I talked last time about how the dynamic of “standing out in a crowd” can work a little differently when 98.5% of the people around you are of similar genetic and cultural stock. It may be hard for Westerners to believe, but the idea of being futsu (foo-TSOO), meaning usual or normal or the same as everyone else, has a much more positive image here than it might in the U.S. and Europe. It’s interesting to see how advertisers pay attention to the delicate balance between Japanese consumers’ natural desire to fit in with society at large with the yearning to be a little “unique.” While few in Japan would like to think of themselves as strange (hen) or even different (chigau), I’ve seen the term chotto kawatteru (“just a little different”) used to promote products aimed at young people — if you use this eyeliner or lip gloss, you’ll be a tiniest shade different from your classmates. You can almost feel the copywriters straining to find just the right word that will appeal to viewers without alienating them by going too far. During one of Kodak’s attempts at making market share gains in the Japanese film market, they hired pretty actress Asuka Seto who brandied a bright yellow Kodak camera around while walking through a Japanese temple. “What’s so bad about standing out?” she proclaimed in the commercial.
That Steven Spielberg, he’s really good at making movies. You could say he’s “Jaws.” In Japanese, the word for being “good at” something is jozu (JOH-zoo), which happens to be how the English movie title Jaws is pronounced, hence making a fun (?) little pun. Making word connections like this is one of the ways I helped myself learn the language — I still remember doodling a little shark coming out of the water in my textbook next to this word — and it’s one way to help “trick” your brain into remembering new information. Coming up with mnemonic ways to learn Japanese is quite helpful. For example, you might picture famous Beatle Ringo Starr eating an apple (which is ringo in Japanese), or the classic shinu (to die), which I memorized using the sentence “She knew he was going to die.” Having trouble remembering the word yurasu, to shake? Well, get out on the dance floor and shake yurasu! The word nobiru means to stretch, to extend, but if you don’t reach out for the frosty mug on the counter, you’ll get no beer. The word for duck in Japanese is ahiru, but a duck with a cape might just be a hero. And so on. Learning languages is fun because it gives you insight into how your own brain works. I’ll bet that when we all learned our first language, something similar was going on in our own brains, and “baby talk” is just the verbal expression of this.
Ayumi Hamasaki), beautiful idols (Aki Hoshino, Satomi Ishihara), and more. There’s even a great 2008 Domo-kun calendar this year. Browse our extensive selection now!