Week 1: 薬屋のひとりごと

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薬屋のひとりごと Home Thread

Week 1

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Start Date: Feb 26th
Next Part: Week 2

Reading:

Week Start Date Chapter Names Page Count
Week 1 Feb 26 「猫猫」「二人の妃」 13

Discussion Rules

  • Please use spoiler tags for major events in the current chapter(s) and any content in future chapters.
  • When asking for help, please mention the chapter and page number. Also mention what version of the book you are reading.
  • Don’t be afraid of asking questions, even if they seem embarrassing at first. All of us are here to learn.
  • To you lurkers out there: Join the conversation, it’s fun! :durtle:

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Proper Noun Readings

Name Reading Notes Proof
猫猫 まおまお Main character furigana
玉葉 ギョクヨウ One of the four (main) wives (title: 貴妃) furigana
梨花 リファ One of the four (main) wives (title: 賢妃) furigana
小蘭 シャオラン furigana
鈴麗 リンリ Daughter of 玉葉; nickname: 小鈴 (シャオリン) furigana
6 Likes

This week’s content felt really short, but at the same time, I already know the vocab (and I have already read it before, and I read one of the manga versions as well…).
I remember that the first time around was much rougher, since I was not used to this setting, though.

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I’ll definitely have a bunch of questions to ask here once I’m through this week’s portion; I’ll probably post a batch for chapter 1 and a batch for chapter 2. There’s been a decent amount of vocab I’ve had to look up so far, which was expected, but some of these sentences feels like I’m missing something.

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Well, I did tell myself I’d do a more intensive than extensive reading of this book to try to learn less common and classical grammar points better. As such, I read like a page or two before going on a long tangent looking up classical grammar points. I’ll read at least the rest of chapter 1 tomorrow. Even just from these first couple pages I think I’m going to like the main character.

Chapter 1 questions so far

どんな理由があれ、とばっちりを受けたことに変わりはないのだから。

Two questions about this sentence. First, what’s going on with あれ before the comma? It feels like it’s probably equivalent to あっても, but I’m not sure I’ve just seen a dangling あれ like that before so I wanted to check. (And some grammar source on that would be nice if anyone can find one. I’m not sure how to even search for that.) Second, though this may be obvious once I get confirmation on the first part, after the comma is とばっちり as one word, right? Not と + ばっちり? I don’t see a set phrase for とばっちりを受ける, but there is one for とばっちりを食う and it seems like it would mean basically the same thing.

でなければ、こうきゅうなる場所には一生関わりたくなかった。

I’ve seen なる used to describe people/things of high esteem, like in Shadows House they say 偉大なるおじい様, but I guess this is a bit different. The Shadows House usage is like である while the usage in this book is more like にある from what I can find. Not sure I’ve ever seen it used this way before. Correct me if I’m mistaken here. I got my information from here and here, though honestly (as is often the case) the imabi page is more confusing than helpful. I also tried to understand the difference between なる and たる for the である meaning even though it wasn’t relevant here, but it honestly went over my head. (Most of the brain melting occurred when my investigation got me to ラ変, so I might have to come back to that one later…)

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It’s usually であれ. Here’s a link to a random JLPT grammar website: であれ

I think the author got confused between 理由がどうであれ and どんな理由であれ (both meaning the same thing)

I remember some discussions on twitter between people wondering if some stuff written in this series were correct or not, but I don’t remember if this point is one of them :sweat_smile: In any case, it seems even natives do not always agree.

Yes, it is one word, and here is the phrase itself (first meaning in this case): 「とばっちりを受ける」の類義語や言い換え | 巻き添えを食う・流れ弾に当たるなど-Weblio類語辞典

I’m actually not sure about the exact grammar here. I’ve seen this kind of structure before, but I never thought about the nuance :thinking: I’ll try to see if there’s anything in the grammar dictionary I own.

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Thanks, I did see that phrase pop up when I googled this. Didn’t occur to me that the author might have made a mistake in the first few pages of the book (even a debatable mistake). Based on this, at the very least it should probably be で not が, and could be changed more significantly. It’s still a funny little pattern though, and makes me wonder where it comes from.

You know, that’s not all that reassuring to my goal of learning obscure grammar with this book. Maybe I should have clarified that I’d like to learn correct grammar with this book!

The extent of my knowledge here is that なり comes from に + あり (たり comes from と + あり), with なり being the 終止形 and then なる being the 連体形. This comes from the kotenbunpou site I already linked to, and it tries to explain the difference in the small footnote where this is mentioned, but it’s not that informative in isolation.

断定の「なり」は 格助詞ありラ変動詞 が変化した形であり、断定の「たり」は 格助詞ありラ変動詞 が変化した形であるとされています。

「なり」は 和文体和歌 で用いられたのに対して、「たり」は 漢文訓読体 で用いられました。

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Despite what @Vanilla said somewhere else, I wouldn’t try to learn grammar from light novels. There are blatant mistakes even in 本好き, despite having an editor making corrections…

Right, but that’s from a point of view of a classic usage. I’m wondering what the author is trying to convey in a modern text (besides trying to sound old).

