Sunday Soundcheck 43


This week we have a special sound, in one system it is romanized as ‘hu‘ and in another ‘fu‘. In Japanese we move our lips and jaw much less than in English. As a result this doesn’t sound like ‘who’, nor does it quite sound like the beginning of ‘food’. When I say a word like ‘who’ I generally purse my lips, but in Japanese we generally don’t move the upper lip. For ‘food’ I would roll my lower lip in so it will touch the bottom of my upper teeth. This Japanese sound is more similar to the ‘foo’ in ‘food’, but our lower lip should rest a little below our upper lip – never actually contacting it, nor moving much – and not our teeth. Try it a few times; you maybe surprised at the sound that comes out. Because of this I prefer the ‘fu‘ romanization for readability for foreigners.

On a side note, I had a girlfriend in Tokyo about 20 years ago and she spoke English fairly well. Because I worked in the oil business, I sometimes picked up more earthy expressions, and upon hearing them she would be a bit shocked. Before calming down enough to adjust my behaviors, she would blurt out, “Who taught you that?!?”; however, regardless of her advanced ability, it always came out as, “Foo taught you that?!?” My giggling usually helped her expend the shock. I’m not sure if this cute amusement corrected my behavior or encouraged me to learn more odd phrases. 🙂

So, we write this sound in hiragana as ふ and in katakana as フ. I have a few ideas for katakana words today. There are a special group that I am avoiding until we get to the ‘Y’ column of the phonetic chart, so please hang on about six months for those. To tide you over, I’ll throw in a few words today.

Fuudo (フード) is the Japanese writing for two different English words: ‘hood’ and ‘food’, for phonetic reasons explained above. Fortunately ‘food’ has many perfectly good Japanese counterparts – tabemono (食べ物), shokuhin (食品), etc. – so we don’t use it a lot; avoiding a lot of confusion with ‘hood’ which does get used a lot. Hood is used predominantly in the sense of Little Red Riding Hood; like America hoodies have gained a certain popularity in Japan, although it is often in reference to criminals on the news that I hear this word. It can also have the sense of the car part that covers the engine compartment; however, Japanese cars feel more British in the front and hence have bonnetto (ボンネット). Don’t worry, keeping fairplay in mind, they don’t have a ‘boot’ in the back; rather, they have toranku (トランク). You decide if an American backside is good or not.

Furumarason (フルマラソン) is a word that means ‘marathon’. I thought I had written about this before, but can’t locate a link. There was a need to make this word longer – coming from ‘full marathon’ – because in Japanese, marason (マラソン) is used a little too freely; often being the equivalent of a ‘fun run’, and in extreme cases, describing elementary students taking a few laps around a short track. I have great respect for the marathon and was disappointed to see this word allocated to such common events, but that is how language changes.

Fukin (ふきん・布巾) may not meet one of the criteria for inclusion in the list because I think it appears in textbooks, but the usage impressed me enough to write it up. It seems to be applied to dustcloths, washrags, and dishcloths equally. Sometimes this causes me confusion. My girlfriend really wants me to keep a clean home and she often dives into housecleaning here as a kind of mental cleansing. She wants good tools for the work and she asked me to get some special washrags; later she told me she she brought some very special dishcloths and I thought she meant washrags. I dropped the ball there, but fortunately had many appropriate rags on hand when it came to a head.

Fukyuuno (ふきゅうの・不朽の) means immortal or enduring. I didn’t use due diligence in determining whether this is used a lot, but it seems like it should be usable. (In my defense, I was searching for a new home and a new car; however, a certain laziness is always truly to blame.) The two characters are interesting: first ‘not’; then ‘decaying’. To make something that does not decay is to become immortal.

Sorry. Quite the long entry this week.


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