Wednesday, July 18, 2007

He's Right!

I just read an interesting article in the Japan Times online edition about Matthew Fargo, an "expert on the Japanese language." Which, I guess means he's a linguist of Japanese. According to Fargo, Japanese people are far from their serious stereotype. In fact, like anyone anywhere, they're extremely funny. And I don't mean in the Lost in Translation sense of "How weird Japanese people are!"

Humor being universal, it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone but a complete dumbass. And the Japanese language is perfect for creating wordplay and imagery. In America, we say "comb-over," which is obvious and boring. The Japanese phrase is "bakoda hea," a Japanese-ification of the English phrase "barcode hair." Vividly visual and also hilariously accurate.

The article then gives a few examples of how Fargo would creatively translate certain words and phrases from Japanese pop culture. For example:

And for the Space Battleship Yamato's ultimate weapon, "hado-ho," Fargo proposes the term "Undulation Cannon" to give it an authentic sci-fi feel, instead of the widely used "Wave Motion Gun," which is almost a literal translation of the Japanese.

Undulation Cannon is definitely much cooler and creative. It's more fun to say, as well. That should also be a consideration when we choose our words: Is this fun to say? Do we enjoy the feel and sound of it?

There's also something in the article about Fargo's admiration for a guy named Wajiro Kon. Evidently, this guy examined modern pop culture the same way archaeologists do past cultures, and coined the term "modernology" to describe this study. Armed with that term, I now like to think of myself as an amateur modernologist.

But my favorite part is the discussion of "reversing." In America, we say "puking," which is a made-up term that otherwise would mean nothing but for the action we arbitrarily attached it to sometime in the past. In Japan, people say "reversing," which is instantly understandable, utilitarian yet funny.

And from this Fargo interview, I learned the very useful phrase, "Ribasu suru made nomu de," which means, "I'm going to drink until it comes back up (reverses)!"

Ribasu suru made nomu de. That should be on Athens' official city seal. Maybe translated into Latin.


Arkonbey said...

The only problem with 'undulation cannon' is that just close enough to a euphemism for a body part that the 13 year old inside me snickered.

I miss 'Yamato' (or StarBlazers). Even edited for American TV, it was the most powerful animation I'd seen as a kid.

Joel Bryan said...

Hilarious! But... that's part of the charm of the term, though!