Where’s the thing,
The thing that does this,
You know, that thing
It is very direct, and I haven’t read all of the submissions granted since there is a lot of notes, but when I read this the アレ does not change for me. It’s the same thing the whole time and I think the humor comes from the fact that whoever is saying it doesn’t remember the word for the thing.
I have said this exact phrase before just due to my limited Japanese skills at work and with my boyfriend so I might be biased, but I don’t see how the subject would change to a different thing.
We agree on where the humor comes from, except I’m pluralizing the final word: “things” not “thing”. The humor comes from the fact that whoever is saying it doesn’t remember the word for the things.
If anyone has said this exact thing before, why did you include the アレを in the middle phrase, repeating the word アレ？ It’s unnecessary at best if it’s the same thing. It’s mandatory if they are different.
I’ll ask a native. I’m honestly surprised that I appear to be the only one with this interpretation. It means I’m likely wrong, but I’d still like to check with a native.
I don’t mind being wrong, but I’d like to understand why I’m wrong.
The notes summarize a very long discussion as well as I’m able. It’s about a child on the phone with his grandparent, with mystery voices in the background of the call.
I can’t summarize it any better than that, I’m afraid. You’ll have to read the entire chain of replies if you need more.
The アレ in the middle stanza could logically be either the same thing or something different from the first and final アレs (which are clearly the same). Thinking of the middle one as the same thing is simpler, so I’ll bow to the consensus despite my reservations. FWIW: my daughter definitively sides with my interpretation, while my wife seems ambivalent (“could be either”).
This phrasing seems to be more written-senryu-like than actual conversation-like. In an actual conversation you’d be more likely to use something like こうするやつ or whatever if you meant the thing you’re looking for, and ソレを if you meant something different. The アレを was likely added to the middle stanza to sorta-complete the sentence-fragment and to increase the repetitive comedic effect.
The thrice repeated アレ specifically seems to be for poetic cadence, 音数, and for comedic affect. It’s unlikely that a native would use this exact wording when speaking aloud in real life.
As we’ve discussed, the ambiguity is what’s funny. That it isn’t completely clear whether it’s the same or different things between the first and middle stanza actually adds to that ambiguity.
Apologies for dragging out these subtle little points like this, but involved threads like these are the fun and interesting part for me! I’ve learned a ton in this thread just by hashing this kind of stuff out. I’m here to learn Japanese — I’m already halfway-competent at writing English.
Current senryu challenge
Volume: Heartfelt (しみじみ編)
Another interesting grammatical construction! Thankfully, I think this one has only one interpretation. (Thus I doom myself to being proven wrong yet again).
If anyone else wants to try to diagram this one, it might be interesting to compare our “core” sentence structures.
Remember to please use the spoiler tag with your translation attempts! Also, please include the reading in kana with your submission.
Everyone is encouraged to participate, no matter your level! Questions and comments are as valued as translation submissions.
Please try not to be disappointed if your translation isn’t selected or if you disagree with the daily choice: the judge isn’t terribly consistent with his grading (and has awful taste!).
Online tools like dictionaries, sentence databases, and even AI translation engines are fair game and can be extremely helpful. Yomichan is particularly handy if you use the Chrome or Firefox browser. The 語源由来辞典 is also an excellent resource for researching the etymology of various words and expressions.
I hate appeals to authority, but I trust these authorities! I doubt anyone cares, but: My wife was born and bred in Japan, majored in English at University, and has lived and worked in the US for decades. While obviously stronger in her native language, she’s able to have subtle, nuanced discussions in either language. My bilingual daughter was born in the US, but raised and schooled (primary and secondary) in both countries (spending several months in both countries almost every year in native-only classes). My daughter graduated from and became a certified Japanese-language teacher at a Japanese university in Kobe. Between the two of them, I get pretty good feedback. My other two kids are also completely bilingual. My son, the oldest, also graduated from a Japanese university (but doesn’t have the teaching certification). Only my youngest graduated from a US university. Of the three, daughter #1 seems the most balanced: my son seems more comfortable with Japanese/Japan-life, and daughter #2 seems more comfortable with English/US-life. ↩︎
I read this one aloud and read 駅ではずした as 駅では+ずした. Went looking for the verb ずす and found it. Pondered it for a while, went back, and re-read the 川柳, and realized it is 駅で+
はずした. As my first Japanese teacher used to say (jokingly) 「グッド トライですが、ホープがない」
I guess the author (or someone the author is with) was wearing a nose piercing, which they removed at the station of their home town, where such a thing might give rise to an uproar. (Although, recently, I’ve seen brightly colored hair and piercings in University towns in Japan - and not just on students, either.)
