(The increasingly less) Daily senryu thread

Yup, I’m old enough to remember this. :joy:

I think a further hint is that whenever you dialed that service, you always forgot the time 2 seconds after hanging up.

Also, I’m old enough to remember spinning a dial to make a call and physically hanging up. :sweat_smile:


I’ve been speaking about context quite a bit recently. This isn’t so much Japan-related context as just old-guy context.

Back in the before times, we only had landline telephones. Miniature portable telephones were purely the realm of the Sunday funny papers, Dick Tracy to be specific.

[ All of those things: landlines, dead-tree newspapers, Sunday funnies, and Dick Tracy, probably seem as quaint and ancient to my kids as literal ice boxes and hand-crank car engines do to me.]

There was no voicemail. If someone called you while you were using the phone, they’d hear a busy signal. This wasn’t that long ago, and landline telephones are still around, but I wonder if kids today even know what a busy signal sounds like!

Further, many if not most of our clocks didn’t keep accurate time: they ran slightly slow or fast. We’d set our clocks periodically by calling up the time service to find out what time it was exactly. [As an aside, you might wonder how the phone service knew the time: in the US, they mostly depended on a radio signals from WWV and WWVH that were broadcast by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Boulder Fort Collins, Colorado. You can still tune in to those stations today.]

Anyway, I think this is the story of someone who received a call from someone they didn’t wish to speak to again for a while, so they called up the time service to tie up their line. That way, the caller would hear a busy signal after redialing and think the author was talking to someone else on the phone.

The main question is: why not just leave the phone off the hook? (Geez, even that phrase is an anachronism — kids these days may not even realize there used to be physical hooks for the corded handset that let the phone system know when the phone was in use!)

I suspect the reason is the same as it was in the US: if you left the phone off the hook for more than a few seconds without a call being connected, it would start blaring out an annoying horn sound (“DEET DEET DEET DEET DEET”) to alert you that you hadn’t “hung up” properly. By calling the time service, the speaker in the handset would only emit the time announcements at a normal volume level that couldn’t be heard without holding the handset up to your ear.

Honestly, I just picked this one completely at random without even really looking at it yesterday. Geez I wish I’d picked a different one, though!

While I’m sure many or most here know all of the above, it may be be new information to some of the younger folks. It’s really making me feel ancient two days after turning 60!

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Come to think of it, this makes a lot more sense, all the more as it is in the true spirit of 川柳 than my line of thinking. I (mis?)translated リダイヤルされない as “having to suffer me redialing” (in other words, “I’ll end up having to redial”) as opposed to @Rrwrex’s translation “me having to suffer redialed incoming call,” which now makes sense.

Still challenged with causative, passive, etc voice, all the more so in the absence of particles to figure who is “causing” and who is “passively” receiving.


Well put. That’s exactly the challenge with most of these.

“me redialing” — I think that would be something like リダイヤル掛けないように (I’m not sure if that’s the correct kanji, but I’m pretty sure it would be かけない rather than させない).

Also, I’m now wondering how “off the hook” came to mean a wild party. I wonder if it had something to do with taking the phone off the hook to ignore noise complaints or other incoming phone calls.


  • This site says it comes from taking something new off a store hangar: What Does Off the Hook Mean?

  • It also says that my usage is now officially “dated”. :unamused:

  • Thinking about it further. I think that site missed a fifth usage that I think is the actual derivation: a phone ringing “off the hook” means that it was ringing so frequently and violently that it literally shook the handset off the hook. Cartoons would often depict a phone ringing so hard it was shaking in mid-air. I think this makes much more sense than new stuff off a store shelf or hangar.

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Isn’t the を/が particle always required in front of 掛けないように? Further, since リダイヤル is a suru verb, I’d think that it can be used as such (i.e. without having to 掛ける, even though it is in the context of a phone call).

Actually, this particular 句 has turned out to be quite educational in the nuances of word usage. So, not to worry, you done good! :wink:


Oh! I should have prefaced that with a disclaimer that my knowledge of Japanese grammar is close to nonexistent!

My knowledge of grammar is 100% from repetitive hearing and usage, not from studying rules. I honestly don’t know most if any of the rules. I just go by what “sounds right” to me, which means I’m often quite wrong!

But yes, here リダイヤル掛けないように is probably more correct. I tend to drop particles expressly because I so often get them wrong. It’s a bad habit.

Though, as I think you’re pointing out, リダイヤルしないように is probably even correcterer. (Virginia grammar.)

I’m not going to attempt to translate today’s because there’s too much unknown grammar and vocab for me, haha, but I did want to share this.

I was so struck by something that I saw last night, which seemed to embody the spirit of these poems, I ended up trying my own hand at writing a senryu in Japanese:


It breaks the 17 mora rule, but since plenty of others on the list are breaking that rule, I don’t feel too bad about it! I’m sure the grammar and overall poem is wonky, because my Japanese isn’t that good, but if anyone wants a second senryu to look at today, there’s one.


The wrestler quietly captured a bug during the match?

I’m tickled pink that my understanding of today’s (and yesterday’s) senryu was confirmed to be correct by my daughter, but I had to explain it to her first!

