Recently my girlfriend told me about some interesting research. Two identical bowls were filled with cooked rice and covered. One was labeled ‘baka‘ (馬鹿・idiot, fool, stupid) and the other ‘arigatou‘ (有難う・thanks). For ten days they were kept in the vessels and each day they were picked up and spoken to: one received the word ‘baka‘ repeatedly; and the other, ‘arigatou‘. When the bowls were opened one bowl contained black, disgusting rice; the other, normal rice. She tried the experiment for the children in her care and got the same results. I want to try it as well.
Observations of this and related experiments showed that the kesshou (結晶) in the water had changed shape. Most dictionaries translate that word as ‘crystal’ or ‘grain’, but this doesn’t seem quite right. (Mental note: find out the meaning in this application.)
Christ’s sermon on the mount comes to mind: “And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”
Often I am dismayed by the seeming spread of vulgarity in our lives. Most of the foreigners I have met in Japan make profanity a common part of their speech and laugh a lot while teaching it to young Japanese people. I was shocked a few months ago when several teachers expressed harsh anger that children at school were swearing at them or their Japanese teachers. I failed to get them to see that their speech and behavior may have any influence here.
I never quite understood why people would want to use words which would grate on others and not add any value or meaning to their communication. It brings me great joy when my girlfriend points out my Japanese speech patterns which are not so polite and recommends better ways to speak.