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Playing Hearthstone on the Asia server yesterday, I got the “Watch and Learn” quest.

I have a few random friends on that server so spectated a game one of them was playing.

They won!

On autopilot I opened my chat window and messaged “Thank you very much”, to indicate I had a Watch and Learn quest they had just helped me complete.

But, because I have my Hearthstone set to Japanese language, and possibly because I was playing on Asia, I instinctively wrote ありがとうございます instead.

The person I had just spectated wasn’t English or Japanese. They were in fact Korean! They replied, in Korean, but I couldn’t understand it.

Today I used the Hangul consonant and vowel tables on Wikipedia to write out their message and put it into google translate.

It comes out as “Enjoy your game”. This makes sense, but maybe a more accurate translation for the situation would be “Enjoy your pack”. I don’t know enough about the specifics of the Korean language to know if that translation would be valid but I do know the context, and I do know that google translate can often give a literal, not-quite-correct translation.

Petals Around the Rose

When I was in Japan, I was reminded of the classic Petals Around the Rose game and made an online version.

Petals Around the Rose

Maybe it was because we used dice for various games at the end of the lessons, or maybe it was something else…anyway the puzzle somehow came back to my attention at that time.

I played it with my students with real dice after class a few times, which they found entertaining, and I gave the URL to those who were curious and had smart phones.

Mamiko helped me with the Japanese.

Here is the English version.
Here is the Japanese version.

I would do a detailed code breakdown…but I think honestly it’s pretty clear from just viewing the source. This is not a complicated page, and in fact there are some design/coding clangers that I made at the time and am since educated enough to identify. Doing so is a simple and instructive process but actually correcting them perhaps less insightful. Sometimes an original is worth more than a revision.

The “Iroha”

What is special about the following Japanese poem?


One thing that jumps out might be that it uses a couple of obsolete characters ゐ and ゑ… Well, that’s a clue to the bigger point!

Here’s another clue: The word いろは (“iroha”) can mean “the basics” in Japanese, similar to how we say “the ABCs”.

And one final clue: “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”.

(Or, actually, in the sense I am alluding to, The Iroha is closer to a sentence such as: “Mr. Jock, TV quiz PhD, bags few lynx”.)

Did you figure it out?

The poem contains all the characters in hiragana (the most common of the two/three/four phonetic symbol systems in Japanese) once and only once. As a writing and speaking drill it makes a change from the modern hiragana table. Indeed, the ordering in this poem was the old form of ordering the hiragana, and is still used in some contexts, such as numbering theatre seats.

Actually, there is one hiragana missing: the “-n” sound ん, which was written with the “mu” sound む at the time (about 1000 years ago).

Here is an English translation by Professor Ryuichi Abe:

Although its scent still lingers on
the form of a flower has scattered away
For whom will the glory
of this world remain unchanged?
Arriving today at the yonder side
of the deep mountains of evanescent existence
We shall never allow ourselves to drift away
intoxicated, in the world of shallow dreams.

やだな Follow Up

I spoke to someone else about “やだな” and pretty much everything I thought to be true was confirmed. What a useful phrase!

However, this part in particular was thoroughly questioned:

(That) woman…yada na! 彼女やだな kanojo yada na

Apparently this didn’t make much sense outside of a woman having recently departed company and a less rude/strong way of saying “I hate her” being deployed in her recent absence. What a typically Japanese application of politeness levels and context!

Then I spoke to another person, and they said it’s totally legit use for referring to one’s girlfriend or wife in a rude(ish) informal context where you’re being a bit out of order to her in her absence, whether she has just left or not.

Japanese isn’t on Hungarian levels of dialectical idiom, but even within a smaller city such as mine there are evidently disagreements about precise slang meanings.

Japanese Notes 2013-03-13

Today I was told that mastery of either Kendo 剣道, Judo 柔道, or Karate 空手 is one of the necessary requirements to be a police officer in Japan. I wondered what constitutes “mastery” in this context, presumably at least 1st dan (black belt)? My friend didn’t know, just that it has to be one of those three – Aikido and Kenpo don’t count. I haven’t found any sources for this online but of course I have no reason to doubt the word of a native Japanese person on the matter. I’m fascinated.

KendoI asked for a way to state something but at the same time signal that you’re not really pleased about it. Something along the lines of “I wish it wasn’t cold” or “It’s spicy, I don’t really like that”. Or, better, a word that would convey the effect of saying “It’s cold” or “It’s spicy” while making an unhappy face. The first answer I got was something that is apparently a female way to say this and would be weird for a guy to say. I forget what that was, but I’ll ask again because it might be handy in future or hilarious to misuse. The second answer, after some thought, was to tag “yada na” on the end. This is tricky to translate exactly so I’m not even going to try, just give some examples. You know what I asked, so you pretty much know what “yada na” means.

It’s cold, yada na! 寒いのやだな samui no yada na

There’s egg, yada na! 卵やだな tamago yada na

(That) woman…yada na! 彼女やだな kanojo yada na

You may have noticed, when the word is an adjective you need to add “no” but when it’s a noun you don’t. Anyway, onto the rest of today’s phrases.

warm 暖かい atatakai

It’s getting warmer 暖かくなってきます atatakaku natte kimasu

pollen 花粉 kafun

hay fever 花粉症 kafunshou

I have hay fever 私は花粉症です watashi wa kafunshou desu

Sorry I’m late, my Tauntaun froze before I reached the first marker
osoku natte mōshiwake arimasen. saisho no dōhyō ni touchaku shita mae, watashi no tauntaun ga tōshi shite shimaimashita