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Thursday, May 9, 2013

オタクのための日本語: Miser

Sacred Blacksmith is really quite excruciating even two episodes in, which has me paying a bit more attention to the language. At the end of Luke and Cecily's discussion of money, in which it is established that our inept princess lacks the funds for a masterwork sword, she shouts with all her well honed outrage a phrase that Hulu translates as "you tightwad", kono shusendoga, この守銭奴が. This caught my ear as being a particularly flowy phrase and sounds quite nice being shouted indignantly, but it also illustrates some of the more interesting little bits of the Japanese language.

Now, if you are shouting it along with her, note that part of what makes it so fun of a word to say is the elided 'yu' sound. Anyone familiar with the Kana will know that even though the first syllable of our keyword is transliterated (romaji) as shu, there is no shu kana. Rather, what she is saying is shi - yu, elided into shu. Japanese is full of these almost-dipthongs that are often transliterated with the 'y' still attached, like Kyoto (きょと) or Ryuku (りゅく). I think it is a very pretty sound, and Cecily here elides it perfectly, less than shiyusendo but not the full elision to shusendo. I expect no less, of course, since the voice actor's job is to speak the language, but I still appreciate it.

"tightwad", or as google translates it, "miser", is written 守銭奴 and is a fine example of why ideograms really are a magical way of writing. The third character is very common and when attached to the end of a word like this often means something equivalent to "person", but more specifically "person who does the aforementioned things". That first character 守 is a bit rarer, though still common and indicates protection or a protector. I had to look the middle character up (actually I had to look the first one up as well, but I sort of remembered where it was in my notes) and it turns out that 銭, sen, is an archaic unit of currency equivalent to a hundredth of a yen (and a single yen is about a penny, so when you see prices on anime, cut the last two zeroes off and that is how many dollars it would cost, approximately). This tells us little about how it is pronounced, but if we saw it in a book for the first time we would immediately understand that we were reading about a "person who protects a hundredth of a penny" which is both marvelously poetic and completely accurate. Ideograms are giant piles of awesome.

Finally, the subtitle came on a moment early on this line (it happens, I don't think any less of our valiant and anonymous translators) and I found myself anticipating another marvelous word of a similar meaning, けち, kechi, pronounced as if spitting, is a less formal way to accuse someone of niggardliness.

I think I enjoyed examining this one sentence more than I have enjoyed these last two episodes, but I vow to stick it out to the end, even if that means we don't get a review for a while.

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