Leaks

by

Whether the odd fruit of my conversations reflects on my peculiar nature or not is up to you to decide. Two terms I’ve picked up are moreru (漏れる) and onesho (お寝小).

Anyone making the connection between the two terms is a step ahead. Moreru is a verb meaning ‘to leak’. When a child has to go to the bathroom very badly and they are told to hold it, at some point you will hear this exclamation. Basically, this is the “I can’t hold it any longer” announcement: “It’s going to leak!”

For the record, I have never personally heard this, because cruelty suffered in my childhood has left me with a sensitivity to this issue. Whenever a student in my class asks to go the bathroom, they are given immediate access. If I see a student looking like they might be in distress because they don’t want to interrupt my class, I discretely check if they need a break. Now that I’ve defended my name, on to the next term plus a little explanation about remembering terms.

Onesho means “bed wetting”. This one came up because most homes air out bedding on a certain schedule, hanging it over balcony railings. When I noticed a place with all manner of bedding out on a day that didn’t seem to match their schedule, the first idea tossed out by a Japanese person was ‘bed wetting’. Although I say ‘idea’, they spoke with absolute confidence. Imagine your most embarrassing frailties having to be presented to the world. Now imagine it in a society where nothing is considered worse than embarrassment.

So my promise about learning new words. Often a new word in Japanese is just a bunch of sounds (particularly since there are so many homophones), whereas a new word heard in English provides us clues about it’s etymology. When I first heard onesho I had no idea what it meant, but when I looked at the kanji characters in my dictionary it became easy to remember. This is a great benefit of using kanji. Each character is basically a drawing that carries information. Many words are a combination of characters which carry a more complex meaning together. In this case the first character is ‘sleep’ and the second character is ‘small’. At first this may not seem obvious unless you know the terms for ‘urine’ and ‘feces’ and ‘small waste’ and ‘big waste’. Neshoben is a three character phrase meaning the same thing and a little more clear. I think I will never forget this term now. Let’s hope I don’t need it in conversation.

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