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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Japanese Word Play

First off, Buddha knows why I resisted the urge to call it word pray in the title above, but I did, and kept it straight.

Every language has its word play… words that can be twisted to mean more than one thing… a double entendre, for those of you speaking English.

Here's one in English, that has a Japanese meaning. Sort of.

While westerners have sirens on all of their loud emergency vehicles, in Japan it means to be quiet.

There's that whole dichotomy between sirens and silence and the way the Japanese would say the word silence… There is no "L" in the Japanese alphabet system, which is why—unless they are properly trained—will change an L-sound" into an "R-sound". Silence begets sirens.

It's actually witty in its stereotypification.

Here's an English riddle using a Japanese word:

Q: If a Japanese boat sinks carrying 80 people, and there is only one lifeboat, how many people are saved?

This is a riddle, so trying to figure out what size lifeboat it is, or how rough the waters are that could affect the odds of capsizing—it's moot.

A: Nine.

How is that number determined?

Twofold! The Japanese word for lifeboat is "Kyuu-mei", which is the same word when saying "nine people".

What how could the same word have two meanings?

Geez, you might as well as why flammable and inflammable mean the same damn thing. In the case of English, it's stupid.

But in Japanese, the kanji for 'nine people' is different, but pronounced the same as the kanji for 'lifeboat'.

By the way, I know that entendre is French word. I was being a lagoon… you know, a French idiot.

Kanpai,
Andrew Cunning Linguist Joseph

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