Sunday, October 11, 2009

mada mada

I am fully aware that my limited grasp of the Japanese language leaves something to be desired. However, exactly what my Japanese colleagues deemed that was came as something of a surprise when I received a dictionary of Japanese onomatopoeic expressions.

Put simply, onomatopoeic expressions are words we use to describe sounds. For instance, "meow" is an onomatopoeia for the sound a cat makes. Likewise, "zoom" is a word we use to describe the sound of something moving at high speed.

Hiccup, beep, bang, whir, croak, splat ... English is littered with such expressions. Yet, this is nothing nothing to Japanese. In Japan, onomoatopoeia describe not only sounds, but also sights and sensations. For instance, walking down a street you might see someone who was "keba keba", meaning they were gaudy or garish. This might well cause you to "jiro jiro" (stare rudely) which could attract their attention, leading you to be "oro oro" (flustered). However, then their partner might appear and it would be become plain that they were "atsu atsu" (head over heels in love) which would make you "niko niko" (all smiles).  As any good TeniPuri fan will know, "mada mada" describes "still having someway to go before reaching the goal".

As noticeable in the above examples, Japanese onomatopoeia are often repetitive, with the same phrase being repeated twice.

On that note, I shall declare to be "meso meso" tomorrow as I cry to leave Japan, before moving onto "koso koso" as I try to sneak through Florida stealthily to avoid being discovered by my old advisor. Then it's off to "samu zamu", the cold bleak wintery scene of Canada!

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