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Jun 7, 2020
This week’s theme
Words borrowed from Japanese

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AWADmail Issue 936

A Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Tidbits about Words and Language

Sponsor’s Message: Coronavirus got you down? Feeling cooped up? Going stir crazy? WISE UP! -- is the perfect cure for cabin fever -- it’s a Wicked/Smart Party Card Game that asks tons of devilishly difficult questions that’ll give you know-it-alls plenty of life lessons in humility, history, sports, science, literature, and geography. And wit. For example: Everyone knows the First and Second Amendments -- what’s the Third? Sleeping Beauty’s real name? How long is a furlong? But beware, there’s also a slew of “challenge” cards that chuck Darwinian physical and mental wrenches into the works, e.g., “Throw this card on the floor and pick it up without using your hands.” Just what the doctor ordered, especially for this week’s Email of the Week Winner, Karen Hostetle (see below), and hunkered-down brainiacs everywhere. WISE UP! NOW.

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the Net

Celebrate the Russian Language and Alexander Pushkin
The Moscow Times

The Linguistic Case for Sh*t Hitting the Fan

From: John Toomey (john.j.toomey gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--bokeh

Having lived 16 years in Japan and attended Sophia University, Japanese became my second language. Bokeh is indeed an interesting word with a few other meanings. One of the most interesting means “foggy-minded” or “out of one’s head”, as in:
aitsu ga bokete-iru! = That person’s mind is muddled!

John Toomey, Pathum Thani, Thailand

From: Peter Guthrie (guthriep csr.nih.gov)
Subject: Bokeh

Bokeh is also a very interesting (if somewhat disturbing) movie.

Peter Guthrie, Bethesda, Maryland

From: Walter Levy (wlevy comcast.net)
Subject: Bokeh

In the world of photography, the term bokeh has been in general use since around 1997. A more recent neologism is bokehlicious, a portmanteau of bokeh and delicious, indicating a highly desirable quality of bokeh. The term can be applied to a photograph with smooth, “creamy” out-of-focus areas, or to a lens that tends to produce such images.

Walter Levy, Pikesville, Maryland

From: Luke Smith (sidewaysluke gmail.com)
Subject: bo-keh

According to Michael Johnston, long one of the top writers on photographic techniques and photo history, when he first used the Japanese term for blur he meant the quality of blur. He pronounced it like the Japanese word: bo-keh, evenly accented. Of course, the Internet has bastardized both the pronunciation and the meaning. Your example photos cloud the issue -- both photos show bokeh, but in different degrees. The background bokeh long sought by traditional portrait photographers was soft and unobtrusive, while today’s trendy Instagrammers seem to think bright, hard-edged disks of light are desirable bokehs. Nope, that’s bonkers -- an unfortunate side-effect of using a telephone as a camera. And please don’t say bo-KAY, like it’s faux French. It’s still just Japanese.

Luke Smith, Atlanta, Georgia

We show a word’s spelling, meaning, and pronunciation as the word is used today in English. It’s an etymological fallacy to insist that a word be spelled, defined, or pronounced as it was originally. For the same reason the word quarantine today does not mean an isolation of exactly 40 days (from Italian quaranta forty).
-Anu Garg

From: Brett Matheson (mathesonbrett gmail.com)
Subject: Sensei

Not only is the term sensei used by the Japanese for teachers and martial arts masters, it is also their term for physician. I’ve always found this interesting that this same term is used for both. Doctors are teachers, in a sense, and are “masters” of knowledge about the physical body, so I guess it makes sense to address them as Sensei.

Brett Matheson, Colorado Springs, Colorado

The word doctor is, in fact, from Latin docere (to teach), which also gave us docent and document (literally, a piece of instruction).
-Anu Garg

From: M.M. Serpento (mmserpento earthlink.net)
Subject: Sayonara in a different “font”

I used to email this link when one of the law-lib listserv librarians retired. The image has always been one of my favorites. More here.

