Laugh, empathize, curse, express yourself — and call in an emergency — with this selection of insights into the Japanese language:
- You’re walking down the street one fine day in Japan. All’s well in the world, it seems, until you come across a person collapsed on the ground in front of you. They aren’t moving. You pull out your phone and dial for an ambulance, but then your mind goes blank. All you can think is, “If only I’d read that article about emergency vocab by Tadasu Takahashi.”
- The phrases okage de and sei de both mean “because of,” but they have opposite nuances, with the former expressing a sense of gratitude and the latter expressing blame. Mix them up at your peril. Luckily, help is at hand with plenty of reading practice for learners, Ryan Norrbom no okage de.
- If you’ve been in Japan during the pandemic or around the time of the 3/11 disasters, for example, you should have a head-start on the language of solidarity in Japanese. But as Takahashi alludes to in his recent Bilingual column on the subject, after a year or so of such calls from political leaders, it’s hard not to get a bit cynical …
- The Setsubun festival comes before the arrival of spring and is marked by efforts to cast demons out of your home. But long after the beans have been thrown, oni continue to haunt the Japanese lingo. Mark Schreiber introduces readers to some fiendish idioms and phrases that can be deployed throughout the year.
- The limited number of sounds in Japanese leaves itself open to a wealth of puns and double meanings, much to the joy of dads across the archipelago, and the frustration of many language students. As Eric Margolis explains, this wordplay is found throughout Japanese culture, from ancient poetry to New Year’s dishes to, yes, those oyaji gyagu (dad jokes).