Agreed, 100%! That’s the whole point. Well, one can enjoy the senryu for the sake of the senryu itself, but as learners of the language, it is much more of a vehicle to explore the language, culture and the misconceptions we are bound to accrue in the learning process.
With my normal caveats (“loud, confident, and wrong” are my middle names):
My read is that the author found or came across a nose piercing that someone had removed lost at the station. [Nope: see below. It’s just a sentence fragment about a nose-piercing] I think はずした鼻ピアス functions as a noun in this sentence. [EDIT: This is correct. The core sentence fragment is “a nose-piercing”. It doesn’t provide a verb saying what’s happening to the piercing other than it was removed.]
The core sentence in my [EDIT: incorrect diagram] is “there was a piercing/nose-stud/whosis”.
I think if the author was doing the removing, it would have been 鼻ピアス[を]はずした (reversing the order). It’s also possible they are saying they know there’s a nose-stud there because they took theirs out and lost it there!
Note that I’m unfamiliar with piercings, however. Is a nose piercing (jewelry) distinguishable from an earring if it isn’t actually in someone’s nose?
Thinking further though, I suppose it’s unlikely for anyone would intentionally leave one there (though they might lose one after removing). I suspect it might be hard to know it was nose-jewelry, either.
So now I think it was still in someone’s nose when they saw it (in that incongruous location)!
Edit: sorry - distracted. Obviously it was removed (はずした) and not still being worn.
Maybe に rather than で and possibly past tense would sound better as a complete sentence, but yes, that’s the idea I was trying to express (my understanding of the poem). The restrictions of the senryu-form sometimes make for odd grammatical choices and word ordering.
Too many edits have made this reply a mess.
Im still on my phone, but my current interpretation is still “there’s a nose-piercing at my hometown station”.
I can think of two connotations:
It’s the author’s jewelry they removed (and presumably lost) before visiting family.
It’s someone else’s and the humor is the incongruity of seeing it at the “old home station” (presumably out in the country).
I think I figured out where the disagreement was in this thread. I admittedly was fully lost after your comment here , because in my opinion making this translation choice to preserve the potential of two アレs getting mentioned in the poem loses the fundamental meaning of the poem:
Basically, I think I at least, and probably others in the thread, were approaching this from a meaning-for-meaning translation perspective. From that perspective, we were looking at what the senryu was doing, and what was the punchline, so to speak, and if you split the senryu into chunks of meaning, I think the consensus was basically:
アレどこだ!? アレをコレする あのアレだ！
where’s that thing!? (adjective clause describing the thing), that thing!
I think the meaning consensus for アレをコレする is that the person is indicating an action vaguely via physical gestures while describing the action imprecisely using weird grammar because the words are escaping them at the moment. But whatever is happening, the action is happening to describe あのアレ, “that アレ”, which is the アレ introduced in the beginning.
The thing is, there are many ways to describe someone “this-ing a that”, so to speak. Even in English, the アレ in question could be the subject or the object of this action (if the アレ is a knife, that would make it the thing doing the “this-ing”, and the person could be miming chopping something else. But if the アレ is a book, it would be the object of the action, the thing getting “this’ed”). It’s impossible to tell from the Japanese which it is (as your wife says). We’d need to have more context (like seeing the action performed) to fully understand.
アレをコレする is also a phrase that doesn’t really have a clean translation into English. Trying to translate it too closely is awkward and confusing. But we do have plenty of ways in English to describe doing actions with nonspecific things! “The thing that does this” is a very straightforward one. My other suggestion “the that that you do this with” is less straightforward but also captures the same meaning, which is describing a particular object vaguely by imitating an action involving that object.
