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Eavesdropping – nusumigiki – 盗み聞き

Can’t believe almost a year passed since my last post!

I keep overhearing phone conversations at work about juicy topics, but sometimes my eavesdropping is thwarted by limited knowledge of nouns/verbs (my grammar seems to be OK).  I am going to start looking them up and posting the words, maybe relating them to the juicy topics…

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Shimatta しまった – I messed up

I was on the Shinkansen a few weeks ago coming back from Tokyo Haneda airport and in my boredom I was leafing through the free shopping magazine they have in the back of all the seats.  I was quite amused to find this picture of a man who has pee-d his pants.  It seems the advert is for some extra thick pants that will absorb any extra dribbles that you didn’t manage to shake off.  Or thinking about it more, perhaps it is aimed at older gentlemen who have lost the level of control they once enjoyed.

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I particularly like the guys remark: “Ah! Shimatta”.  I guess it would be best translated as “oh dear” or “oh! crap!” rather than the more literal “I messed up”.  Basically you would say Shimatta to express that you made some kind of mistake or something regrettable happened.  It is often added to the end of  sentence after a verb in ‘te’ form like this:

Pantsu ni shiko shiteshimatta – Oh dear I did a pee in my pants.

Kagi wo nakushiteshimatta – I unfortunately lost my key.

Myself I have a  light grey suit and I have to say I encountered this problem once or twice, not so much by random dribbles but from splashbacks around the ankles.  Needless to say I avoid wearing that suit now and will never buy another light coloured suit!  Nappy-pants are not the answer.

Na な – yeah

Last night there was a funny TV show on about this young couple who had 10 kids.

They were both divorcees and brought several sprogs with them from previous marriages and then also made about 3 or 4 of their own. Their lived in this mad house in Osaka, toys and crap everywhere. Unbelievably they also had about 10 cats and a few dogs, including one huge vicious looking one. All the kids were between newborn and 6 years old. It was insane.

Anyway, one little bit of Japanese I picked up from it was the use of ‘Na’. The Dad kept ending every sentence with ‘Na’ as he was scolding the kids. You can use ‘Na’ in a very strict way to tell someone not to do something (in this case “Na” is a bit like “don’t”), however he was using it more like you would use “Ne”. So I looked into it and it seems that “Na” is like the masculine version of “Ne”. Most foreigners use “Ne”, not “Na” which perhaps shows how much time foreigners spend around Japanese women compared to Japanese men.

So “Na” is just a useless redundant thing you add to the end of a sentence, much like ‘yeah?’ or ‘right?’ or ‘OK?’ in English.

Konran 混乱 – mix-up

I have never seen the same delivery guy twice in the 3 years I have been here, however by some bizarre co-incidence the same delivery guy came back again last night so I got to explain to him that the wrong address was my mums fault.

混乱に対して謝罪しました – I apologised for the mix-up.

Okurimono 贈り物 – a gift

Last night I had an encounter with the delivery guy.

He was dropping off something from Amazon and after I signed for it he asked me if I spoke Japanese and then proceeded to give me a bit of a lecture about my address. The adress on the parcel was very inaccurate and he had spent an hour of his sunday evening trying to find me, and was a bit p–ed off about it.  He was telling me to make sure I input my address again properly in Amazon.  This was a surpise to me because I order form Amazon all the time without any trouble, which I told him but he wouldn’t accept it.  In the end I just said ‘OK I’ll go and reinput my address’ to get rid of him.

A few minutes later I realised that the parcel was from my mum and that was why teh address was so woefully inaccruate.  Unfortunately it was too late to catch the deliver guy and tell him that it was just a gift.

贈り物 not to be confused with おみやげ。

Kanjou 感情 – emotion

Yesterday I came across a really amazing art/conceptual website called We Feel Fine that automatically collects emotions expressed on the web in blog posts and presents them in a really nice Flash-like interface.

wefeelfine-japanThe site is actually a few years old but it is one of the most impressive I have seen in a while.

As you can see above it shows many ‘feelings’ (posts from blogs, twitter etc) like animated stars in the universe.  If you click on one it reveals the full feeling sentence and the author information.  The example above shows feelings from Japan – it is possible to drill down by City, Age, Location, Weather, Male/Female etc.

wefeelfine-options

There is an interview with the authors of the site on .net magazine.

From their ‘mission’ statement:

Since August 2005, We Feel Fine has been harvesting human feelings from a large number of weblogs. Every few minutes, the system searches the world’s newly posted blog entries for occurrences of the phrases “I feel” and “I am feeling”. When it finds such a phrase, it records the full sentence, up to the period, and identifies the “feeling” expressed in that sentence (e.g. sad, happy, depressed, etc.). Because blogs are structured in largely standard ways, the age, gender, and geographical location of the author can often be extracted and saved along with the sentence, as can the local weather conditions at the time the sentence was written. All of this information is saved.

The result is a database of several million human feelings, increasing by 15,000 – 20,000 new feelings per day. Using a series of playful interfaces, the feelings can be searched and sorted across a number of demographic slices, offering responses to specific questions like: do Europeans feel sad more often than Americans? Do women feel fat more often than men? Does rainy weather affect how we feel? What are the most representative feelings of female New Yorkers in their 20s? What do people feel right now in Baghdad? What were people feeling on Valentine’s Day? Which are the happiest cities in the world? The saddest? And so on.

The interface to this data is a self-organizing particle system, where each particle represents a single feeling posted by a single individual. The particles’ properties – color, size, shape, opacity – indicate the nature of the feeling inside, and any particle can be clicked to reveal the full sentence or photograph it contains. The particles careen wildly around the screen until asked to self-organize along any number of axes, expressing various pictures of human emotion. We Feel Fine paints these pictures in six formal movements titled: Madness, Murmurs, Montage, Mobs, Metrics, and Mounds.

