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Peter Backhaus

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

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 ...

So much for <I>nau: </I>What will we say next?

| Dec 29, 2013

So much for nau: What will we say next?

The end of the year is always a good time to reflect on what is, was and will be. With regard to language, one of the most stimulating things I have recently read in this respect was from an article in the journal Nihongogaku ...

Hyper, mega, ultra: talking in superlatives

| Jul 28, 2013

Hyper, mega, ultra: talking in superlatives

One of the ultra-fascinating facets of Japanese is its super-large arsenal of intensifying prefixes that provide an otherwise neutral expression with some emphatic edge. The best-known (and least spectacular) of them is dai (大), which usually translates as “big.” When something went really well, ...