Sunday Soundcheck 15

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Go, go, go! We are at the end of the sound modified second column, which brings us to the sound go, represented in hiragana as ご and katakana as ゴ.

Gogen (ごげん) seems like a good place to start off. This word means ‘etymology’ – the origin of a word – a topic I like discussing. For me this word falls into the realm of highly usable. I sometimes refer to myself as gogen otaku (語源お宅), or etymology geek. When I hear OED, the first thing I think of is Online Etymology Dictionary… then Oxford English Dictionary. To be fair to normal folks, I will give another hiragana word this week.

Gobugobu (ごぶごぶ) comes from one of the Japanese ways to do math. Bu is a part, specifically one of ten parts, so gobu is one half (five parts of ten). Gobugobu is a way to say “fifty-fifty”. This could be very convenient when people are asking you questions and you are uncertain of your chances. We can write it in kanji as 五分五分.

Gojira (ゴジラ) makes the list for my katakana word. This is the Japanese way to say Godzilla. It’s a little silly, but I think many foreigners who come to Japan, talk about Godzilla at some point. If you pronounce it in English, nobody will understand you until you act it out with some roaring and parading about trashing high-tension wires. You’ll find it much easier to use the original Japanese name. Also, it is the nickname for Hideki Matsui (松井秀喜) of the New York Yankees. He comes up a lot in conversation because he is almost as great as Ichiro Suzuki (鈴木一朗).

Go is also an honorific prefix, like ‘o’. It appears in polite speech and writing, usually when the word is using an on reading, based on the Chinese sounds. I like writing it in kanji, 御, although it often gets written in hiragana because that’s simpler. Not only simpler to write, but ‘o’ gets written with the same kanji, so sometimes it is hard to read.

Next week let’s move on to the third column which starts with sa.

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