Tuesday, February 24, 2009


OK, it's time for me to post another list to feed my OCD. Today I came across the word 悠然 【ゆうぜん】 (n,adj-t,adv-to) with an air of composure; calmly.
So I got to thinking: what's the dealie-o with these -taru adjectives? I found out that 形容動詞 adjectives are pretty rare in comparison to the "-na" and "-i" adjectives (I'll do another post on "-nai" adjectives soon.). I did a little searching on line and learned that true -taru adjectives originate from the classical Japanese ending "-toari" which devolved into "-tari," which declines into what we now see as "-taru" adjectives. It seems that the "-taru" adjectives have an antiquated air, but several are still in common use. I couldn't find a comprehensive list on line for English-speaking students of Japanese, so here's my attempt, which I'll update periodically. (If anyone thinks of a word I've left off the list, let me know and I'll add it.)


堂々(P); 堂堂 【どうどう】 (adj-t) (1) magnificent; grand; impressive; dignified; majestic; imposing; stately; (2) fair; square; open; (adv-to) (3) grandly; boldly; confidently; (4) fairly; squarely; (5) unreservedly; without apology; without hesitation
悄悄; 悄々 【しおしお; しょうしょう; すごすご】 (adj-t,adv-to) (uk) in low spirits; dejected; sad
昭昭; 昭々 【しょうしょう】 (adj-t,adv-to) (obsc) clear; bright; plain; obvious

粛粛; 粛々 【しゅくしゅく】 (n,adj-t,adv-to) silent; solemn; quiet
爛爛; 爛々 【らんらん】 (adj-t,adv-to) glaring; flaming; fiery; blazing
濛々; 濛濛; 朦朦; 朦々 【もうもう】 (adj-t,adv-to) (1) dense (e.g. fog, dust, etc.); thick; (2) vague (as in being unable to think clearly); dim
惻々 【そくそく】keenly; heartily
凛々; 凛凛 【りんりん】 (adj-t,adv-to) severe; intense; biting

惨憺; 惨澹 【さんたん】 (adj-t,adv-to) miserable; pitiful; tragic; wretched; horrible
宛転 【えんてん】 (adj-t,adv-to) (1) moving smoothly; (2) (of eyebrows) shapely
忸怩 【じくじ】 (adj-t,adv-to) bashful; shameful

暗澹【あんたん】 (adj-t,adv-to) dark; gloomy; somber; depressing

荒涼; 荒寥 【こうりょう】 (adj-t,adv-to) desolate; dreary; bleak

索莫; 索漠; 索寞 【さくばく】 (adj-t,adv-to) dreary; bleak; desolate

蕭寥 【しょうりょう】 (adj-t,adv-to) (arch) desolate; lonely; barren

蕭索(oK) 【しょうさく】 (adj-t) lonely

蕭条 【しょうじょう】 (adj-t,adv-to) dreary; bleak; lonely

落莫 【らくばく】 (adj-t,adv-to) desolate; dreary; lonesome

溌剌 【はつらつ】 (adj-t,adv-to) lively; vigorous; sprightly; vivid
消然; 悄然 【しょうぜん】 (adj-t,adv-to) dejected; dispirited
昭然 【しょうぜん】 (adj-t,adv-to) manifest; clear
呆然; 茫然; 惘然 【ぼうぜん; ボーゼン; もうぜん(惘然)】 (adj-t,adv-to) dumbfounded; overcome with surprise; in blank amazement; in a daze
燦然 【さんぜん】 (n,adj-t,adv-to) brilliance; radiance