I’d argue that for this senryu, whether the アレ (the あのアレ in question) is the thing doing the コレする or having the コレする done to it is irrelevant to the meaning of the senryu. Either way, it’s an adjective clause serving the purpose of specifying which specific object the speaker is referring to (by alluding to it in very imprecise terms haha), and both interpretations serve that purpose. The meaning of the senryu is maintained, even though it doesn’t quite match up word for word.
Someone could read either translation and get the joke (assuming we have a consensus on what exactly the joke is), so the meaning of the senryu is successfully transmitted. In my opinion, this is the most important thing your translation should accomplish. If you capture all of the words, but someone reads your translation and misses the joke or doesn’t understand what the poem is about, the translation is a failure.
I toyed with using the sentence “thising a that” in mine, but gave up because it was too weird and distracting in English, even though it’s perhaps a more “faithful” translation. It’s a closer match word-for-word, but paradoxically further away meaning-for-meaning. It doesn’t really convey the important part of the poem, which is that the speaker is doing some sort of gesture to demonstrate an action that uses the アレ!
Word-for-word translation of Japanese fails for many reasons. Some common examples that I’ve seen are that there are differences in usage between Japanese and English in terms of speaking passively vs actively, and of course it’s more normal in Japanese to omit certain information, like subjects (which is a problem for us here).
The passive vs active thing sort of comes up in this poem, actually, because I think it’s way more common in English to speak about something in very direct, terse and active voice when you’re frustrated or emotional, so “the thing that does this” feels more natural than “the thing that does something with this other thing”, or even “the thing that does this with that”.
English also has a tendency to omit information; we just omit different information than Japanese. “The thing that does this” is a truncated form of “the thing that does (something with this other thing)”, or “the thing that does (this with that)”. That form just feels more natural for an English speaker who is annoyed and flustered about something, and who is forgetting their words, so it feels more appropriate to conveying the scenario in the senryu. Japanese is a language that often omits the subject (as アレをコレする does); English is a language that heavily focuses on the subject, often to the exclusion of other information.
I suspect we’re probably not going to agree on this. I understand your argument, but consider that WK’s context sentences, which are ostensibly there to help learners, also choose a natural meaning-for-meaning translation over a word-for-word one. For what it’s worth, so does Minna no Nihongo, and the Read Real Japanese parallel text book that I have, and a Japanese book I own that teaches English fandom-related slang to Japanese speakers. I don’t think material for learners needs to be a word-for-word translation over a meaning-for-meaning one, especially if it adds more confusion, like the translation that confused KJules.
I’m still going to discuss and try to capture every subtle bit of the original as possible.
Hm. I’ve never dissected something like あれをこれ lol it’s just a set phrase+ I agree with the comedic repetition.
but I just placed different words into it - there could be examples where all three are the same but I can’t think of any right now
My point is that a native were more likely to think of them as different, but I’ve already capitulated. This one’s moot.
I’m quite possibly wrong on the latest diagram though.
Actually, scratch that. I think the diagram IS correct but my literal translation would be:
“At my hometown station: a removed nose-piercing.”
My point being that はずした is an adjective not a verb. The translation would not be “I removed …” or “… was removed”. It simply exists in the original.
The implication though, definitely seems to be that the author removed their piercing. I was going to far thinking about lost/found etc. The removed piercing simply exists (for implied but not explicitly stated reasons)
Hi there! Not to keep dragging it back, but I just had the opportunity to ask my Japanese coworkers about this senryuu as we all were on break and they agreed it was the same アレ and that if it was something different, the speaker would not use アレ again to mean something else as that would be confusing.
「話している人の頭の中にはアレ（１つ）があるのに、その名前を思い出せない」is the consensus they agreed upon.
I get that it can be kind of muddy depending on what the original speaker is doing during the アレをコレする part, but that’s why there are different pronouns for different things.
Person A: “What happened to your nose-piece?”
Person B: “Oh. I went to visit my parents over the weekend. Took off the nose-piece at the train station of my hometown. Forgot to put it back on afterwards.”
Nope, はずした is a verb, modifying a noun. The whole senryuu is a sentence fragment, not a complete sentence (it’s poetry, it’s allowed to do that :-)). My non-poetic translation would be “the nose piercing I removed at my hometown station”.
