Language | WELL SAID

You've got nothing to lose if you start studying the meanings of 'motomoto'

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Contributing Writers

WT-sha wa motomoto shōyu no seizō kara hajimatta-n da yo. WT Co. originally started with the production of soy sauce.

Situation 1: Ms. Gray and her boss, Mr. Okubo, discuss a client.

グレイ: WT社は医薬品を始めたんですか?

大久保: 実はあそこはもともと醤油の製造から始まったんだよ。 だから、バイオテクノロジーの技術に強いみたいよ。

Gurei: WT-sha wa iyakuhin o hajimeta-n desu ka?

Ōkubo: Jitsu wa asoko wa motomoto shōyu no seizō kara hajimatta-n da yo. Dakara, baiotekunorojī no gijutsu ni tsuyoi mitai yo.

Gray: Did WT Co. start out with medical products?

Okubo: Actually, they originally started with the production of soy sauce. That’s why their biotechnology skills seem so strong.

The adverb もともと and its related expressions can be translated as “in the beginning” or “originally,” and the word is used to highlight the start of something when the speaker is comparing it to its current state:

妹(いもうと)はもともと体(からだ)が弱(よわ)かったが、水泳(すいえい)を習(なら)い始(はじ)めてから丈夫(じょうぶ)になった。 (My sister’ body was originally weak, but she got stronger after taking swimming lessons.)

もともと can also be used when something doesn’t change:

私(わたし)はもともとこの計画(けいかく)には反対(はんたい)だった。 (From the very beginning, I was against this plan.)

Situation 2: Mr. Mita and Ms. Gray are talking about their new plan.

三田: この計画が実現する可能性はかなり低いね。

グレイ: うん。でも、まあ、だめでもともとよ。やってみなくちゃわからない。

Mita: Kono keikaku ga jitsugen suru kanōsei wa kanari hikui ne.

Gurei: Un. Demo, mā, dame de motomoto yo. Yatte minakucha wakaranai.

Mita: The possibility of realizing this plan is quite low.

Gray: Yeah. But there is no harm in trying. We don’t know if we can do it till we try.

The word もともと can also be used in the pattern Xて/Xで+もともとだ to convey the idea that you lose nothing even if a situation becomes unfavorable. In the structure, “X” expresses the unfavorable state and it is connected to もともと with a て if it is a verb or i-adjective, and a で if it is a noun or na-adjective. The pattern だめでもともとだ (We have nothing to lose) will often be shortened to だめもと.

Bonus Dialogue: Mr. Mita and his coworker Mr. Sere are talking about Christmas with each other.

三田(みた): クリスマスはもともとキリスト教(きょう)の行事(ぎょうじ)だったのに、日本(にほん)ではどうして恋人(こいびと)がデートする日(ひ)になっちゃったんだろう。ほんとにいやになるなあ。

セレ: うん。日本にはクリスチャンがすごく少(すく)ないのに、クリスマスは盛大(せいだい)にやるね。

三田: 独り身(ひとりみ)にとっては憂鬱(ゆううつ)な行事だよ。セレくんはゆりちゃんとデートだろう?

セレ: ああ、一緒(いっしょ)にうちでご飯(はん)を食(た)べるくらいだけど。三田くんは?

三田: だめもとで千葉(ちば)さんを誘(さそ)ってみたけど、やっぱり断(ことわ)られた。

セレ: まあ、次(つぎ)のチャンスもあるよ。ぼくもゆりにふられてもともとだと思(おも)っていたけど、誘ってみたら、うまくいったんだよ。

三田: そうか。もともとセレくんは慎重(しんちょう)な性格(せいかく)だったけど、あの時(とき)は思い切(き)ってよかったね。

セレ: うん。三田くんにもいい人(ひと)が見(み)つかるよ。絶対(ぜったい)にそう思う。

三田: 来年(らいねん)に期待(きたい)したいな。

Mita: Though Christmas was originally a Christian affair, in Japan it somehow became a day for lovers to go on dates. I really don’t like that.

Sere: Yeah, although there are few Christians in Japan, it’s still done in a big way.

Mita: For single people it’s a depressing event. Hey Sere, are you gonna have a date with Yuri?

Sere: Yeah, we’ll just eat dinner together at my house. What about you, Mita?

Mita: I tried asking out Ms. Chiba because I had nothing to lose, but as expected she refused.

Sere: Well, there’s always next time. Me as well, I thought I had nothing to lose if Yuri gave me the cold shoulder, but when I tried to invite her, it went well.

Mita: Is that so? From the start you’ve always had a cautious character, it was nice for you to take a chance at that time.

Sere: Yeah. Mita, you’ll also find a good person, you know. I definitely think so.

Mita: I’ve got my hopes up for next year.

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