Buzzwords of 2014: from killer drugs to robotic refusals

| Dec 15, 2014

Buzzwords of 2014: from killer drugs to robotic refusals

by Mark Schreiber

Once again, the massive reference book 「現代用語の基礎知識」(“Gendai Yōgo no Kiso Chishiki,” “The Encyclopedia of Contemporary Words”) is on sale. This annual publication that tracks additions to, and changes in, the Japanese language and various world developments over the previous year is a whopper — ...

| Nov 17, 2014

Double up on your kanji to avoid homonym mixups

by Mark Schreiber

Although the Japanese and Chinese languages differ considerably in their syntax and pronunciation, one characteristic they share, along with use of kanji, is lots of homonyms. Mathews’ Chinese-English Dictionary, for example, lists 70 characters with the pronunciation shih (or shi, when transcribed in hanyu ...

Subtle humor of haiku's cousin senryū is on a roll

| Oct 20, 2014

Subtle humor of haiku's cousin senryū is on a roll

by Mark Schreiber

“Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,” philosophizes the long-winded Polonius in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” That’s also a fitting description of senryū — a form of short poetry defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “a three-line unrhymed Japanese poem structurally similar to haiku, but ...

| Sep 22, 2014

A peculiar perspective on the capricious word hen

by Mark Schreiber

One major event in Japan’s 16th-century civil war — which is the focus of “Gunshi Kanbei (Strategist Kanbei),” NHK’s current Sunday-night drama series — involves the duplicitous warlord Akechi Mitsuhide. Probably moved by personal jealousy, Mitsuhide betrayed his lord and ally, Oda Nobunaga, by ...