Kitty Hawk sayonara, 2008
Photo: Kyle Gahlau / US Navy

Mary Margaret Serpento, Farmington Hills, Michigan

From: Louise Hertz (louise.hertz26 gmail.com)
Subject: Sayonara

Then there’s the remark by Mike Flannagan, pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles, about winning the Cy Young Award: “Yeah, it’s Cy Young, then Cy Old, and then, Sayonara.”

Louise Hertz, Ithaca, New York

From: Paul G Ross (paul.g.ross.gszh statefarm.com)
Subject: sayonara

From Japanese sayonara (goodbye), short for sayo naraba (if it is to be that way)

Some of the literal translations of borrowed words are heart wrenching.

Luckily, their use in the native language differs from how it came to America to be used.

I guess the same could be said of English words travelling to other countries too.

Paul G Ross, Pembroke Pines, Florida

Email of the Week -- Brought to you by Wise Up! -- the family that plays together stays together.

From: Karen Hostetler Deyhle (karendgoa aol.com)
Subject: sayonara

We lived in Japan for six years. Though we studied in a language school, we picked up the finer points from our neighbors and community interactions. At first I incorrectly said “sayonara” every time I left my friends. They didn’t know English to correct me. I finally noticed that when they leave, they say “jah neh” which means “see you later” (or see you next time) whereas “sayonara” means “farewell until we meet again” which is more formal and suggests a lengthy separation.

Karen Hostetler Deyhle, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

From: Theodoros Natsinas (theonatsinas yahoo.gr)
Subject: Sayonara

The word sayonara entered the Greek vocabulary because of the film, but its meaning suffered a strange change. Sayonara in Greek σαγιονάρα is used for flip-flops. Originally it was restricted to flip-flops resembling the footwear used in Japan, but since then it has come to mean all types of flimsy, mainly plastic, slippers that can used both in and outside the home, but which are not sandals. Theodoros Natsinas, Aitolia kai Akarnania, Greece

The Greek Wikipedia page for the film Sayonara, translated via Google Translate, results in:
“The film Sandal is a dramatic film of 1957 ...”
Automated translation has made huge progress, but we still have a long way to go. Of course, we don’t make it easy for them, turning the title of a film in English, a word from Japanese that means goodbye, into a word in Greek that means flip-flops.
-Anu Garg

From: Glenda Torrence (ogtorrence gmail.com)
Subject: Origami

During a recent trip to New Mexico I discovered giant origami sculptures tucked into the desert scenery.

Giant origami sculpture, New Mexico
More here: Turquoise Trail Sculpture Garden and Studio.

Glenda Torrence, Austin, Texas

From: Autumn Zawadzki (autumn trinityfreeclinic.org)
Subject: origami

Thank you so much for this morning’s lovely video of the working V-8 engine -- absolutely fascinating. However, such a model is technically not origami, as origami does not traditionally involve cutting paper or adhesives. The engine is much closer to the realm of kirigami, though strictly speaking, I’m not sure it would be kirigami either. Either way, it was a fascinating and elegant bit of craftsmanship that was utterly delightful. Thanks so much for once again enriching my day.

Autumn Zawadzki, Indianapolis, Indiana

From: Carter Bancroft (carterb36 yahoo.com)
Subject: Origami

Another form of origami, DNA origami, was invented by Paul Rothemund in 2006.

Carter Bancroft, Huntington, New York

From: Glenn Glazer (gglazer ucla.edu)
Subject: Origami

Origami spawned an entire topic in mathematics called folding. A fairly accessible description is here.

Glenn Glazer, Felton, California

From: Michael Chirico (michaelchirico4 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--seppuku

Seppuku/harakiri is a great example of the beautiful interplay of Japanese- and Chinese-origin words in Japanese -- for historical similarities I liken it to German- and Latin-origin words in English (like house/domicile).

