Category name:Language

How I spent my summer…

September 17, 2014 / Comments Off on How I spent my summer…

2014-09-17 17.19.58 (Medium)

With the exception of the odd weekend diversion and a four day break in Okinawa, I actually spent the bulk of the summer sat at this desk, trying to re-learn all the stuff I studied (and forgot) ten years ago. That was how I wanted to spend my summer and that is what I did. Summer did come to a bit of a crashing halt on September 1st however, when I suddenly fell sick – with mumps of all things. I have just spent the last two and a half weeks in a sorry kind of limbo where I couldn’t do much else but sleep. I am finally back to normal however, and will be heading back to work tomorrow exactly one week late.

Poor Mewby though, having nursed me kindly through the worst of it, has now taken up the mumps baton…

Songlines Revisited #1 ~ Greet God

June 29, 2011 / Comments Off on Songlines Revisited #1 ~ Greet God

I’m rereading Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines after an interval of two decades. The great thing about rereading this book in the 21st century is that whenever I come across something I am unfamiliar with, instead of skipping over it as I would have 20 years ago, I can instantly look it up on my i-phone or computer – whichever is to hand. It has greatly enriched my reading experience! Towards the end of the book Chatwin describes hiking through the Austrian alps,

The days were cloudless. I spent each night in a different Alpine hut, and had sausages and beer for supper. The mountainsides were in flower: gentians and edelweiss, columbines and the turk’s cap lily. The pinewoods were blue-green in the sunlight, and streaks of snow still lingered on the screes…

Isn’t it nice to be able to see what the flowers look like? Chatwin also describes how everyone called “Grüß Gott” as they passed.

From Wikipedia:

Grüß Gott (literally ‘Greet God’) is a greeting, less often a farewell, in the Upper German Sprachraum especially in Switzerland, Bavaria, Franconia, Swabia and Austria. The greeting was publicized in the 19th century by the Catholic clergy and along with its variants has long been the most common greeting form in Southern Germany and Austria. The salutation often receives a good-natured sarcastic response from Northern (and thus mainly Protestant) Germans such as “When I see him” (“Wenn ich ihn sehe”) or “Hopefully not too soon” (“Hoffentlich nicht so bald”). [LINK]

I like that.

The Songlines is available from,, and

Angry Japanese

October 29, 2009 / Comments Off on Angry Japanese

I was watching my Japanese colleague (and immediate superior) bollocking an arsey student today (on my behalf), and I couldn’t help but admire his awesome bollocking skills.

  • He was tenacious. Like a dog on a bone, he wouldn’t let it lie until the reluctant student had apologised.
  • He was tough and intimidating. He isn’t a big guy by any means, but you get a definite sense he could take down an elephant if his ire was raised. Nevertheless, like a true teacher, he never lost control.
  • His anger had eloquence. He cast quibbles, denials and excuses aside like chaff. Never at a loss for words, even when they erupted from his mouth in a furious torrent, he left the student speechless.

Obviously a lot of all that has to do with his personality. He’s a no nonsense kind of guy. But I couldn’t help thinking how cool it would be if I could speak angry Japanese like he can. How awesome would that be? What a pity they don’t give lessons in scolding, arguing and generally venting rage at Japanese language schools. It would be soooo useful (And so much fun to practice too!). Angry time is the one time when eloquence is really handy. Start stumbling and stammering over what you are saying, or use an innapropriate level of politeness and the force of what you are saying is entirely lost. Still, fortunately I’m now in a job where discipline is largely out of my hands. There are other occasions (which I’d better not go into) when it might be handy to be able to express onself like that though… Anyway, all praise to S_____-sensei and the Art of Angry Expression! Twas a beautiful thing to behold!

Step by Step

July 20, 2009 / Comments Off on Step by Step

This was written up around my school in the first month I worked there as “今月のことば” or this month’s motto.

[ichi nichi ikiru koto ha ippo susumu koto dearitai]

一日 = one day
生きること = living
一歩 = one step
進む = advance, make progress, improve

でありたい as far as I can tell is a more literary or old-fashioned way of saying たったらなあ or であればなあ. It expresses a very strong wish or desire. So my translation is as follows:

I want each day I live to be another step forward.

I am of course on holiday now and have been taking it far too easy for the last week or so. Today I picked up my books and got down to some study.  This is a good motto for me to keep in mind during the long summer vacation. I finally have some time to devote to all the things I want to do! I don’t want to fritter this me-time away!

English Spelling

September 8, 2008 / Comments Off on English Spelling

Just a few links for a you today. Last night I had a lovely dinner at one of the restaurants overlooking the Kamo river on Pontocho. We had really great seats on the balcony and the food was absolutely fantastic. Naturally, I’ve recordered the occasion by putting the restaurant up on Deep Kyoto: 招月庵.

