Arrow tale →

Just discovered that in Japanese “arrowhead” is 矢尻・矢じり・鏃(やじり), or “arrow tail” (lit. arrow rump/buttocks/arse).

Although “arrowhead” can also be referred to as 矢先・矢前・鏃(やさき).

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Ladders and rugs

In English, to “kick away the ladder” is usually used when one party has achieved something, then removes the means/opportunities, or changes the rules, to prevent other parties from following suit. The image conjured up is of someone using a ladder to scale a wall and then kicking it away to prevent anyone else from following.

Japanese has a similar idiom, 梯子を外す(はしごをはずす), which on the face of it looks almost identical to the English. I was reading over a JE translation at work last week and came across the abovementioned English idiom, but it didn’t seem to fit the context. The party who was in the process of reaching their goal was accusing a supporter, who was withdrawing some of their support, of “kicking away the ladder”, presumably while the party in question was still on the ladder.

A little research confirmed my suspicion that this is how 梯子を外す is used in Japanese.
Which I think makes it closer in meaning to the English idiom to “pull the rug from under someone’s feet”.

Footnote: It has been brought to my attention that you can say to “kick the ladder out from under someone”, which seems to mean the same thing as “pull the rug from under someone’s feet” / 梯子を外す.

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Bear heads and stolen showers

Learned a couple of interesting words in yesterday’s Vietnamese lesson.

The first is: đầu gấu

Đầu [頭] means “head”, and gấu {𤠰} means “bear”, so on the face of it this means a “bear’s head”. But it’s also slang for “gangster”!

The second is: tắm trộm

Tắm [浸] means “to bathe” and trộm {𥂉} “to steal”. Together it means “to bathe/take a shower somewhere on the sly”, without seeking the permission of the owner of the bathing facilities.

Here are the article headings and leads where these two terms came from:

Những cơn ghen làm hại chồng của các bà vợ
Khi nhiều lần ngọt nhạt cũng không níu kéo được chồng quay về với gia đình, một số bà vợ đã phản ứng thuê đầu gấu “nói chuyện”. Hậu quả, chồng mang thương tật, thậm chí thiệt mạng.

Additional vocab
ghen = to be jealous, envious | ngọt nhạt = to speak with a sugary/smooth tone | níu kéo = to pull (in); 引っ張る | thương tật [傷疾] = wound | thậm chí [甚至] | thiệt mạng [𧵳命] = to die

Sinh viên khốn khổ vì nước bẩn
Nước máy vàng khè, hàng nghìn sinh viên ĐH Xây dựng Hà Nội nghĩ kế lọc nước, đi tắm nhờ hoặc tắm trộm ở nhà vệ sinh trường. Nhiều người bị ghẻ nước và đau mắt sau khi sử dụng nước dài ngày.

Additional vocab
khốn khổ [困苦] = to be in a miserable/wretched state; 困っている | nước bẩn = dirty water, waste water, sewage | nước máy = tap water; 水道水 | vàng khè = very yellow | kế [計] = to plan, scheme | lọc [漉, 淥] = to filter, strain | tắm nhờ = to (request permission to) borrow bathing facilities | ghẻ = scabies | đau mắt = sore eyes

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Approximately precisely

An in-house email today requesting that we update a certain software program read:
I can live with the double “roughly”, even though it wouldn’t be natural in English to say “It will roughly take approximately …”, as this is apparently quite normal in Japanese, to either emphasize the approximate nature of what you’re saying, or just because it sounds more “natural” – English has many similar somewhat illogical, yet accepted usages.

What I can’t understand is why a precise number is given!? The interesting thing is that many Japanese don’t even think there is anything mildly strange with this kind of phrasing. To be fair, many would in fact wonder why, in this case, the writer didn’t simply write “20秒”, but it still doesn’t seem to leap out at them the same way it does to a native English speaker.

I see this kind of thing all the time, from all sorts of different sources – last week it was:
「約32名が出席した。」 Why the writer didn’t simply put 「約30名」 or 「30名以上」 is beyond me.

What’s even more confounding is when you get the combination 「約 … 以上」, which seems to defy all logic. I can’t recall an exact example, suffice to say that I have seen sentences like: 「約28以上の回答をいただきました。」

Geek note: I don’t seem to come across the combinations 「約 … 以下」 or 「約 … 未満」 nearly so often …

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Mouse Tribe follows in the wake of the Ant Tribe

I was listening to a BBC podcast a couple of days ago about a relatively new sub-culture of people in Beijing (and as it turns out in other large Chinese cities too), which the reporter stated were known as the Mouse Tribe. A quick search for 鼠族 turned up a host of articles/descriptions in Chinese and Japanese.

It turns out there is a related sub-culture called 蚁族, a term that has been around since at least 2009 to refer to the community of low paid university graduates that tend to congregate in certain areas in the larger Chinese cities – there are even specific names given to these groups in each city, e.g.: 京蚁(北京)、沪蚁(上海)、江蚁(武汉)、秦蚁(西安)、穗蚁(广州)!

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I could be late

Learned the word for “late” in my Vietnamese class yesterday. In fact, there are two words: muộn (Nth VN) and trễ (Sth VN).

To be late = đến muộn/trễ
e.g. Tôi có thể sẽ đến muộn tuần sau. (I could be late [to class] next week.)

Geek note: muộn is probably an early borrowing of 晚 from Chinese (cf muôn 萬/万)

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First post!

First post of first ever blog!

Am writing this mainly as a way to keep track of things I’ve learned or found interesting in the course of studying Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese. As a blog, it will probably be a bit on the dry side, and posts will undoubtedly be a little random. And unless you’re an Asian language nut like me, there probably won’t be much in here for you. But if you are interested in any or all the aforementioned languages, you may find the odd interesting tidbit.


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