Pronunciation is Everything #3


If you’ve seen the previous two cartoons here and  here, you know that Japanese can be written in the Roman alphabet. The Japanese pronunciation of  “u” is close to the vowel sound in “ooh” in the phrase “ooh la la.”





There’s mistakes everywhere (Hint: There’s one here)


If you caught the mistake up there in the title of the post, all I can say is, “Look at you all smart and grammarous!”

No doubt you’ve seen or heard this kind of error before. And you’re probably thinking that it is the contraction “there’s” that throws people off. No one would say, “There is mistakes,” right? Maybe, but I suspect there’s more to it than that.

What is missing in the title? It’s the word “are.” In its place is an apostrophe and the letter “s.” You’ve probably noticed a lot of “are’s” are missing lately. More and more people on TV, in the classroom, and on the internet are using a plural noun with “there’s.” Why?

Where are all those “are’s” we used to have?

Oddly, or suspiciously, or perhaps nefariously, the Japanese also use the word “are” when they write in Roman characters (romaji). It  means “that over there.” I don’t have any hard proof yet, but my best sources have led me to believe that not only are Americans smuggling our “are’s” into Japan but the Japanese mafia (yakuza) has bots combing the internet to capture “are’s” that are the replaced with that increasingly familiar apostrophe followed by the lonely  “s.” These captive words are taken to underground factories where Japanese engineers genetically alter the letters, cruelly bending them into shapes that looks like this: あれ. Using an electrical current, they modify the pronunciation until the only sound the word can make is ah-reh. These former verbs are sold on the black market for mere pennies (or mere yen) to be used as demonstratives! You heard me right. That powerful friend of pronouns, that magician of linking, that word that keeps people dancing right now, that verb is now at the beck and call of every pointing finger of every tour guide on every bus in Japan!

I know this is the kind of shocking exposé you’d expect from The New York Times, not a family friendly blog like this. But I felt that someone needed to bring it to the world’s attention.

What can you do? Write your U.S. representative or contact the nearest Japanese Embassy. Let them know we won’t stand for that. Remember, our are’s are ours.

Was this once an American verb? Sadly, we'll never know. It only speaks Japanese now.

Pronunciation is Everything #1


Have you ever had an out-of-body experience? Me, neither. But I’ve had several out-of-WORLD experiences, in which my body has been lifted high above the WORLD (aka America) and been transported to places far, far away. Oddly, just as in out-of-body experiences, along the way I have been probed by aliens with blank stares, large hands, and wands (aka TSA).

Some of these experiences lasted a long time. Not the probing, the being in places far away. Places where people do not speak English, like Japan. At first, to make myself understood, I tried speaking English slowly. People did not understand me, so I put on my American thinking cap and started shouting in English. LIKE THIS! Finally, in desperation and because I really needed to find a toilet, I learned the language.

Now I can irritate people with puns and wordplay in two languages.

Once upon a time in that land far, far away, some people who publish a small bilingual magazine in Tokyo were filled with desperation over how to fill the back pages of their magazine. I appeared and offered them six cartoons, which they published. Nothing happened after that. And none of us lived happily ever after; they still had back pages to fill, and I continued on my lonely quest to find desperate publishers.

The cartoon below is a play on the English word man. If you use the Roman alphabet, you can write the Japanese word for Y10,000 as man.  The “a”  is pronounced like “ah.” (Ten thousand yen is currently about $128.)

This is my attempt to fill the back pages of my blog.