Seppuku = 切腹 uses the Chinese-derived pronunciations of the characters (aka the on-yomi = 音読み)
Harakiri = 腹切 uses the native Japanese words which were later assigned Chinese characters (aka the kun-yomi = 訓読み)

Note that despite sounding completely distinct, actually they share both characters (with swapped order).

Examples like this abound in Japanese, where the two readings (“Chinese”/Japanese) create two words, though wouldn’t say interchangeably -- often, the Chinese reading is the more “formal”.

Also, I was intrigued by “ultimately from Chinese” in the etymology of sayonara. I couldn’t find any authoritative sources, but it seems that’s not quite right. I was quite interested in this so I went ahead and asked “the experts” who came back with a well-cited response.

Mike Chirico, Singapore

Thanks for taking the time to share this. Talk about thorough research! We’ve now amended the origin on the website to place “from Chinese” part in the right place.
-Anu Garg

From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Subject: Seppuku

According to samurai tradition, living with shame is worse than death. Cio-Cio San (i.e., Madama Butterfly) is keenly aware of this in Puccini’s memorable opera. She uses the same sword for her harakiri as did her father who had been unable to provide for her, forcing Butterfly to become a geisha.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Jeremy Edwards (pazmundial gmail.com)
Subject: Japanese words I wish English would borrow

Hakujaku - weak or feeble (in a metaphorical sense as well as physical, such as a feeble idea). In conversation the terminal ‘u’s are usually dropped, and this word is pronounced like hack-jack, which sounds in English like it could plausibly mean the same thing.

Kyuukei - a break or pause. Pronounced exactly like the letters QK. Hey, I’m going to take a little QK.

Eikyuu - permanent or eternal. Pronounced exactly like the letters AQ. If it’s AQ, there’s no undo. AQ like a tattoo.

Kyuukyuu - emergency/first aid, esp. as in emergency vehicle or emergency room. Pronounced exactly like the letters QQ. We already called 911, the QQ’s on its way! When you say it out loud it even sounds a little like a siren.

Chigaimasu - pronounced [chi-GUY-mus], this is a verb which means “differ” or “be different from”, and it also has the connotation “be wrong”. As a stand-alone word, it can mean “no, that’s not right.” If we imported this word into English, though, we’d bring it in as an adjective, “chigaimous” which sounds as if it would mean that something’s grossly wrong or misguided or absurd (or possibly, absurdly huge).

Jeremy Edwards, Austin, Texas

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: sensei and origami

For some reason, when I saw “sensei” as one of the words in this week’s Japanese theme, I almost immediately harkened back to the smash-hit action film, 1984’s The Karate Kid. The plot revolves around the relationship between an elderly Japanese-American karate master/sensei, Mr. Miyagi (played masterfully by Pat Morita), and his teenage, oft-bullied charge, Daniel La Russo (played by Ralph Macchio). Under Mr. Miyagi’s strict, but caring, tutelage young Daniel ultimately develops into a formidable karate fighter. The movie culminates in his winning a major karate tourney, where he employs the sweeping, round-house leg kick springing from the very “crane” pose I’ve depicted in my piece, downing and defeating his most persistent teen bully. Curiously, Daniel had been hobbled by a leg injury early in the aforementioned match, yet his trusty “crane kick” came through in the clutch, proving to be the coup de grâce.