As for interpretation, I think this is about the feelings you have as a young person going back to see your parents after you’ve moved away to the big city. You feel like you’ve grown and found your own identity, and a culture and opportunities that just didn’t exist back home, and the piercing is part of how you express that – but you take the train back to the small town where you grew up, and it feels like you’re fitting yourself back into the constrained box that you were in there, playing the part of the dutiful son/daughter. You don’t want to have a big row with your folks, so you take the piercing out, but it’s an emotional thing to do, like you’re hiding the ‘real you’. I dunno, I feel like I’ve seen this kind of scene in a bunch of anime and manga.
I think this is part of why your parse doesn’t work. If there were がある at the sentence, it would have to be 駅に. The で makes it obvious that the action that takes place at the 駅 is はずした.
I don’t quite know how to create/understand the parsing diagrams, but I feel like it’s straightforward this time: ((故郷の駅で)はずした)鼻ピアス.
What are we talking about, what is being modified? 鼻ピアス (nose piercing)
What kind of piercing is it? はずした鼻ピアス (a removed nose piercing)
Where was it removed? 故郷の駅で (at my home town station)
Put together: “The piercing (I) removed at my home town station”
As for my interpretation, see @pm215’s post
My diagram is incorrect, but not because of the ~がある (in brackets to show that it isn’t actually in the poem). The modifying stem beginning with で should be attached to the object on the left, not the implied verb on the right. I’ll fix it when I’m on a computer. [EDIT: See corrected diagram below]
Note that in either language the poem just provides an adjectival description of an object, not a complete sentence that can be diagrammed. Senryu don’t have to be complete sentences, of course, but the point of diagramming is to understand the underlying grammar with complete sentences.
“The piercing” is not a complete sentence. But something like “The piercing [exists]” is. The brackets denote something implied that isn’t actually in the original.
Discussing with my daughter last night, my favorite translation was:
At my hometown station: a removed nose-piercing.
Like your version above, this is a sentence fragment, not a complete sentence.
Of course, the missing/implied verb could be anything. It makes sense to supply something simple like “exists” / ある in brackets to show that it’s implied and not actually present.
Fragments like “The piercing [I] removed at my home town station” are accurate translations. But “I took off my nose-piercing at the hometown station” wouldn’t be…
It’s just like middle school: my diagramming mistakes (in public) are leading to interesting and valuable discussions. I’m understanding things more clearly.
Here’s my updated diagram. I think this explains best what I’m trying to point out:
An adjectival verb-phrase (if that’s the right lingo) that something was removed at a home-town station. This verb-phrase acts like an adjective. It describes something about the nose-ring (that it was removed at a train station).
The core sentence fragment is “nose ring”.
A noun (subject) without some sort of verb can’t be a sentence (a complete thought). Something is implied in order to communicate a complete thought. The most basic interpretation is that they mean “There is a nose-ring” (a complete sentence) but the first two words are only implied, all they actually say is “nose-ring”.
In other words, there has to be a verb for 鼻ピアス in order for it to communicate a complete thought. That verb could be anything since it’s unstated in the poem, but the simplest interpretation is ある. The verb はずした is part of an adjectival phrase, not part of the core sentence (in my opinion).
This was an admittedly very long-winded explanation and doubtless some or even most of you feel it unnecessary or overkill if not outright wrong. But I think the diagrams (including inaccuracies) aided the discussion.
It helped me to understand and make the point that a complete sentence like “I took off my nose-ring at the home-town station” would be a loosely correct interpretation, but less accurate than a sentence fragment like “At the home-town station: a nose ring”.
EXACTLY! This is what I’m trying to point out with the diagram. Sorry, I missed this reply.
Fair point — I unintentionally left out the はずした part in the written sentence (at least it’s still in the diagram).
A complete sentence like “I took off my nose-ring at the home-town station” would be a loosely correct interpretation, but less accurate than a sentence fragment like “At the home-town station: a removed nose ring”.
@pm215 : Also, did you have an actual submission? I’m trying to find it. I think @LaVieQ’s version captures it fine but I want to make sure I’m not missing one.