I was preparing to create a new feature for my company’s intranet that looks up a products unique ID codes based on the specification information you input.  For example, you input the model name and size, and it gives you a list of possible matches.   I decided I would use AJAX to do this and was studying some AJAX libraries to use such as YUI, jQuery, Dojo and Prototype.  While studying these, I randomly clicked on the profile of one of the developers, and then followed through this which was one of the developers web projects. Nice bit of serendipity.

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Goumon 拷問 – Torture

torture

Anyone who has worked in a Japanese school/office will get the sub-joke above.

Today I had to go and renew my driving licence for another three years.  Who would have thought such a simple thing would lead to today’s word being Torture?  Read on…

I should have known the Gods were against me when I punched in the phone number of the traffic centre to my car’s navigation system: “No matches found”.  I then looked for the post code of the traffic centre on the little reminder postcard they had sent me: no postcode.  No problem, I thought, lets just type in the address.  Oh, I cant read the kanji…:(  I then spent about 10 mins trying to find the place randomly on the navi before getting out of the car and trying to find someone to read the address.  A kind lady looked at it and said ‘Im not sure how to read that kanji, why dont you call them?’.  So I did, but its was 12.30 (lunchtime) and there was no reply.  In the end, I found someone who could read the kanji, got it registered in my navi and we (my son in tow) were off.

Once on the road we got there OK, parked illegally in front of a restaurant with a ‘no parking – fine 10,000yen’ sign in front of it, and went inside the traffic centre. They might as well write ‘welcome to the microcosm of Japan’ on the doors because that is exactly what it is – all the best and worst things about Japan rolled into one little 100m3 space.

The entire building is dedicated to renewal of car licences.  Thus, you are basically put onto a conveyor belt system the moment you step inside and guided, cajoled and sometimes pummelled around the building through “steps 1-8”.  Division of labour, Fordism…I now know exactly how a sausage roll feels on its journey from being a pig to a little deep fried thing wrapped in coloured plastic.  I am not complaining about the efficient bureaucracy, I was just surprised (impressed?) to see such a simple task improved to such a degree…at the expense of any humanism whatsoever.  I think they must have gathered 50 of Japans most anally retentive people into a building, put little blue jackets on them, then left them there to breed for two centuries with instructions to improve the licence renewal system.

Steps 1-6 were great, you just get given a bit of paper at step 1, you give it to someone else at step 2 and they stamp it.  You show the stamped paper to someone at step 3, then pay some money to someone at step 4.  Next was the eye test, which took about 8 seconds.  At this point I was almost having fun because it was so ridiculous but also so smooth.

But Step 6 was odd.  I was given a bit of paper with two 4-digit pincodes on by an old man.

Him: Please invent two 4-digit pincodes and type them into this machine.

Me: OK…do I have to type these numbers?

Him: No, just make some up.

Me: So whats this paper for then?

Him: Its just an idea for some numbers.

Me: Ah OK…well should I make up some numbers that I can remember?

Him: No, theres no need to remember them.

Me: What is the purpose of the numbers actually?

Him: They get written on your drivers licence card.*

Me: Yeah, but why?

Him: You dont have to understand why, just pick some numbers.

Me: OK. Can I use these numbers on the bit of paper?

Him: yes of course.

Me: OK then I’ll do that.

Him: Thanks.

Me: By the way, why dont you just put the numbers onto the card automatically instead of printing them on paper, asking me to use them or pick new ones, then getting me to type them into another machine?

Him: I dont know.  Please go upstairs now to Step 7.

* This is not actually true, as the numbers are not printed on my card.  I think you have to quote them if you ever lose your licence card.

Step 7 was only one step of 8, but it took 2 hours whereas the other steps took only a total of maybe 8 mins combine.  Step 7 was the torture step.

You see, 4 years and nine months ago, I ran a red light on my scooter and picked up some points and a small fine.  Because that occured less than 5 years ago, it affected my licence renewal.  Not only could I only get a 3 year licence (standard one is five years), but I got put in the naughty room with all the other naughty people that had picked up points on their licence.  This is what step 7 was – torture/revenge for breaking the law.

I handed my card to the man upstairs, and his smile turned to a look of mild disgust and admonishment as he saw that I was destined for the naughty room.  He led me all the way to the end of the corridor and set me down.  The room was like a Japanese classroom – spartan and designed to last the eons, not for comfort.  The chairs were harder than the desks, and we were packed in like sardines too.  Shortly after another man came in and lectured us all for 10 mins about what the next 2 hours would entail.  He then showed us a crappy video which lasted 40 mins, then spent 80 minutes telling us various obvious things.

First up was that we have to wear seatbelts.  He illustrated the point with literally 7 or 8 different newspaper articles, and several sets of charts.  Several other points were given in exactly the same way: speed, drink driving, running red lights – all of these are dangerous and the stats back it up 100%.  About 10 mins into his lecture my son fell asleep on me and started snoring – I made no attempt to stop him as I was starting to hate the lecturer with a passion and came close several times to just standing up and throwing things/people around the room.

But the time passed, I got my licence (and a numb arse), then we were back on the highway.  I thought to myself: next time I will bring a magazine.

Translation Notes

I actually learnt the word Torture last year, for reasons I will explain in another post one day.  I was told that it can be translated as GOUMON 拷問 or GYAKUTAI 虐待, however when I looked up Torture on ALC I could not find GYAKUTAI mentioned anywhere.  It turns out that GYAKUTAI means ‘abuse’ rather than torture.