• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • You already know Dokkio is an AI-powered assistant to organize & manage your digital files & messages. Very soon, Dokkio will support Outlook as well as One Drive. Check it out today!



Page history last edited by PBworks 17 years, 5 months ago

The Greatest Myths About Japanese


The dumbest thing anyone has ever said to me about Japanese is this: "The Japanese have such respect for mountains that they address them as if they were people: Fuji-san."

As any beginning student will tell you, san is the On reading of "yama" which means mountain. Not the same thing as the honorific -san.


The following items are not nearly as stupid, because all kinds of people who should know better believe and repeat them, so people not in a position to know better naturally believe them. But they are no less laughably wrong to anyone who is actually fluent in Japanese.


5 Japanese has no intonation or stress

NHK news anchors have no intonation, boring teachers have no intonation...same as everywhere. Tedious people inclined to drone are happy to do so, and the rest of us are happy to run away.

But look at any blog decent blog in Japanese. You will see an astonishingly adept us of bold, and multiple font sizes to create stress. There are 'staccato marks' next to text for emphasis. And any time spent talking to a Japanese native speaker who isn't a complete waste of life will disprove the no intonation theory.


4 Japanese does not have sarcasm

While not quite as popular a form of discourse as it is here, it absolutely does exist. Go read Crest of the Stars. It's positively dripping with it.


3 Japanese does not have any swearing

In volumes six of Parasyte, which I just finished translating, a high school girl yells "kuso!" loudly and is chided for it by a passing old man.

But it is true that Japanese does not have many words you can't say on TV, and those words mainly refer to sexual organs. Does this mean no translation of a Japanese work should ever have swearing in it? Don't be retarded.

The Japanese equivelant to swearing is built fundamentally into the grammer of the language. Listen to those yakuza yelling into the phones in Ichi the Killer and tell me they aren't cussing up a storm. Use of foul language in translation should be applied to the same rules as anything else -- match the language and intent, and do what feels natural.

Boogiepop followed the PG-13 rule, and I got one 'fuck' per novel and used it carefully. This was a fun limitation to have, and hopefully let me give those moments the impact they needed.

Kino no Tabi will never have any kind of swearing at all.

Maijo Otaro would read like Deadwood. All his narrators come across like they might leap across the room and bite your face off at any minute if you looked at them funny.


2 Honorifics tell you so much about the relationships

Man, do anime fans love their damn honorifics. We have to put them in the books at half the publishers whether the work demands it or not.

Thing is, it isn't like this isn't true. It just isn't true to anything like the extent people assume it is.

I lived in Japan for five years and never once encounters a situation where there was a horrible clash in honorific usage. The usage is on the decline anyway, and my generation has little use for uptight bullshit like honorifics and keigo.

The vast majority of the time, what the honorifics tell us about the characters could easily be conveyed through simply being a decent writer and voicing the character appropriately.

What does Niitoki Kei's rigidly proper honorific usage tell us in the final chapter of Boogiepop and Others? That she's very, very anal. I think that came across anyway.

I have read exactly one scene that could not be dealt with in this manner -- a scene in NisiOisin's Psycho Logical, where the characters spend several minutes making fun of someone by using the wrong honorifics. And the narrators name, given only as I-chan, might also pose a problem.

So there are times when retaining honorifics is the only way to avoid creating an entirely new scene (or nickname) for the English release (neither of which are good ideas.) But the vast majority of manga and novels do not need honorifics retained, and fans should really let their translators and editors decide which books those are on a case by case basis, instead of demanding them willy nilly in their misguided ignorance.


1 Kansai is just like American Southern

I have no idea where this lie got started, but I have often suspected it was ADV's Houston based dubbing studio, where the actors were desperate to use their own accent. But I've seen it in other places as well; a short story in Monkey Brain Sushi which claims Elvis is singing in Kansai dialect.

Kansai dialect and American Southern could not be more different. There are no two dialects in any language less like each other in tone, feeling, and connotation.

Kansai is a big city, fast talking, high energy, jazzy dialect, the language of gangsters, wily businessmen, comedians, and people who don't take shit from nobody.

There are tons of dialects in Japanese that could be rendered as Southern, but Osaka Kansai is NOT FUCKING ONE OF THEM.


Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.