悠然 【ゆうぜん】 (n,adj-t,adv-to) with an air of composure; calmly

泰然 【たいぜん】 (adj-t,adv-to) calm; composed; self-possessed; firm

渾然; 混然 【こんぜん】 (adj-t,adv-to) whole; entire; harmonious; well-rounded
曖昧模糊 【あいまいもこ(uK)】 (adj-na,adj-t,adv-to) obscure; vague; ambiguous
泰然自若 【たいぜんじじゃく(uK)】 (adj-t,adv-to) having presence of mind; self-possessed; imperturbable; calm and self-possessed
失意泰然 【しついたいぜん】 (adj-t,adv-to) (arch) keeping calm and collected at times of disappointment; maintaining a serene state of mind in adversity
満目荒涼 【まんもくこうりょう】 (adj-t,adv-to) all nature being bleak and desolate; scene looking desolate and forlorn as far as the eye can see

荒涼落莫 【こうりょうらくばく(uK)】 (adj-na,adj-t,adv-to) (arch) scene looking desolate and forlorn
空空漠漠; 空々漠々 【くうくうばくばく(uK)】 (adj-no,adj-t,adv-to) (arch) vast; boundless; empty; vague
生気溌剌 【せいきはつらつ】 (adj-t,adv-to) being full of vitality; being vivacious
才気溌剌 【さいきはつらつ】 (adj-t,adv-to) resourceful and quick-witted; showing a flash of brilliance; have a keen (sparkling) intellect
生気溌剌 【せいきはつらつ】 (adj-t,adv-to) being full of vitality; being vivacious

E. ONE KANJI PRE-NOUN ADJECTIVALS (technically not -taru 形容動詞 adjectives, but I'm putting them here for reference b/c they are 連体詞 adjectives that end in -taru)
眇たる 【びょうたる】 (adj-pn) small; minute; tiny; little; insignificant
最たる 【さいたる】 (adj-pn) prime; conspicuous
主たる 【しゅたる】 (adj-pn) main; principal; major
名立たる 【なだたる】 (adj-pn) famous; notorious; noted

Monday, February 23, 2009

Word of the Day: Judicial Scrivener

Here's a pic of an ad that is similar to a lot of ads I've been seeing on the subway lately. It's advertising the services of a 司法書士 【しほうしょし】, which I've seen translated on ads as "judicial scrivener," a term I haven't seen since I read a short story by Herman Melville. Basically, the guy doesn't have a law degree, but has apparently studied law and is offering 相談
"consultations" regarding debt relief, among other things.

Now, this ad brings to mind a few issues. First, are these "scriveners" certified to provide legal advice? My guess is that they are not, and I can't imagine that there is a "scrivener" exam and that there is a code of ethics that they must adhere to, such that they could be "disbarred" for a violation. If there's no regulation of these "scriveners", how are consumers protected?

Second, is there are a *market* for these legal consultations by non-lawyers? By the number of ads I'm seeing, it's a thriving business. It's no mystery to me why there's a need for these services. It's widely acknowledged that the number of lawyers in Japan is kept artificially low by an insanely difficult bar exam, which conveniently allows lawyers to charge high fees. The unfortunate consequences of this include (1) there are a lot of people who are unable to afford or even have access to a lawyer in some parts of the country and (2) a lot of people who have studied law but haven't taken/passed the bar exam are in jobs that in the States would be considered practicing law, like this non-lawyer fellow offering "legal consultations." Most of my co-workers have studied law but aren't "弁護士" even though they are doing things that on a daily basis that lawyers do: researching legal issues, drafting legal memos, interpreting regulations, etc.

Third, are people able to distinguish between a "scrivener" and a "lawyer"? Such a practice is prohibited by law in the United States (champerty), so an ad like this would raise hackles. Could you imagine an ad by a paralegal offering "legal consultations"? That paralegal would need to get a lawyer pretty quickly.

I was at lunch last week and a woman asked me "why is it so easy to become a lawyer in the United States?" After nearly choking on my 鯖 【さば】mackerel on this remarkable lack of tact (not the first instance), I turned the question back on her and asked whether she considered that maybe the number of "lawyers" in Japan is kept artificially low, and so now you have a lot of people providing quasi-legal services in an unregulated manner to people who can't afford or even have access to a real lawyer. Did she think this was a good thing? Did she not know that there were parts of Japan where there were no lawyers? This may sound like a good thing to Americans who see the excesses of too much litigation, but the consequences of not being able to assert ones rights fully undermines the justice system considerably, in my view.

