“Under a dictatorship, a nation ceases to exist.”

-Wole Soyinka

残酷非道
zan.koku.hi.dou

Literally: remainder – cruel / unjust – un- – road / morals

Alternately: Unconscionable cruelty. Inhuman brutality.

Notes: We’ve seen this before.

BLM

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How about a Marshall Field’s?

(There’s a spelling-only pun in here that I didn’t notice until the post was almost entirely written; bear in mind that the Land of Nu sides with those who stand against fascism.)

児孫のために美田を買わず
(Jison no tame ni biden wo kawazu;
“For the sake of your descendants, do not buy good fields.”)

Definition:

If you leave your children a large and fruitful inheritance, then they don’t need to work for their living and tend to end up leading heedless lives without needing to actually learn about the world or the value of real work. This ultimately harms them, so it’s actually best for your family to avoid building up and leaving behind a fortune.

Breakdown:

We begin with the noun 児孫 (jison), literally “children and grandchildren,” more figuratively “descendants.” The associative particle の (no) connects this to the noun ため (tame), “benefit,” “sake.” This combines with directional particle に (ni) to create the set phrase ~のために (~no tame ni), “for the sake of ~” or “to the benefit of ~.”

The thing you do for the sake of your descendants is an independent clause that begins with the noun 美田 (biden, which sounds like “bee then”), literally “beautiful field,” more figuratively “fertile field.” The particle を marks this as the direct object of the verb 買う (kau), “to buy,” which appears in imperfective form and takes the negative suffix ず (zu), which appears in conclusive form.

Notes:

A more common term for “descendants” would be 子孫 (shison), but that is not used in this saying.

This phrase comes to us from a poem sent by Saigō Takamori, a samurai who was instrumental in the Meiji Restoration, to Ōkubo Toshimichi, one of his peers. It may be notable that while benefiting from a hereditary title and position himself, he cooperated with the widespread social reforms that the new imperial government implemented in the early days of the Meiji era.

Example sentence:

「財産の九分九厘を慈善活動に費やしたいと言っているビル・ゲイツ夫妻は児孫のために美田を買わぬつもりかもしれないが、自分の子供達にそれぞれ一千万ドルずつ残す予定らしい」

(“Zaisan no kubukurin wo jizen katsudou ni tsuiyashitai to itteiru Biru Geitsu fuufu wa jison no tame ni biden wo kawanu tsumori kamoshirenai ga, jibun no kodomo-tachi ni sorezore issenman doru zutsu nokosu yotei rashii.”)

[“In saying that they want to spend 99% of their wealth on charity, Bill and Melinda Gates likely believe that they’re helping their descendants by not leaving a fortune, but supposedly they still plan to leave each of their children ten million dollars.”]

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Child development – an unbeatable sense of comedic timing

This just now happened.

We were eating dinner. My wife and I were slicing the bread I’d just made and eating it topped with slices of cheese.

At this point I should probably note that the Tomato Princess loves cheese in cube form, but actively rejects it in sliced form.

Nevertheless, she was staring at her mother, and I suggested we try offering her a bit of a cheese slice just to see what she did. So my wife held out a bit of sliced cheese.

And the Tomato Princess chose that exact moment to raise her hand from where it had been resting in her seat, and put into her mouth the shreds of coleslaw that she’d been holding there, out of sight, for at least a minute.

It seems she wasn’t interested in the cheese.

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Just don’t be a Zax about it

金科玉条
kin.ka.gyoku.jou

Literally: gold – section – jewel – clause/article (of a document)

Alternately: A golden rule. (Not necessarily The Golden Rule, though.) An important, even foundational principle, for someone’s behavior and life.

Notes: This yojijukugo uses repetition for emphasis: both 金 and 玉 refer to “something of high value,” while 科 and 条 indicate “rules.”

It comes to us from an old acquaintance, the Wen Xuan aka Selections of Refined Literature (Japanese 『文選』 = Monzen) – a 2500+ year old anthology of Chinese poetry and literature.

KinKaGyokuJouManga

A short-lived 1996 comic aimed at boys; these two volumes seem to comprise the entire series.

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Child Development: The “Litest” RPG

A road to gaming

As part of my nefarious secret plot to induct my kids into the joy of nerdy gaming, I’ve been introducing The Kid to various activities in that vein for a while now. This actually began when he was still 2, with two board games:

  • Max is about a trio of small animals making their escape from a cat. We’ve gotten a decent amount of enjoyment out of this one over the years, but the rules are a bit finicky and the dice – blank white cubes that you have to stick colored stickers onto – took damage almost immediately. It seems they cut some costs in the materials department.

MaxGame

  • First Orchard is a dead-simple game about trying to save the fruit in an orchard from a crow. Strategy is minimal, so this may be a bit less engaging for adults, but Haba are clearly masters when it comes to physical presentation: solid construction and bright colors make this a viscerally-engaging game that will stand up to quite a lot of the sort of abuse small children often inflict on the world around them. Highly recommended.

FirstOrchardGame

But even many households where D&D and the like are shunned will still indulge in board games, especially for children. The same can be said for what came next: mazes. As a gamer I keep a supply of grid paper, and last spring and summer I spent several weeks drawing mazes for him to solve; he tended to draw a line exploring every possible route before asking for another.

I also added storytelling to The Kid’s bedtime routine. He likes stories about robots, dinosaurs, and the adventures of チーズ婆さん (Chiizu baasan), “Grandmother Cheese.” It was easy – natural, in fact – to turn this into group storytelling by asking him to provide details: what the adventurer’s favorite food was; which way the robots turned in their search for the missing humans; what animal brought Grandmother Cheese the ingredient she needed.