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There are definitely mistakes, but I think they are rare enough to where it shouldn’t have too much of an impact (at least in what I read). Fwiw, I learned grammar almost exclusively from light novels and not only have fine grammar but can also notice grammatical errors myself.

Although, I guess its worth noting that I didn’t necessarily try to “dissect” and “learn” the grammar like you may be referring to. More like just trying to be able to understand it, I guess, because I think there is value in being able to understand even “technically incorrect” grammar if its something natives use and you’ll see, yknow.

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Are you telling me to actually study grammar?! Ugh!

(I really should go through more Shin Kanzen Master books at some point…)

I haven’t really noticed any mistakes in 本好き (at least that I can remember). It seems very well edited for a light novel, not that that means it would never have errors. Though it’s possible I’ve glossed over errors if the meaning was still obvious. Like I would have glossed over this があれ error if I wasn’t going with an intensive reading approach for this book since the general meaning of the sentence was pretty clear.

Is it not meant to be actual classical usage? I just assume that when in a classical setting, any classical grammar is intended to be at least somewhat close to actual classical usages. But I agree that it’s probably largely there just to sound old, especially when it’s narration and not dialog.

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The problem is mostly when the mistakes are as rare as the grammar pattern itself :sweat_smile:
Or, more generally, I feel that mistake often happen on rarer patterns (due to the author being also not too familiar with it). That being said, that’s not an issue in general (I should have clarified; I was replying to @seanblue’s mention of obscure grammar).

Well, it’s fine to just learn it as it shows up, I guess? I’d just warn against always taking the usage in text at face value :stuck_out_tongue:

I don’t know about this specific case, but I’ve seen both なる and たる in series that are not set in a classical setting. Stuff like 勇者たる者 (or 王たる者, but I guess that one does sound old). I’ve even seen なる and たる being used in two different sentences back to back (I can’t remember which light novel though).
By the way, I just checked the whole book for other instances of なる, and that’s the only time it is used that way.

It is well edited! That’s why I took it as an example. I remember one mistake that was discussed on the forum (under the dropdown).

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Ah yeah I mean it might be bad to learn it in that case. At the same time though, I guess it’s inevitable that you also have to learn the wrong one from a comprehension standpoint. The only difference is if you are aware that one is wrong, right. I’ve personally never had a use for knowing if the rare grammar I’m familiar with is technically the correct usage since I don’t personally use it myself or correct other people’s rare grammar, but if you wanna have a proper understanding textbooks may be better.

And I mean I guess there are also some really common things like people using すごい rather than すごく that you’ll see in light novels, but I guess that’s just more reflective of how some people actually talk in certain situations. Still wrong technically, but yeah it’s something you’ll need to know I guess.

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The end goal dream, becoming a grammar nazi in another language :grin:.

Puhh I think I’m as far in as Sean. Except my understanding is pretty low. The amount of vocab I have to look up at the moment is unsustainable. So since I have a 2 week work break currently I’ll give myself this much time and decide afterwards if I have to drop out. Sometimes my understanding is even to low to ask questions so the であれ discussion above was really valuable for me. Thank you

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This is certainly a level above my paygrade. At least judging from the first chapter. I want to push a bit further since the first chapters are always the hardest though!

My questions, chapter 1

もちろん、ここにいるのは後者しかありえない。

Without trying to translate it 1:1 it is saying that only the latter (castrated men) would be here, right? The here is reffering to the 中庭 where all the people are washing clothes?!

いびつだと思いつつ、それが理にかなっているからやっているのだろうと猫猫は考える。

I have no idea what this sentence is referencing, that only castrated men are allowed?

To confirm my understanding of the situation about the 下級妃

So the lower princesses can have their own rooms but they are usually on the outskirts and they can only have up to 2 personal servants, but servants that don’t have a specific master like Maomao are doing some work for them aswell. To do well they have to bed the emperor twice until a certain age (?). If they don’t achieve that and their family has no influence they loose their rank (?) or might even be given to a 官 (not sure if this means government in general or a government official?) or a enunch

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Yes. Can’t really be someone from the Emperor’s family :stuck_out_tongue:

Yes. (And that castrating men is bad)

Just in case you or someone else needs a rough break down

いびつだと思いつつ While she is thinking that it’s bad (I’d like to use a different word in English here, but nothing comes to mind. Wicked?)

理にかなう means “to make sense”

やっているのだろう she guesses that’s why they are doing it

On 下級妃

Yes.

