Sunday Soundcheck 40

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It’s been almost 16 months, but here we are at the end of another column. The final sound in the ‘N’ column is no, this one is pretty easy for most foreigners to pronounce because it is pretty much like the word most commonly heard in childhood. We write this in hiragana as の and katakana as ノ, check that one carefully; it is easy to miss.

Nouritsuteki (のうりつてき・能率的) is a word I have been hunting for. I often have trouble explaining the concept of ‘efficiency’ to people here. Not to the point of difficulty that I have with the word ‘irony’, but close. Finally, I think I have found the word I need.

Today, I’ll throw in another hiragana word, which sort of meets my second criteria of being generally useful. Living around here, there is a lot of discussion about agriculture, but in Tokyo or Osaka this word might not be as useful. Noukyou (のうきょう・農協) is actually an abbreviation for nougyoukyoudoukumiai (のうぎょうきょうどうくみあい・農業共同組合), or “farmers’ cooperative”. Japanese abbreviations often follow this pattern of grabbing the beginning of two parts of a compound. Here, the first part of ‘agriculture’ and the first part of ‘cooperative’. Sort of like Sea-Tac for the Seattle-Tacoma Airport. Another example is jihanki (じはんき・自販機) for jidouhanbaiki (じどうはんばいき・自動販売機), or ‘vending machine’.

Since I mentioned the close connection to the word ‘no’ in English, let’s run with that today and give you a rash of katakana words starting with the word ‘no’.

Noo (ノー) is our base for today. It means ‘no’, but the way it gets shoehorned into Japanese, it fits the place of: not, don’t, without, etc.

Noo airon (ノーアイロン) means ‘wash-and-wear’. Personally I love how the Japanese pronunciation for ‘iron’ is not too disimilar to how we all wanted to pronounce it when we were kids.

Noo kaunto (ノーカウント) means “doesn’t count”, not the quite same amusing meaning as ‘no count’ in English.

Noo katto (ノーカット) means ‘uncut’ and can be applied to stories, movies, etc.

Noo komento (ノーコメント) means exactly what we would expect: ‘no comment’. This is the result of hearing this phrase far too many times over the last 16 years. For those of you wondering at my strange choice of duration, that equals 4 presidential terms.

Noo tatchi (ノータッチ) means ‘hands off’ or ‘no connection to’, as in, “I have nothing to do with that.”

Next week, onto the ‘H’ column of the table. We’ll take three passes through that column, because of it’s special nature.

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