Oh! This senryu reminded me of a likely apocryphal story I heard long ago about an American guy living in New York breaking up with his girlfriend. They have a huge fight, and he tells her, “Look, I have to go on an international business trip for a week, but when I get back I want you and all your stuff packed up and outta here!”.

When he returns from his trip, he notices the phone off the hook. When he picks it up, he hears, 「ただ今、一時三十七分三十秒です。。。ピー。。。ただ今、。。。」


Yes, more or less, haha. Thanks for playing along!

This was my friend’s translation when I shared it:

The wrestler who
In the middle of the match
gently saves a bug

Here’s a tweet from one of the wrestlers about this moment, which I stole some of the wording from for my poem. I struggled a bit with how exactly to end it, but settled on だ because the emphatic self-expression use seemed to fit how I felt watching that wrestler capture the bug and walk out of the ring in the middle of the match to take it outside haha. It was a moment that left a strong emotional impression on me and changed how I viewed him.

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Heh, that’s awesome and now I understand. You’re right, it’s like a senryu: you can translate the words and still have no idea what it really means! Those things seemed so NOT to belong together that I was utterly uncertain of my translation.

The replies to that tweet are hysterical.

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By the way, pretty much every single character in that tweet came up in my reviews over the past few days!

Seriously, it’s a disturbingly weird coincidence that (かたまり) (level 45), (まぎ)れる (level 44), and ()がす (level 42) came up in the same sentence.

It’s the hand of Koichi!


That’s amazing, haha! I guess I was meant to write that senryu and share it! :blush:

This thread has given me such an appreciation for senryu, honestly. I’ve always had a hard time connecting with poetry (in any language), and haiku never did much for me, but I appreciate how senryu are sort of a puzzle in addition to a poem. It makes them feel more rewarding to decipher.

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Monday, May 23, 2022

Previous senryu

  1. リダイヤルされないように時報聞き
    To keep them from / redialing me / time service called


  • Whee. That was fun. Our first two-day effort
  • :confetti_ball: to @mitrac
  • I took the liberty of munging @mitrac’s version into a 4-5-4
  • It occurs to me that I get a little endorphin rush if I can use a 4 or 5 syllable word!
  • For future readers: This is the story of someone who received a call from someone they didn’t wish to speak to again for a while, so they called up the time service to tie up their line. Younger folks should google “telephone busy signal” and “time-of-day service” or “speaking clock”.

Current senryu challenge

Volume: Various settings

  1. 横の子をあやして泣かれ席を立つ

I don’t understand this one yet, so no hints I’m afraid. I’m now using a random number generator to pick each day’s poem.

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.

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.


I’m struggling to parse this one. Here are my current thoughts (any comments/suggestions/ideas are more than welcome):

I’m unsure if 横の子 here means a child lying on their side or if it means a child next to the author. I think it can mean either depending on context (which might be intentional).

So 横の子をあやす either means to comfort a child beside you, or to comfort a child who’s lying down. 子供(こども)をあやして(ねむ)らせた means “I coaxed the child to sleep” so there appears to be a sense of “coaxing” or struggling to comfort here.

泣かれる is the passive conjugation of ()く, so it means “was crying”. For example, (あか)(ぼう)()かれた means “I was bothered by the baby’s crying”.

席を立つ simply means to leave one’s seat or to stand up out of your chair.

But I can’t put all of that together into anything that makes sense to me. I wonder if maybe 泣かれ席 belong together instead? Something like “I stand from the crying chair and comfort the lying baby”? Still seems weird.

For a minute I was wondering if a chair had fallen causing the baby to cry, and the author stood it up. But 立つ is intransitive: the author has to be doing the standing.

I’m still confused. I think I’m going to have to use my lifeline again.

Daughter #2 is also unsure, but first impression was of a person comforting a child lying down then sitting then immediately leaving their seat to comfort crying child again. But she’s unsure. (Daughter #2 is also fluent but by far the most American of my three kids — she’s forgetting her kanji — I suspect I will need my wife to weigh in on this one.)

席を立つ emphasizes leaving, so it might be something like they have to leave because of the baby’s crying. As a parent of three, I know by FAR the hardest part of parenting was sometimes letting the kids cry so they learn how to comfort themselves.

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Don’t have time for a full translation attempt but:

I wonder if the て-form here means that 横の子をあやして is subordinate to the main clause so we have to parse it backwards?

Standing up since the baby was crying, laid (the baby) on the side to be comforted

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I have the answer but won’t post until tomorrow.


横にいる子 not 横になっている子

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I have no idea if this is correct, but I’ll try. Doesn’t have the right syllables though.

My attempt to comfort the kid next to me made them cry, so I got up and left.

Alternatively, because I can’t decide,

I comforted the crying child next to me by leaving.

Probably both are wrong.


Don’t worry - I won’t tell anyone else that you figured it out. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

4-5-4 attempt, but not happy with the translation, on top of being not sure about my interpretation of the situation:

Fuss with the child / asleep, till It bawls: / Regret! Repent!!

横の子 sleeping child
あやす to cuddle, to rock, to dandle etc.
なかれる (passive of 泣く) to be made to cry
席を立つ get up a) to pacify the child or b) exit to avoid recrimination. The literal translation makes no sense in English - had to resort to dramatized pathos

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Ah! Looks like I made the mistake that @Rrwrex hinted at. :roll_eyes:

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