Ainu issues, scheduled for release in "November 2013"? Forty per-- uh, I mean, not available yet. Stupid island time. (If it goes on sale later in the day, someone send me an e-mail.)

Second, apologies for the poor photo, but at an Odakyu train station the other day I noticed this example of the Japanese mimetic principle that [+voiced] entails [+galoot]:

[Making] gatan-goton [into] katan-koton.

Gatan-goton is the standard Japanese onomatopoeia for a train in motion. Katan-koton implies a quieter, less overbearing version of the same sound. "From clatter to patter," maybe.