Meeting the Butterfly


Chouchou (蝶々) means ‘butterfly’ but, as I often mention, homophones are widespread in Japanese. Here are some more chouchou:

  • 長調 Major key (musical term)
  • 町丁 reference to a common method of urban districting
  • 喋々 chattering away incessantly
  • 町長 mayor or head of a township
  • 迢迢 someone in a distant, removed location
  • 打々 expressing in words sounding like repeatedly striking something forcefully
  • 丁々 (same as previous word)
  • 調帳 legal term from 1300 years ago (difficult to explain)

Clearly some of these terms are not in common usage today. Some of them are only used in other phrases, so they are quickly and easily recognizable. Also, in Japanese there is a pitch accent so three different forms of chouchou could sound distinct to native speakers. This makes them a little hard to classify as homophones; however, the pitch accents can change from dialect to dialect within Japan. Generally, when I have found several dictionary entries like this for some sound, a little research reveals that three of the entries are commonly used and the rest are not known by the average man on the street.

Side note: This character 々is the Japanese equivalent of ditto marks for kanji. “蝶々” and “蝶蝶” have the same meaning, but the former saves twelve strokes of the brush (or pen/pencil).

On to today’s title: I didn’t meet a butterfly; I met the former town mayor. January 1st all of the towns and villages and counties around Tsu were incorporated into Tsu. My former town mayor came to the Board of Education office to pay his respects to everyone yesterday. Before his official greetings, serendipitously, he greeted me. Something captured his attention and he sat and chatted with me for quite awhile. At the end of our chat, he talked about wanting to study English and asked if I would teach him. Sitting in the presence of all my bosses and superiors, I clearly stated that my contract prevents that… however, my contract ends in March.

Certain political attacks on my plan to start my own school had shaken my confidence a bit, but repeated encounters like this are boosting it back up. Hopefully, I won’t get boosted up to a sinfully arrogant level.


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