No. If they bed the emperor once, they get a better, more accessible room (heh, let’s not make him have to move too much). If they bed him twice, they get promoted (出世; so they would become 中級, for instance, although it’s not made explicit).
“Until a certain age” 適齢 here refers to the best age for child bearing… but it’s just a pretext to change them once they are past their “prime” (i.e. when they reach 25 or something :nauseated_face:)

Yes, or just be downgraded.

Well, married, I guess, rather than given. A 官 is indeed a (high ranking) government official in this context.
Being married to a eunuch does not sound like a fun time :confused: Also, it raises a lot of questions if you somehow get pregnant anyway…

6 Likes

Thank you for the great help! I sadly have a couple more for chapter 2 :pray:

Chapter 2

梨花 herself and her son (the crown prince) are both ill according to the rumors but when it comes to 玉葉 we only have information that the daughter is ill?

Now this part really trips me up I can’t make all these different parts fit into anything coherent.

When 猫猫 is trying to create a pretense for her to leave the eastern part of the palace she starts talking to a 女官. My understanding is that she is telling the 女官 that it is better to wash these clothes in the western side of the palace (and omits that it is more about the drying process).

「中央にいるというものすごく綺麗な宦官を見てみたい」

Is this a sentence that 猫猫 says because obviously from the east to the west she would be able to go through the center?

小蘭からついでに聞いた話をする

and this sentence explains how she got to know the fact that the 宦官 is in the center?

Just writing this down has helped I think!

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Finished chapter 1 at least. And feel like I understood “something”.

So I reread the part again after reading all of your input and it helped. The sentence “先帝の花の園には到底及ばないものの、” gives me some problems though. Is the flower garden meant figuratively for the 後宮? Why are we talking about the 先帝 suddenly? This whole sentence comes kinda out of left field for me and I cant really place it with the sentences prior and after. Any help with this is appreciated. (:confused:)

Why are the pictures on the washbaskets 植物? Do the flowers/plants represent something special? Does each 妃 have her own flower as representation? If I understood correctly the one with 梅の花 had 17 written on it. I really don’t understand the connection at the moment. But probably I’m overthinking this part XD. (More a cultural / how things in this world work kinda question)

And general overview over chapter one for which I need spoilers

So overall Maumau was obducted when gathering herbs in the forest and was originally working as a 薬師 and now has to wash clothes for some 妃 as a lowly maid servant. But still gets paid for it? Man old times were strange…

The setting is intriguing at least. But still pretty torterous for my lowly japanese skills. Looking forward what’s uncovered about the 乳幼児 teased at the end.

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Glad I could help!

Chapter 2 answers

猫猫 didn’t ask about 玉葉, so we don’t know at this point.

No, she isn’t telling her that. She noticed the content of the basket and understood that the 女官 is aiming for the west side. While 猫猫 doesn’t know exactly if it’s because of the quality of the water, or simply the skills of the people washing, clothes washed on the East side (where she is) quickly get damaged (so expensive clothes would be washed on the other side).

Yes, that’s what she is telling to the 女官 as a reason for why she (猫猫) wants to take her (the 女官) basket.

Yes.

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“Twisted” was what came to mind when I saw いびつ.

More chapter 1 stuff

宮廷に連れ込まれる前に最低限の礼儀くらいは教えられるが、文字となると難しい。

Does using となると instead of について (or something else?) here actually add any useful nuance? となると feels a little weird to me since nothing is actually “becoming” (it’s just a hypothetical), but I’m not super familiar with this grammar point so it could just be me.

識字率は田舎の娘で五割を超せばいいほうなのである。

This phrasing is also kind of weird to me… Is this just saying that having a literacy rate beyond 50% (given that they are inaka women) would be in the good direction?

先帝の花の園には到底及ばないものの、きさき、女官合わせて二千人、かんがんを加えると三千人の大所帯だ。

What is the first half referring to exactly? This is the first time 先帝 or 花の園 is being mentioned, but my best guess is that it’s saying the courtyard or whatever place she’s been talking about (I already lost the Japanese word) is at 2000-3000 people depending on who you include, but it still doesn’t amount to the size of the 先帝の花の園. Is that right?

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Answers

Yes. The women are the flowers.

Because the 後宮 was much bigger at the time.

It’s the direct continuation of the (two) previous sentence. The problem with having a large 後宮 is that the “quality” of the “flowers” in it is low (quantity over quality… I still feel bad talking about people in that way, but anyway). While it’s not as big as it used to be, there are still 2000 women in there (and another 1000 eunuchs).

Each 下級妃 has a flower + number to represent her (like, building + room number, although that’s not made explicit).

I mean, she is not supposed to have been abducted. From the point of view of the administration, she was simply sent by her “family” (who happen to be the people who kidnapped her). As such, she has been properly hired (although, she has a fake family on paper), and thus receives a salary like everyone else.

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Naphthalene carrying this book club :smiley: . Just had to say thank you since I felt the heart alone was not enough ^^

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