Vocabulary of the Week: You suck どへたくそ

To start, this isn't a word you want to say out loud as you look at your computer in the middle of a cafe in Japan or something. I guess you could say that Japan doesn't really have any swear words, just rude ways of saying words, but this is a rougher word, so be careful when using it, if you ever do. This came about because I asked my host father the other day what ド meant; he basically told me it's something I probably would never use. I saw it used on a television program, and while I recognized the word that came after it, I was unsure really what ド added. Apparently, it's to add emphasis in a manly way. You can only add it to certain words, but I'm not sure what the criteria are.

I've never been called へたくそ (not to my face, at least), but I have heard it. It happens to be one of the words you can add ド to. Lousy/unskilled/poor・下手・へた is an easily recognizable word - it's just the opposite of 上手・じょうず. If you want to say "really bad at", you can say へたくそ、くそ being equivalent to 'crap' (and other similar words). Now you are free to use this word to criticize rudely criticize music/musicians you don't like. Do you have really terrible soccer skills? You might be called へたくそ。

So if 下手 means you're poor at X, へたくそ might be comparable to you're really terrible at/ you suck at X, and どへたくそ could mean you have no f-ing chance at ever being good at X.

Here's a bit more about how you can use it. Japanese-reading practice!

Tokyo Sevens Festival

 Read in Japanese

On the 25th of April I went with the Nagoya Ladies to take part in the Tokyo Rugby Sevens Festival! No, I didn't suddenly get amazing at rugby - I went as the help (otetsudai・おてつだい・お手伝い). The Ladies only had one side and a couple subs, so everyone had a tiring three games. But they won every single one of them! You can see the scores for the women's side of the tournament here, on the Nagoya Ladies Blog. Some photos...



四月25日、名古屋レディースと一緒に、東京セブンスフェスタに行けました。いや、私は急にラグビーが上手になったわけじゃなくて、ただお手伝いとして行きましたよ!レディースは、人数が少なかったので、きっと大変疲れたのに皆さんは三つの試合にも出なければならなかったですけど、全部勝ちましたよ。 名古屋レディースのブログで、得点が見えます。それに、ここで写真を少しだけ載せます!








Some notes...


Grammar Point of the Week: You can't do that それはいけない

Maybe this isn't quite a grammar point, but I've started watching the new show featuring Eita and Ueno Juri, called Sunao ni Narenakute - Hard to Say I Love You. Ueno's character, Haru, has a catchphrase kind of going: それはいけない。 She's referring to Nakaji's (Eita) flattery/kindness to her, which can be mistaken by her female sensibilities as fancy rather than politeness. When she saysそれはいけない, it's kind of like “You can't do that. You can't lead a girl on like that." This seems like an easily-adapted-to-the-situation, useful phrase. I imagine you can use it to mean "that's a no go" etc.

I suppose to make this more of a grammar entry, I will talk a bit about potential conjugation, as in "You CAN'T do that", vs regular conjugation/dictionary form ("You (will) do that"). Basically:

For -る verbs: Take of the -るand add -られる. 食べる => 食べ => 食べられる

For all other verbs: Take of the -うand add -える. 行く => 行ける

The irregular するbecomes できる.  来るbecomes 来られる.

From this point, all the verbs are -る verbs. So, if you wanted to change it to the more formal -ます form:

食べられ => 食べられま ・・・ 行ける => 行けます 

However, I often heard people dropping the -らpart of the -るverb conjugation. I've heard that this may be naturally happening because the potential and causative form of -るverbs are identical, and people naturally want to differentiate them. Thus:


When speaking I think you will mostly hear -れるinstead of -られる; but when writing make sure you use the technically correct form.


Bamboo Shoots

Read in Japanese

The other day my host father, brother, and sister took me out to an acquaintance`s house to go digging for take no ko (bamboo shoots). We carried shovels and trowels and I felt very quaint thinking I would be digging up food that I would later eat myself. (I like to delude myself with illusions of self-reliance.) If I ever end up without food in some place which happens to be plentiful in bamboo, I am prepared. I feel like I have become more adult.

We went a bit early in the morning, before I had rugby practice. The sun was out, but where we were digging was very shaded (what with all the bamboo), so my camera did a bad job of capturing the scene (also I was very busy digging), and I have only a few very low quality pictures.

 Take no ko in the ground

So what you do is find the shoot poking out of the ground. My host brother is especially adept at this. Once you find one, you begin to excavate the dirt around it. Basically you dig around the shoot and wiggle it about every once in a while to determine if you can try and pull it out yet. My host sister and I had a fun time doing this together. The thing to take care of is that you don`t break the shoot until you hit these tiny red, knobby, bead-like things at the bottom.







とにかく、まずは 土から出ているたけのこを探します。この点で、ホストブラザーはとっても得意でした。たけのこを見つけたら、 周りの土を掘ります。簡単にいえば、たけのこの周りに掘って、もう取れるかどうかって、たまにたけのこをちょっとだけ揺れ動かせます。ホストシスターと私は、一緒に楽しく掘りました。大切なポイントは、たけのこの下にある、小さくて、赤くて、丸いものが現れるまで掘って、その部分の上にたけのこを折れないように気をつけるポイントです。


その前の夜、雨が降ったので、ホストファザーに掘りにくいと言われたのに、そんなに難しくなかったけど、 根っ子でけっこう困ったから、たけのこの周りにちゃんと掘れないことが、よくありました。その場合で、たけのこをまた隠してから、ほっておきました。 たけのこが小さすぎるときにも、ほっておきました。



Some notes...