Considering that she had studied law but did not pass the exam, I think she saw my point...but I got the sense that it wasn't a topic she wanted to delve into any further, so I left it at that.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Learning from Prime Minister Aso's Mistakes 麻生首相, 有難う御座います!

(麻生首相and his disquieting への字smile)

Here's a list of the errors that Prime Minister Aso has made in speeches (so far) that everyone is jumping all over him about. I had been wondering what exactly the errors were, but few people I know could remember what they were, or what exactly he got wrong, so I tracked them down in case anyone is interested. Good excuse for learning some new words!

1. Rare beast!

Apparently, in describing Japan's "esteemed" or "valued" relationship with Russia, he meant to use the term 珍重 【ちんちょう】 (n,vs) prize; value highly...but instead said 珍獣 【ちんじゅう】 (n) rare (or peculiar) animal.

2. Choice of The Penis Generation

He meant to use the term 団塊世代 【だんかいせだい】 (n) the babyboomers; the baby boom generation (literally, the "lump/node generation")...but instead of saying "daikai" he said "daikon" which is the word for "phallus" 男根 【だんこん】. Freudian slip?

3. Unprecedunted!

In seeing the term 未曾有 meaning "unprecedented" or "unheard of" he read it as みそゆ...which sounds like "味噌" (miso) and "湯" (yu = hot water)... but it's supposed to be pronounced 【みそう】 or 【みぞう】. In my book, this one is an understandable slip, given that the yomi for 有 is rarely just う, but to a lot of my Japanese coworkers, this was unforgiveable. In fact, at the Administrative Training for Japanese bureaucrats that I attended a couple months ago, a speaker intentionally mispronounced this word, and got a big laugh from the audience (one of the only ones in 2 weeks...). It seems that the sentiment is that government officials are supposed to be highly educated, and slips like these undermine the public's confidence. But I suppose making fun of him for these slips is a proxy for critcizing him b/c he's so ineffectual in more important ways, thereby perpetuating his inability to be taken seriously.

4. So Complexificated!

He read the word 繁雑 meaning "complex; intricate" as 【ひんざつ】...but it's supposed to be pronounced【はんざつ】. As a result it wound up sounding like "frequent and complicated". I'm guessing that in his head, he inadvertently saw the kanji for 繁 and associated it with 頻繁 【ひんぱん】 (adj-na) frequent; incessant, and transposed the yomi. Who knows? I'm just glad b/c I learned a new word from his gaffe!

5. Down in the Dumps

Instead of pronouncing 低迷 meaning sluggish as 【ていめい】, he said 【ていまい】. I guess that he was thinking of the 迷 in 迷子 【まいご】 (n) lost (stray) child. This one really surprised one of my coworkers b/c she said it's not an uncommon word at all. Either way: new word for Mikey!

6. Shaking the Foundations

The last one I found is when he pronounced 基盤 meaning "foundation; basis; base" as【きはん】 instead of 【きばん】. This is interesting because the "ban" doesn't seem to be a pronunciation born of necessity (like an "n" shifting to "m" before a consonant as in "nanboku" > "namboku"). There are words in Japanese that are pronounced "kihan":

軌範(P); 規範(P) 【きはん】 (n) model; standard; pattern; norm; criterion; example
羈絆 【きはん】 (n) fetters; shackles; bond; connection
帰阪 【きはん】 (n) returning to Osaka
帰帆 【きはん】 (n,vs) returning sailboat; setting sail for home port

All great words...especially "returning to Osaka"! So instead of criticizing Aso for his screw-ups, as my Japanese coworkers like to do, I should thank him for the vocabulary building!

(Apparently, his blunders have revived an interest in kanji, and a book about commonly mispronounced kanji is flying off the shelves.)


