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Peter Backhaus

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

Turning things into people using suffixes

| Mar 2, 2015

Turning things into people using suffixes

The physical impossibility of turning things into people is something language does with great ease. If you’re from Rome you are a Roman, if you do political science you are a political scientist, and if you’re into Star Trek, you are a Trekie. All ...

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” ...