As an admitted lapsed sculptor, the late Japanese-American sculptor/designer Isamu Noguchi ranks high in my handful of most admired modernist sculptors. He was born in Los Angeles in 1904 and raised in Japan till the age of 13 by his mum, the strong-willed, protective Scots-American, Léonie Gilmour. His noted poet father, Yone Noguchi, was distant and clearly not present for most of Isamu’s formative years. From a young age, and throughout his long life (passing at 84), Noguchi had to navigate two worlds, Japan and America, and the dual strains of his mixed lineage. Here, I’ve imagined a bust-head of the youthful Noguchi, with a contemplative visage, as an origami sculpture, mounted on a simple base. Hanging to his left is one of his signature rice paper and wood-lattice lamps. In my view this lamp is a grand, floating, origami-like sculpture, with its vigorous geometric form described by juxtaposed flat planes and repetitive angles. The great Pablo Picasso might have seen this lamp as perchance an echo of his cubist approach to visual abstraction.
Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Anagrams of this week’s words
This week’s theme is words borrowed from Japanese
1. bokeh
2. sensei
3. sayonara
4. origami
5. seppuku
1. soft image
2. a mentor
3. adieu
4. paper junk
5. harakiri (obsesses somehow, perishes by own sword, eek!)
     This week’s theme: Words borrowed from Japanese
1. bokeh
2. sensei
3. sayonara
4. origami
5. seppuku
1. remake photos
2. be as a wise Judo master
3. goodbye
4. paperwork finesse
5. makes his/her own ruin
-Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand (alfiesdad ymail.com) -Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Limericks

With others we share a belief
that if somehow the tweets of our chief
could be faded to bokeh,
‘twould surely evoke a
unanimous sigh of relief.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

“This head shot of you is a go, Ché;
You really stand out from the bokeh,”
Said his publicist. “Marx
Said to fight oligarchs;
Seeing this, they’ll run faster than O.J.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Cries the snake charmer, “I’m your sensei!
Arise from that basket! Obey!”
Bold cobra replies,
“I won’t synchronize
My sway with your playing. No way!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

I find myself thinking today
Of things that my sensei would say.
Advice he’d dispense
Would be common sense
Condensed in a wonderful way.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

I’m eternally grateful, Sensei.
You have shown me the warrior way.
Right here in your dojo
I discovered my mojo.
With courage I’ll greet every day.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

“Well done, grasshopper,” said the sensei.
“I’ve taught you all. Go on your way.”
In TV’s Kung Fu,
Kwai Chang Caine stayed true,
To his master’s sage words everyday.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Of the cello, Yo-Yo is a sensei;
Crowds gather to hear his intense play.
But one eve he got smashed,
Missed a gig and just crashed.
Hung over, strung out, what a tense day.
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (jpmarlin456 gmail.com)

In the class about art Japanese,
The teacher was playing the tease.
Purred the lovely sensei,
“Put your paint brush away.
I’ll see you after class, if you please!”
-Bob Webb, Central Lake, Michigan (rhw3fl aol.com)

“As my trainer, you’ve been a true sensei,
And the Derby will be an immense day,”
Said the stallion. “With mares
I’ll have torrid affairs
If I win,” and he let out a tense neigh.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Of 50+ ways to leave your lover,
what if he’s built like a Golden Glover?
You already know:
(Quietly tiptoe,
whispering “Sayonara” undercover!)
-Mariana Warner, Asheville, North Carolina (marianaw6002 gmail.com)

Dear Harry and Megan were wed,
And that put a crown on her head.
But to that tiara
She said sayonara,
Decamping to LA instead.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“If it must be that way... (sigh)...farewell!
We do what the fates will foretell...
We’ll say sayonara,”
He said. “But tomorra,”
He thought, “I’ll be naughty as hell.”
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

She dated a man from Japan.
To be wed was their perfect plan.
But, to her great horror,
He bid, “Sayonara”,
And ran off with her best friend Fran.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“At my pageant to win the tiara,
To pasta you’ll say sayonara,”
Said Donald. “Spaghetti
Will make you a Yeti!”
Ivanka chimed in, “And no challah.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

A dilemma: no cups for the punch!
One guest was of help in the crunch.
He applied origami,
and folded salami,
made vessels to sip from, then munch!
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

A fine artist who’s just a bit balmy
Spent her days on her prized origami.
She had bought many reams
That she took to extremes,
Which blew off in a frightful tsunami.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

My butcher’s an artist in meat,
He slices it tidy and neat.
One day from salami
He made origami --
I had to unfold it to eat!
-Bob Webb, Central Lake, Michigan (rhw3fl aol.com)

In Japan, they revere origami,
While Hindus admire a swami.
But the secret of bliss
In New York is just this:
Have a sandwich of rye and pastrami.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

