(The increasingly less) Daily senryu thread

Interesting!

I’m driving much of tomorrow anyway and this one deserves more consideration, so I’ll give it another day (no new poem tomorrow).

If I understand you correctly, I think the majority of us believe the grandson is remembering the grandmother saying もったいない. If there’s a difference of opinion, it’s why granny was using that phrase.

Yes, I think that’s correct. The reason why I went with the interpretation I did is because I feel like the most straightforward use of the word is probably the most likely. The other uses all seem to stem from that same base definition, so I feel like it’s a good idea not to stray too far from the concept of waste when translating it unless we have substantial context to suggest otherwise, which this particular poem doesn’t really give us. I’m just trusting Tofugu on this, though, so maybe there’s some major usage of the word that isn’t covered in that article, haha.

Alternately, since it’s such a unique concept, this might be a case where we could just romanize it and translate it as: “mottainai”:

from granny’s
stay, the grandchild learned:
“mottainai!”

I think if a word has an English wikipedia page, it’s fair game to leave it as is.

4 Likes

Culturally in the US, grandparents are thought to spoil grandchildren a lot, which may support that interpretation, but I don’t know the culture in Japan. Are grandparents strict or indulgent?

Update after 2 seconds: grandparents in Japan are not thought to be strict with grandkids

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Good sleuthing, @fallynleaf !

“Waste” seems to be the right interpretation of もったいない in this situation. The tofugu article on the word led me to もったいないばあさん website, which has this viedo (and more), where the namesake grandma harangues the child about wasting stuff. :smiley:

Further, googling with the search term なぜ子供に「もったいない」resulted in articles (like this one) on the importance of teaching children not to waste by the frequent use of「もったいない」.

While other interpretations may make logical sense, considering it is about a child, the simpler meaning of “waste not” is what the 川柳 is based on.

I also verified the meaning with my friend in Japan. She forwarded this video that she saw when she was a child. And a manga illustrating all the different meanings of the word: 1) “waste not” 2) “not worthy of” 3) “we don’t deserve it” and 4) the child is imitating grandma’s “mottainai,” but out of context and indiscriminately

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Actually, the sentence in full would properly be 祖母が居て「もったいない」[というの]を孫覚え[た。] The を particle links the thing that was 覚えた (= learned, picked up). So, what the child picked up was Grandma saying “mottainai” when she was there. In the abbreviated 川柳 form it becomes: “The child picked up Grandma’s Mottainai.”

1 Like

Friday, July 29, 2022


Previous senryu

  1. 祖母が居て「もったいない」を孫覚え
    そぼがいて「もったいない」をまごおぼえ
    grandmother’s phrase: / “wasteful!” — memory / of the grandchild

Notes:

I’m glad I let this one go another day (this one gets a gold star)!

Thanks to @fallynleaf’s explanation, this senryu makes sense to me now. But as in @LaVieQ’s friend’s drawing, I think the grandmother used the phrase constantly in all sorts of circumstances, not just chastising the child for something they’d done.

I love the fact that even when I’m initially right, I somehow manage to convince myself into believing something ultimately wrong. :laughing:

I was correct that 「もったいない」mostly means “what a waste” or “so good it’s a shame to waste". As explained in the tofugu article, “too good to waste” applies in general, but also as a common expression of humility: “too good to waste on me” (or us, or whatever).

While this expression of humility is particularly Japanese, I think it’s also universally common for people of a certain age (those were adults in the late, post-war 40’s) to be especially sensitive to waste. My grandparents would use old soup cans to store things, etc. and hated to throw anything away.

Thanks to the group effort, we can confidently state that this one is about a grandchild’s main memory of their grandmother being her saying もったいない all the time (in many different circumstances).

Good job, gang!

Current senryu challenge

Volume: Husbands

  1. お先にと帰り飲み屋で鉢合わせ

One hint:

  • お先に is a common expression when leaving earlier than others. It’s an etiquette thing: you’re apologizing for leaving before someone else (leaving them to continue some task or whatever.

It’s used very frequently when leaving the office while others are still there.


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(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.


@LaVieQ: thanks for volunteering!

I’ll figure out the details later. It shouldn’t be an issue if the top post updates are delayed slightly.

I’ll be traveling for about 10 days total. Is anyone else willing to volunteer and share the load with @LaVieQ?

1 Like

This one is really tricky, isn’t it! I’m not sure why it’s in the husbands category.

What I know for certain: Someone said “Sorry for heading out before you!” (お先に).

Once again the lack of subject in Japanese makes even this bit painfully ambiguous. Was it the author saying that, an underling at work, or someone else?

It then says that someone ran into someone in a bar on the way home. Did the author leave early then get caught in a bar by his boss? (That doesn’t quite work, but almost). Is the wife involved in the story somehow? Did she catch him at the bar?

Who do I complain to about the lack of subjects in Japanese grammar?

That was my problem with this one too, I get the gist, but I don’t understand the feeling at all. who left? It seems like someone should be embarrassed, but who?

This almost reminds me of when you say goodbye to someone but then you realize you’re walking in the same direction. That’s not what’s happening, but…

2 Likes

I thought the interpretation was quite straightforward… The お先に is said at work, maybe accompanied by an explanation why the author has to leave early today and can’t join the colleagues‘ 飲み会, etc.
Later on, the author runs into his colleagues at the bar and his white lie gets busted. The senryuu is supposed to capture the awkward feeling of telling someone you can’t join them for some outing and then running into them there.

3 Likes

If you’re correct (as I suspect) then that was what i was missing.

