I’ve just discovered another language blog, Every Way but One, authored by Russell: “Student of linguistics. Student in Japan.” There’s a lot of good material about Japan and the Japanese language; I was particularly taken with the post English Readings for (Japanese) Chinese Characters, which describes a truly weird onomastic development:

The original name for [an army base in Miyazaki Prefecture] was pronounced shin-den-baru (new-paddy-field). But the current pronunciation is nyuu-ta-baru. That is, the first character, which means new, is now being pronounced with the (Japanese rendition of the) English word. (Oh, and for some other reason the second character now has a native Japanese reading instead of a Chinese reading…not sure why that is – generally the S[ino-]J[apanese] readings go just as fine with foreign words as they do with other SJ morphemes).


  1. The most interesting common but strange reading for characters (for most Japanese readers) is “5-month-fly” for “urusai,” or “bothersome” [month 5 was once mid-summer] and the best reading where the characters are used as pronounced to mean something different is in a crazy-verse by issa where he writes of “intensely hated faces” (shimijimi to nikukuki tsura) of his fellow townsmen — who neglected his papers or possibly a deed — where the adverb of intensity is written with the repeat-marked shimi=paper-fish (silverfish)characters ==
    I see you cite Venuti below. If you enjoyed his Translator’s Invisibility or Susan Bassnett-McGuire’s Translation Studies, you will like my new book Orientalism & Occidentalism (the one with the huge ampersand) — its subtitle: “Is the Mistranslation of Culture Inevitable? even more, for it concerns mutually exotic tongues (engl and japanese). A well known midwest author wrote about the draft:
    “You lead us through delicious nuances in the whole work of travel by the path of language into important mysteries.”
    I think you will like it. A summary may be found at http://www.paraverse.org with Newbooks, i think . . .

Speak Your Mind