Teaching In Socks


Language detective & Other news
September 24, 2008, 7:47 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

I’m heading to Kyoto for an extended weekend. Hopefully I’ll return with a boatload of pictures and a luggage case full of spiritual enlightenment. I heard a rumor that they have a few temples and shrines there.

I know I mentioned a while back that I was going to stage some sort of elaborate thesis on Japanese politics and the value of honor within Japanese society, however, I have returned to the old philosopher’s crux that the more I think about it, the more I realize how little I know. I’ve only been here two months, so maybe this is a subject I will return to when I feel more qualified to do so. I’ll certainly provide some highlights and insight on the upcoming Japanese Prime Minister election, especially if my students offer me any interesting information on the subject.  So far I’ve mostly received sentiments of cynicism on their part. I can’t blame them, they have had something like thirteen Prime Ministers in the last twenty years. I’m surprised they remember who is in charge, or that they haven’t turned the whole election into an American Idol style competition.

In the meantime, today I stumbled into an unfortunate episode of “Ted Reilly, Language Detective”. During some pleasant lobby talk with another teacher and one of my students about text message abbreviations, the other teacher shared an anecdote about the encounters of her father as a young boy in Japan, with the arriving American GI’s. Her father told her he could remember three things they used to say to him, but he spoke no English, so he didn’t know what they meant.

The first one was “sunavubit”, which she had realized was probably “son of a bitch”. (Everyone in the lobby shared a polite chuckled when she said this.)

The second saying her father had remembered was “gudaamut”. She had determined that this was “god damnit”. (The students and I laugh, pretending to be shocked by the language.)

The third saying her father would recall, was “caasuuka”.  The teacher then says that has never figured out what the one was and she is interested to know what it was and what it means. (All eyes in the room turn to me)

“Do you know?” asked the other teacher.

I stupidly replied honestly, not even remembering to inflect any sort of reluctance and answer until half way though, “Yeahhhhhhhhhhh, I know what it means

My student, curious, eagerly urges me on, “What does it mean?”

“You know, it could be a lot of things actually…” I said.

“My father probably did something to make them angry, right?” asked the teacher.

“Well, you know, the army has it’s own language and it’s own way of speaking, it’s not necessarily a bad thing….”

“But it wasn’t a nice word, was it?” she finished my sentence.

“No, not really” I said, sheepishly.

I guess there were both better and worse places we could have ended the conversation, but we decided to do it here, at that point, I was comfortable with that. These days they might deport me for saying the word in question to a room full of Japanese women. Later, when I used the school computer I saw that the teacher had tried to use “Yahoo:Answers” to figure it out on her own. Someone should tell her about Google, although I doubt she wants to Google this finely crafted bit of slang.

You know, I knew this war thing might lead to an awkward moment or two, but I didn’t realize it was going to be a weekly occurrence. Thanks FDR.

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1 Comment so far
Leave a comment

I’m leaving a comment, but only to say that I’m censoring myself for shame of your father finding me to be an even less savory character than prior posts.

Although the related posts are on baking (baking?) and Bulgarian — they’ve got some crazy algorithm working here.

Comment by lindsey




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