Not entirely unconnected, today’s vocabulary on Japanese Reboot is all fish related. Specifically the fish I ate last night:

And finally here’s a video I found on boingboing today that made me smile. Ed Rondthaler (looking remarkably chipper for his age) on the bizarre vagaries of English spelling.


Having fun with Japanese…

Another fresh posting up on THE SISTER BLOG today of the cafe and art gallery etw.

Checking google analytics the other day, I discovered that a lot of people were coming to this blog via the obscenely popular TOEIC BLITZ BLOG written by my old friend and colleague Masaya “The Messiah” Kanzaki. Masaya was kind enough to write a post about my blog, and recommend it as “interesting” and “probably good reading practice”. Which was jolly nice of him. So I thought I’d do a bit of reading practice of my own and read his. Most of the entries (when he is not linking to English articles) are in Japanese, but they are mercifully short and not so difficult for someone of my reading ability. Anyway, in this piece 英語を楽しむ or “Enjoy English”, Masaya advises his readers to find something they can enjoy doing in English. For a lot of people this will be reading books or magazines of personal interest, or watching movies, or listening to and learning English songs (Masaya closes his post with a nice bit of The Specials). Whatever floats your boat basically. All very good advice because you remember more when you’re having fun and are actively interested, than you do when you are thinking: “God, I hate this! How much longer will it take me to remember this stupid grammar? My brain hurts… etc”. So I was thinking, I don’t really study Japanese much any more, but what enjoyable things do I do that involve learning?

Well, I sit in my regular, sipping beer and chatting in Japanese to the other regulars and through those conversations I do learn a lot… But that could get expensive if I did it every night (まさか!)… Well, another thing I do is I read… Nothing too heavy or overwhelming, but something light and of interest. For instance, recently I’ve been working my way through the very excellent 京都:音楽空間 a guide to all the best music spots of Kyoto, whether they be bars (my regular is in there), or cafes, or live music venues, or record shops etc. It’s great, because there’s enough new vocabulary there for me to be challenged, and plenty of old vocabulary I need to review, but mostly because I want to read it so I do. Through reading this book I can find all kinds of interesting places and meet all kinds of new people that I would never encounter otherwise, which is basically the primary reason to learn a language really (though we sometimes tend to forget it). And of course, it’s proving to be invaluable source material for my Deep Kyoto project too. Life’s too short to be spending your free time suffering after all (that’s what work is for) so have a bit of fun. Enjoy yourself.

It’s getting late now, so I’ll sign off but tomorrow I’ll be doing something else I find an enjoyable method of study: translating the latest meditation at Hozouji Temple. Unless any of you want to have a crack at it first:

Sweary Marys

July 18, 2007 / 1 Comment on Sweary Marys

Occasionally, I receive comments on this blog of a colourful turn of phrase and I don’t publish them. Just to make things clear, let me explain my policy on “bad language”. I think there’s a time and a place for it and this blog isn’t it. To be precise; any variation on the f-word is not going to get in. The c-word (fond though I am of it) is also out of the question. Words beginning with w, s or b.s. are allowable but only under circumstances of extreme rage (when describing politicians for example) and then in a slightly modified form: “Tony Blair is a w**ker” or “Shinzo Abe is full of s#t”.

I have this policy because I am very much aware that a wide variety of people visit these pages (including colleagues, students and my sister’s two very small children) and if they encounter such language they probably won’t want to visit it again. I also think that overuse of such choice vocabulary can become a kind of verbal tick that can disable you from expressing yourself more eloquently. Basically, “eff this and eff that and eff off over there you effer” makes you sound a bit thick.

Rich and eloquent cursing of a religious nature (HolyMaryMotherofGodandAlltheSaintsPreserveUs!) is however entirely acceptable, because I’m Irish and we think that way.

Speaking of which, a particular Sweary Mary of my aquaintance wanted to know if I had any plans for the summer. Indeed I do! From August 1st until the 13th I will be in Ireland. I’m going to spend one week in a little bungalow just north of Dublin, with my parents, sister and her husband (I’ll be on the couch) and then I’m going west to Achill for a few days. I’m looking forward to catching up with my cousins after an interval of 16 years. I’m also going to be able to catch up with a couple of old college buddies; Michael Staunton (who I haven’t seen in 10 years) and good old David Holloway. David writes: Dublin has changed beyond recognition in the last 16 years- the last few times I’ve been there it has changed radically within periods of about a year- it’s a very interesting place these days.
I do hope by that he doesn’t mean they’ve knocked down lots of lovely old buildings and put up ugly new ones…

Now, I am pleased to announce that over on Deep Kyoto I have finally received my first comment. Or at least the first comment that doesn’t mention testosterone. It’s a nice clean comment of an encouraging nature from a complete stranger and it made me very happy when I read it this morning. More like that please!

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