(The increasingly less) Daily senryu thread

Friday, June 3, 2022

Previous senryu

  1. 妻逝って可愛い壺に納まれり
    つまいって かわいいつぼに おさまれり
    My wife, no more, / takes her place now in / a lovely vase


  • :confetti_ball: @LaVieQ
  • The key to understanding is something I didn’t know until @LaVieQ found that article that explains how 「行く」「逝く」and「往く」differ . ()く means “to go” in the sense of “passing to the other side” or dying.
  • Yomichan and JMDict messed me up on this one. As usual, the Kenkyusha J-E dictionary entry was better:

►祖母は祖父がぽっくり逝ってから急にふけこんだ. After the sudden death of my grandfather, Grandmother started to age rapidly.

Current senryu challenge

Volume: Salaryman

  1. 社長より 現場を良く知る アルバイト

Story time:

I’m sure I wasn’t the first person to be confused by two of the words in this one. These aren’t really hints, but I’ll add a spoiler just in case. There aren’t any giveaways to the meaning of the poem, but I do discuss two of the words.

Story 1

I met my wife through friends when she had an アルバイト at a gym (a part-time job). This is one of those 外来語(がいらご) words that occasionally tripped me up. We native English speakers (and sometimes Japanese themselves) tend to assume that katakana words are English, but as I’m sure everyone here knows、 it comes from the German word “arbeit” (job, I think).

Better story 2

現場(げんば) was a word that confused the heck out of my when I was a young engineer working for Mitsubishi Semiconductors. I was taking private Japanese lessons twice a week after work, which was atypically diligent for me, but most of my learning was of the sink-or-swim variety: I learned the meanings of words by hearing them used.

[An aside: To this day, I actually often find it easier to understand Japanese spoken by someone with a Kansai accent (my teacher was a nice old lady in Osaka, and I worked in 北伊丹(きたいたみ) outside of Osaka). Not so much kansai-ben, mind you, more the accents and rhythm than specific wording/dialect.]

I was the only foreigner in the test department. The multi-million dollar test machines were only kept in a few places, of course, and this was way before the days of ubiquitous networking. Many things required you to be physically in front of the machine. After hearing somebody say something like 現場で()りました. Since I knew where they’d done the work, I thought, “Oh! ‘Genba’ must be another word for ‘lab’”.

For the next several weeks, I tried using it as a replacement for the word “lab” … to no ill effect. Everyone seemed to know what I was talking (at least, no worse than usual), so I just added it to my mental J-E dictionary and didn’t think any more about it. I didn’t have the benefit of Wanikani back then, so I couldn’t begin to read the kanji, nor did I have the time to look up every word that I came across — especially when I thought I’d understood.

Then one day I came back from a business trip. During 朝礼(ちょうれい) (the “morning bow” or morning briefing where everyone stood, bowed, and one-by-one updated the group about anything important to communicate to the team) someone used the word 現場 to refer to the customer’s premises (which I knew had no lab!). I was so confused!

I was even more confused once I asked someone to explain the meaning to me with my broken Japanese. All of us eventually started laughing at the difficulty in communicating the meaning: it was like a magical word that could mean any place you wanted it to depending on context. I just chalked it up to the now familiar idea that Japanese was this impossibly indirect and fluid language.

Eventually, I twigged to the fact that the closest English words might be “site” or “scene” (also “magical” words that can apply to different places) but I’ll never forget that day of absolute confusion.

〜 末 〜

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!

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(ごげん)由来(ゆらい)辞典(じてん) is also an excellent resource for researching the etymology of various words and expressions.

Here are the links to the 356 Japanese originals (spoiler free) and to the the spreadsheet with all the upcoming senryu as well as the translations to date.