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Peter Backhaus

For Peter Backhaus's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:

Paradox of politeness: humbling and exalting at same time

| Nov 3, 2014

Paradox of politeness: humbling and exalting at same time

Each year in fall, the Bunkachō (文化庁, Agency of Cultural Affairs) publishes the results of its annual opinion poll on the linguistic state of the nation, officially called Kokugo ni Kansuru Yoron Chōsa (国語に関する世論調査, Survey of the National Language). This time, the survey asked ...

For better or worse: untangling Japanese antonym pairs

| Sep 8, 2014

For better or worse: untangling Japanese antonym pairs

Opposites attract: plus and minus, yin and yang, Mars and Venus, Lennon and McCartney. In English it sometimes happens that such opposites are combined in one expression. Just remember that bitter-sweet romance about the love-hate relationship you once saw on your grandparent’s black-and-white TV ...

The here and there of who's who and what's what

Jul 28, 2014

The here and there of who's who and what's what

There are some Japanese words that act like little arrows. They are pointing devices that can be used to indicate a specific part of the wider context of what is being said. Some examples in English are “here” and “there,” “this” and “that,” “me” ...

Warming up for the Soccer W-Cup

| Jun 1, 2014

Warming up for the Soccer W-Cup

For real soccer fans, the upcoming World Cup in Brazil will be the highlight of the past four years. On top of that, many lukewarm supporters will surely soon discover that they are, in fact, true sports fans. But even those who consider it ...

The sounds of everyday Japanese life

| Mar 30, 2014

The sounds of everyday Japanese life

Living in Japan can be quite a noisy experience. Even in my quiet little neighborhood, rarely a day passes without a great variety of sounds being heard. Four days a week the garbage truck fills the air with its most peculiar orugōru (オルゴール, music ...

Getting all mixed up with mixed kanji readings

| Mar 2, 2014

Getting all mixed up with mixed kanji readings

Gyūdon (牛丼, beef-over-rice bowl) and tonjiru (豚汁, miso soup with pork and vegetables) have much in common. Not only are they a nice combo for a quick lunch (and that it’s almost noon while I’m writing this), but on closer inspection both terms also ...

It's never too early to start <I>juken</I>

| Feb 2, 2014

It's never too early to start juken

It’s that time of year again, when hundreds of thousands of soon-to-be high school graduates are busy taking university entrance exams for the coming academic year. This activity is commonly known as juken (受験), and usually translated into English as “taking an examination.” The ...