Sunday Soundcheck 26


Let’s start the fourth column of the chart, the T column. Today’s character is ta, represented in hiragana as た and katakana as タ.

Taipu (タイプ・type) is a word that I hear all the time. The most common use seems to be people asking, “好きなタイプは何ですか?”; literally, “What type of (girl/guy) do you like?” I hate this kind of question because it is typically designed to focus on the superficial. Sometimes I answer “living”, or “the type that likes me”, just to confound the asker. But sometimes I answer very honestly, “Someone with a good heart.”; which always throws them off. They usually want to hear, “Someone with blood type B.”; or “Someone skinny.” I was interviewed at an elementary school for their in house TV broadcast. When they asked this question, I gave them an involved answer about, “Someone who cares about other people, and who likes to study and learn, …” One teacher used my answer to give the kids a short lecture about proper choices. One of the things about my girlfriend that attracted me most was that she is willing to live 24 hours a day with five children with special needs. (Unfortunately, that same characteristic means I rarely get to see her: difficult trade-offs in life.)

Another katakana word which isn’t even in my Japanese-English dictionary but I see often is taoruketto (タオルケット). This is a fun one it is a combination of taoru (タオル・towel) and buranketto (ブランケット・blanket). The “towelket” (my translation) is a towel about the same size as a futon, to be used in place of a blanket or quilt. Many folks like to use these during the hot and humid summers; particularly if they open windows and doors instead of using A/C. Light enough to not overheat you, thick enough to keep bugs and breezes off, and absorbent enough to keep you from sweating too much. (I recommend washing them often.)

Tayori (たより) immediately jumped to mind for a useful word. Many times I have seen it used for a newsletter; which we write in kanji as 便り. However, recently my girlfriend has used it often to mean: ‘reliance’, ‘dependence’, ‘help’, or ‘support’. We write that word in kanji as 頼り. She returned from England many years ago and her English has slipped a bit. She is studying up, but meanwhile she is depending on my Japanese. I also need to study up because she likes to use rich language to describe deep issues. (Yes, another reason I like her so much.) I’m happy that my Japanese has reached this level because I had some bad language issues many years ago.

Nineteen years ago, when I was travelling to Japan often, I had a girlfriend here and relied heavily on her English speaking ability. Sometimes we could not communicate well. In my frustration, I would eventually get angry. Years later I realized, I had no right to get so frustrated unless I was also willing to study Japanese as hard as she had studied English. Of course another factor that helps out now is that both my current girlfriend and I expect that we want to help each other and say nice things; hence, if we think we heard something unsupportive or offensive, we both start by assuming we misunderstood and we try again. I think this attitude is priceless even if both parties speak the same language. Very “I Corinthians 13” don’t you think?


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