Here's the latest gaffe:

Apparently, instead of pronouncing 踏襲 as【とうしゅう】 (meaning following (e.g. suit, in someone's footsteps, etc.)), he pronounced it as "ふしゅう," which sounds a lot like 腐臭 【ふしゅう】 (n) smell of something rotten; rotten smell. I'm guessing that he forgot the onyomi for 踏 ("tou") and remembered only the kunyomi, which is "fumu" (to step). I had never seen the word 踏襲 before, so thanks again, PM Aso!

(You'd think that by now he'd start reading his speeches before reading them in public, or at least have his staff put furigana on the teleprompter!)

Words of the Day: 手酌 etc.!

(seen in a shop in Osaka...eeg)

Found a few really good words this past week, but I've been adjusting to my new job so I haven't gotten around to posting them:

1. 手酌 【てじゃく】 (n) pouring one's own drink

Useful, in a metaphoric sense!

2. 頭打ちに成る 【あたまうち に なる】 (v) to plateau

This is one I've been looking for! I wanted to express how my Japanese improved quickly when I first got here, but it seems to have leveled off (and may even be getting worse!), so this seems to do the trick. I literally "bumped my head"...

3. 十把一絡げ; 十把一絡 【じっぱひとからげ; じゅっぱひとからげ】 (n,adj-no) lumping together all sorts of things; making sweeping generalizations; dealing with various things under one head

I love this one! Literally, "bundle ten sticks into one." I'm sick of saying "一般化" all the time b/c it lacks punch when I'm disagreeing with someone who has just made an insanely broad-brush statement. Unfortunately, the few people I've tried it out on didn't recognize it, so I imagine it's not in current usage. Still, it's another arrow 矢【や】 to add to my quiver 箙【えびら】.

On a side note, a friend of mine says that when he was a kid, he thought the expression was "十羽ひと空揚げ” or: "taking ten birds and making one fried chicken dish." Hah! Reminds me of how, when I was a kid and heard someone say "shut the window, or you'll catch a draft," that it was "catch a giraffe," which made no sense but was still plausible, at least to my 8-y/o mind.

4. 権限を付与する = to grant authority

権限 【けんげん】 (n) power; authority; jurisdiction
付与 【ふよ】 (n,vs) grant; allowance; endowment; bestowal; assignment; conferment

付与 sounds much better than "ataeru," I think.

5. 相関関係 【そうかんかんけい】 (n) correlation; interrelation

6. 迂回; 迂廻 【うかい】 (n) (1) detour; (vs) (2) to detour; to circumvent

(and saving the best for last...)

7. 鑑みる 【かんがみる】 (v1,vt) to heed; to take into account; to learn from; to take warning from

I saw this one in adverb form: Xに鑑みて in view of X; in the light of X; taking X into account. Much more precise than について、に関して、etc. for when you want to get across the idea that you're building on things that have been established.

A bonus is that the kanji is used to get across the idea of "to discern" or "to discriminate" so we see it in all sorts of interesting combinations:

a. 印鑑 【いんかん】 (n) stamp; seal
(the kanji finally makes sense to me now: the impression that one uses to distinguish oneself from others!)

b. 鑑賞 【かんしょう】 (n,vs) appreciation (e.g. of art); aesthetic sense

...so for "film festival" is 映画鑑賞会 【えいがかんしょうかい】

c. 鑑定 【かんてい】 (n,vs,adj-no) judgment

So then we get:

鑑定書 【かんていしょ】 (n) expert's written opinion or report
精神鑑定 【せいしんかんてい】 (n,vs) psychiatric examination
DNA鑑定 【ディーエヌエーかんてい】 (n) DNA test

d. 鑑別 【かんべつ】 (n,vs,adj-no) discrimination; judgment; distinction

from which we get: 雌雄鑑別 【しゆうかんべつ】 (n) sexing (of chickens, silkworms, etc.)
(literally: female/male distinguish)