The feeling I’ve always had with お先に is that the speaker is apologizing for leaving ahead of others when they are doing something unpleasant (like continuing to work), not for begging off from going drinking or whatever. But then again, it would also sound natural for leaving a party early.

Thinking about it more, it literally just means one is departing before others, so “sorry to beg off” or “I’m off” might also work as a translation for that bit.

That makes sense, but it seems like at least a small leap to connect お先に to “sorry I can’t join you”. At least I struggled to make that connection.


It’s also possible the “husbands” category threw me. This seems like straightforward salaryman senryu with your interpretation (not involving spouses).

I think this could be right, but as always, I’ve thought of an alternative explanation as well, and I can’t decide which is more probable.

Did the coworkers leave and not invite the speaker to their party? I agree that someone is lying, I just can’t decide who is being lied to: someone leaving early and then being caught at the bar, or the coworkers leaving to have a party and not inviting one person?

Edit to add: I think this thread is teaching me that I have a very strong tendency to overthink.

3 Likes

I could very well be wrong about this, because I’m still working off of beginner grammar, haha, but I think I had the opposite impression of お先に than others are expressing here? In Minna no Nihongo, at least, they first teach the phrase in the context of お先にどうぞ, which means “after you/go ahead, please”.

Here’s the example the textbook gives:

いっしょに帰りませんか。
…すみません。そのメールを書いてしまいますから。お先にどうぞ。

So to me, this senryu reads as someone saying “go on ahead, I have work to do”, but after the coworker leaves, they head to the bar instead of doing the work they said they were going to finish, and awkwardly run into the coworker there.

4 Likes

お先にと帰り飲み屋で鉢合わせ

おさきにと・かえりのみやで・ はちあわせ

Gave excuse and
left work early. Later…
Run in at bar!

4-5-4

Not a big deal to leave work early in the western world, but in Japan, one would glow like a bright red tomato if caught in a recreational act afterwards… This lack of an equivalent of the お先に situation in the English speaking world makes translating it a challenge. Going with an “excuse for leaving” in my translation, I could get to creating a situation where the subsequent event is seen to be embarrassing.

I was also puzzled why it is under the Husbands category. Perhaps it’s a 川柳 “recounting husband’s work related mishap,” written by the wife? Perhaps it’s me getting the meaning wrong (again)? :wink:

The discussion certainly clarified the different contexts in which the word is used and I can now say もったいない with some confidence. “Who’s afraid of もったいない.”

Also, I remembered the 語源由来辞典 (doh!) today and looked it up to see what it had to say. It gives a succinct explanation/definition and also provided related, useful synonyms as well. They left out the “insulting the God” bit, though…

2 Likes

Actually, that’s a possibility as well.

That’s my reading as well. My impression is that an お先に is considered ill mannered in any situation, more so at work, particularly if one were to do it before the 部長、課長 etc. have left.

1 Like

The cliché is that the boss must be the last to leave, so the game becomes calculating the precise moment to depart with お先に. Too early and you look like a slacker. Too late and the boss gets irritated because they’d like to head home, too. It’s further complicated by other coworkers, of course. Bad form to always be the first to leave.

The basic meaning of go ahead is the same, but there’s a standard workplace greeting お先に失礼します which means I’m rude for leaving ahead of others. People say it to their coworkers when they leave work.

So I think your understanding of the grammar is correct, it’s just used in a specific way at a Japanese workplace!

2 Likes

Woah. Interesting take again.

お先にどうぞ and お先に失礼します have completely different interpretations.

I’m pretty sure that お先に by itself pretty much always means the latter, though.

Glad I let this one run another day, too.

1 Like

Yeah, I’d agree, except these poems have been known to leave out parts before, haha, so it still feels plausible.

Me for literally every one of these. There’s always so many ways to think about it!

1 Like

Sunday, July 31, 2022


Previous senryu

  1. お先にと帰り飲み屋で鉢合わせ
    おさきにと・かえりのみやで・ はちあわせ
    “Gotta run” they said — / returning home, found / them at a bar

Notes:

  • The lack of subjects in Japanese sentences can be confusing in general, but especially in these necessarily brief senryu!

  • One interpretation was that the author said お先に, apologizing for leaving ahead of others (most likely leaving work, and wanting to avoid going out with them later). Later, the author is embarrassed after running into his coworkers at at the same bar.

  • Another interpretation (what I went with above) was that the author’s coworkers said お先に and didn’t invite him out to go drinking with them. The embarrassment was on their end!

  • Note that お先に doesn’t necessarily mean leaving early, it just means you’re leaving before others. It’s cliché for Japanese Salarymen to work long past official quitting time, and not unusual at all to say お先に at, say, 6:30 for a 9-to-5 job while everyone else is still ostensibly plugging away. After further thought, this was what convinced me that @fallynleaf’s interpretation was closest. If the author said お先に then it wouldn’t necessarily be odd or embarassing to stop for a drink on the way home.

  • I’m still unsure why this was in the “husbands” category, but I’m imagining the husband telling the story to his wife.

  • Another gold star day. This was an interesting one to decipher.

Current senryu challenge

Volume: School

  1. 質問をしたら寝ていた事がバレ

An easy read again. (Famous last words!)

Just one hint: バレ is a nounified (technical grammar term) version of ばれる (to be caught/discovered).

I think we’ve all been there! At least I clearly remember falling asleep despite my best efforts in the nice warm lecture halls during 8:00 am winter quarter classes at university.


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(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.