Read in Japanese

To see beautiful cherry blossoms you can head to Yoshinoyama, in Nara.

The many different sakura trees here bloom at different times in the spring because of differences in temperature as you progress up the mountain. Sakura won't bloom if it's too cold, so trees at higher altitudes bloom later in the year than those at lower levels. The result is a wave of sakura blossoms, traveling up the mountain. I think if someone took time-lapse video of "Yoshino in the Spring", the resulting footage would be beautiful.



美しい桜が見たいなら、 奈良の吉野山は完璧です。

山を登るとともにで気温は寒くなりますので、 高度によって桜の咲く時間は違います。桜は、気温が寒すぎなら咲きませんから、高地にある桜木は、山のふもとにあるのより遅く咲きます。その理由で、桜は山のふもとから頂点まで押し寄せる波のように咲き出します。維持露出で春の吉野山のイメージを撮ったら、きっとすごいビデオになりますね。






Some notes...


Vocabulary of the Week: 基本的・きほんてき・kihonteki


I hear this at least twice every time  I go to rugby practice, and as sad as it seems, for a couple of weeks I had no idea what it meant. Every time I heard it I obsessed over what it might mean, and made a mental memo to look it up when I got home, or to ask someone after practice, but I am an うっかりする kind of person (more on that word another day), and of course that never happened. (Until one day it did, and that's how I'm able to give you the definition of the word.)

 Kihonteki (基本的)means basic, as in "basic human rights" or "the fundamentals". 

There's something ironic in not knowing the word for basic.


Grammar Point of the Week: Present tense + ところで; At the moment; At the point

Off and on I am reading through this book called 「海になみだはいらない」 by 灰谷健次郎, so I thought I'd pick up a grammar point from it. This is one that I've seen in some readings: present tense plus ところで. Tokoro means place, so I often think of it as 'at the place of [action]'. You may have seen tokoro used in the following fashion:

present tense +ところ  About to...
progressive tense +ところ  Currently...
past tense +ところ  Just finished...

This case is present tense +ところで I read this as "At the point that..." "At the moment that..." "Just as I..." Perhaps "when".

"When I think I've gone far enough, I dive, somersaulting, like I'm falling into the water."


A Night at the Chuunichi Dragon Game

Read in Japanese

I went to a baseball game (Chuunichi Dragons) with my host family the other night. Super fun! Baseball is baseball where ever you go, but there are some differences when it comes to baseball games in Japan. What I noticed most was the fan base.





Nara: Daibutsu Todaiji

The largest structure of wood in the world. Beautiful scenery. Giant Buddha statues. And deer that bite butts.

If my house were in Japan I might be able to see it from here.


















Some points...


Grammar of the Week: 縁がない・えんがない・en ga nai

En ga nai (縁がない) is a phrase meaning "to have no connection to/no opportunity to", but I`m still not sure of all of its implications, or uses. Have you heard this phrase before?

 縁・えん seems a bit similar to 運・うん (as in 運命・うんめい・fate) , or 関係・かんけい・relationship, for example:

彼と縁がない・かれとえんがない `I don`t have any connection to him.` 

But I think that the phrase can be read as more than just `connection`, and perhaps translated as something  like, `We don`t see eye to eye`, `We aren`t meant to be`, etc.

ロシアに行くことと縁がない・ろしあにいくえんがない I don`t have the opportunity to go to Russia. But perhaps there is also an implication of, `I`ll probably never have the opportunity / It isn`t in my cards (It`s not my fate) to go to Russia`?

In an actual article (from the Asahi Shinbun, 非難し合うより共闘しよう、ドリュー・ギルピン・ファウスト), a line using this phrase shows up...


`Girls who until this had no connection to either myself or Harvard were overjoyed, believing that for themselves (as well) `a large door had opened in the world`.`


Vocabulary of the Week: まし・マシ・mashi

This is a hard one to say in a simple word, so first I will ask you the following. Do you remember those games you played in the elementary school cafeteria?

`If you were stuck on an island with one person, who would it be? The bride of Chucky or the kid who eats his boogers in class 2B?`

`If you had to choose how to die, would you die by having a bear eat your face, or by being lowered into a tank full of fire ants?`

If you were a Japanese kid, you might call these questions マシ (mashi). Basically, you use it when you are forced to make a choice by comparing things, usually distasteful things. So, if the kid across from you tells you he dares you to lick his shoe, and you wanted to say `I`d rather die`, you might say 「死んだほうがマシ・しんだほうがまし」.

If someone uses `mashi`  to ask a question, it seems to imply something like `All of the alternatives are bad, but which is comparatively least bad?` If you use it to answer a question, you`re implying something like `Well, both of those suck, but if I really have to choose I guess the least suck-tastic is this option.` There kanji for it is 増し, but I always saw it in katakana as マシ.

I came across this word several times while reading the Japanese translation of the Korean novel 'The First Shop of Coffee Prince." Some people might recognize the name, since it was dramatized for television and is pretty popular still. It reads like a manga (the protagonist is mistaken for a boy/masquerades as one, and when a guy develops feelings for her, thinking she`s a guy, he thinks he`s gay, and of course all of this mistaken identity/identity crisis craziness begets quite a few laughs), so if you want to try reading something for entertainment value so you don`t feel bad when you can`t read half the kanji contained in the sentence, I`d recommend it. Maybe I`ll translate some bits as practice.