He committed social seppuku
When he decided to lecture you.
Sounding like a clown
He would take you down.
It seemed to be what he loved to do.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

The innocent people were gassed
In order for Trump to get past.
The whole thing seems cuckoo,
An act of seppuku --
For most of the country’s aghast.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Samurai cannot live with disgrace;
death with honor prefer to embrace.
They know what they must do.
They commit seppuku --
only thus their dishonor erase.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

While talking of how we might die,
My Samurai friend told me, “Guy,
“I don’t know what you do,
But we have seppuku --
Just hand me my sword, and... good-bye!”
-Bob Webb, Central Lake, Michigan (rhw3fl aol.com)

His acts of political seppuku
Are ignored by the President’s retinue.
Perhaps they think slime
Washes off in due time,
But they’ll live all their lives with the residue
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Care to Nipponese?

For our illicit tryst I decided to bokeh cabin with no others nearby.

Purveyors of sensei it isn’t (but preachers disagree).

Before the reading of the will I was asked, “Which are you? A sayonara lawyer?”

The gambler said, “This horse better win origami a big problem with my bookie.”

Little Winnie’s babbling sounds bothered papa bear but mama bear said, “Oh, let seppuku.”

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

From: Jim Ertner (jde31459 gmail.com)
Subject: Puns on words borrowed from Japanese

The blurred effect in a photo resembled a bokeh of flowers.

My mentor was pleased with my work and exclaimed, “What a sensei-tional job!”

After saying goodbye, she approached me and let out a deep sayonara (“sigh, uh, near a”) me.

The grade school student, who had a knack for folding paper, must have had that technique on his mind when his teacher asked what the US state is between California and Washington. He answered: Origami.

Did you hear how Japanese cuckoos commit suicide? By seppuku.

Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina

From: Bob Webb (rhw3fl aol.com)
Subject: puns

The polite fan asked Ms. Derek, “Bokeh if I take a few pictures?”

My wife said, “Close the window, dear, I sensei draft.”

Asta snoozed, Nick heaved a sayaNora poured him another glass of scotch.

The Italian chef told the electrician, “Origami a second-a switch for this-a vent fan.”

I tried to identify an unusual bird on my walk this morning. I told it, “You could be a warbler, seppuku like a dove.”

Bob Webb, Central Lake, Michigan

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Trump’s Foibles & Follies

June 1, after the Washington, DC, police aggressively pushed back a massive gathering of mostly young, peaceful protesters from LaFayette Park, across from the White House, using volleys of tear gas, tossed flashbangs, and a hail of rubber bullets, Trump did what could be viewed as a perp-walk towards St. John’s Episcopal Church. He’d allegedly emerged from a weekend sequestered in his White House bunker. Attorney General Bill Barr had ordered the police assault on the assembled protesters, opening a path for Trump’s procession, accompanied by his entourage of administration staffers, including his daughter/advisor Ivanka, newly-minted press-secretary Kayleigh McEnany, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and toady AG Barr. Trump proceeded to plunk his lummox-self in front of the boarded-up church, immediately raising up a Bible (possibly purchased at a 99-cent store), posing dourly for an obvious photo-op... saying little; not even addressing the groundswell of civil unrest sweeping the nation in the aftermath of the brutal death-by-cops of an innocent, hand-cuffed African-American man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis, MN., just a week prior. Trump, in using the Bible as a prop in an attempt to score political points with his Christian fundamentalist base is reprehensible, illustrating how clearly out of touch, and desperate this confirmed narcissist really is. Enough said.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

There is always something to do. There are hungry people to feed, naked people to clothe, sick people to comfort and make well. And while I don’t expect you to save the world, I do think it’s not asking too much for you to love those with whom you sleep, share the happiness of those whom you call friend, engage those among you who are visionary, and remove from your life those who offer you depression, despair, and disrespect. -Nikki Giovanni, poet and professor (b. 7 Jun 1943)

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