And finally, now that he’s five-almost-six, I’ve added dice and The Kid is engaging in most people would recognize as RPG play. The “system” we use is an ultralite of my own invention, although for those familiar with various systems its DNA should be clear enough. The rules are as follows:

Ultralite Dice-Assisted Roleplaying

First, you make a character. Give your imaginary avatar a name, a mission, and any other characteristics you want, and then fill out their Mechanically Meaningful Stats:

  • Quirk – a fundamental personal trait that stands out, such as “strong,” “fast,” “smart,” etc.
  • Skill – something they’re especially good at, such as “map-making” or “running away.”
  • Tool – a special piece of equipment, such as an animal tranquilizer.

Proceed with the normal RPG conversation of play, with the Narrator describing a situation, the player(s) describing how their character(s) act, the Narrator describing the new situation that results, and so on. When a moment of dramatic uncertainty arises, you can resolve it by rolling between one and four ordinary six-sided dice –

  • Always roll at least one die, just for trying to do a thing.
  • For each Mechanically Meaningful Stat the character can bring to bear, add another die.

– and then looking at the result –

  • A 1 or 2 is a failure; things probably get worse in some way.
  • A 3 or 4 is a qualified success; the character achieves what they want, but there’s a cost, problem, or complication.
  • A 5 is an ordinary success; the character achieves what they want.
  • A 6 is an extraordinary success; the character achieves more or better than what they’d originally aimed for.

And that’s all there is to it! The whole game, both rules and character sheet, fit on a single index card with room left over for notes.

Even better, UDAR (a name that I literally just came up with while writing this post) was a hit! The Kid has gone on multiple expeditions to search for dinosaurs, gotten into a couple of memorable scrapes, and even done what comes naturally to many roleplaying gamers: he volunteered to take a turn as Narrator… and added some house rules of his own invention. I’m super proud, but the story will have to wait until a later post.

6sided dice 

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When Awwww becomes Eugggh

可愛さ余って憎さ百倍
(Kawaisa amatte nikusa hyakubai; “Excessive fondness, hundredfold hatred”)

Definition:

If you had an overabundance of positive feelings toward someone and then something happens that arouses negative feelings, then the resulting hatred is proportionally overwhelming. “The greatest hate springs from the greatest love”; love and hate are two faces of the same coin.

Breakdown:

We begin with the noun 可愛い (kawaii). This is almost universally translated as “cute,” but the literal meaning of the characters is more like “lovable,” and depending on the situation, a suitable translation might be a variety of related words such as “sweet,” “precious,” or even “childlike.” In this case we might render it as “beloved.” Also in this case, the adjective ending is replaced with suffix さ (sa), roughly “~ness,” which turns it into a noun. Next any particle is elided but we have a predicate to 可愛さ’s noun in the form of the verb 余る (amaru), “to be in excess,” appearing in conjunctive form.

The conjoined phrase begins with the adjective 憎い (nikui), also acting as a noun with the help of さ, and in this case the predicate is a noun phrase with copula elided: the number-noun 百倍 (hyakubai), “one hundred times.”

Notes:

Keep in mind that the hatred is not specifically one hundred times as strong as the love; the number is simply a way to express that when one feeling is strong, the other is also strong.

A slightly more low-key version of the saying only raises the hate-stakes tenfold (十倍, juubai). This does not significantly affect the meaning. It’s also perfectly fine to write kawaisa in kana as かわいさ, or to add elided particles; for example 憎さ (nikusa ga).

Mental Health Note: While it makes intuitive sense that being betrayed or attacked by someone you love would leave deeper wounds and fiercer anger than some injury or offense taken from a stranger, love turning to hate is not necessarily the only, or best, response. And a pattern of putting people on pedestals in an excess of 可愛さ, followed by this affection turning to hatred after some error or slight, can be a sign of emotional problems.

Example sentence:

「美人だねって言って来た同僚がいたけど、一緒に飲みに行くのはちょっとって言ったら、私の悪口を言いふらし始めたらしいよ。可愛さ余って憎さ百倍っていうか、負け惜しみっていうか、メッチャ気持ち悪いっ」

(“Bijin da ne tte itte kita douryou ga ita kedo, issho ni nomi ni iku no wa chotto tte ittara, watashi no waruguchi wo iifurashi hajimeta rashii yo. Kawaisa amatte nikusa hyakubai tte iu ka, makeoshimi tte iu ka, meccha kimochi warui–.”)

[“So one of my coworkers was saying that I was really pretty, but after I said I wouldn’t be able to go out for drinks with him, I hear he started badmouthing me behind my back. Call it disappointed love turning to hate, call it sour grapes – it’s just so creepy!”]

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Just the Worst

(Somehow I lined this up yesterday but utterly forgot to actually post it on schedule. My deepest apologies for any inconvenience!)

婬虐暴戻
in.gyaku.bou.rei

Literally: uncontrolled / licentious – oppress – violence – revert

Alternately: Crude, lecherous, boorish, cruel, violent, and lacking any empathy or mercy – in look, behavior, lifestyle, and/or general condition.

Notes: This is a relatively obscure and literary phrase, and my computer’s IME doesn’t even offer the character 婬 as an option when I type いん! (Incidentally, this character may be replaced with its more accessible cousin 淫 without any change in meaning or pronunciation. That said, the latter does seem to be significantly less common in terms of this yojijukugo.)

This is another compound of compounds. 婬虐 is “cruel and improper [behavior]”; 暴戻 is “brutality,” “tyranny.”

InGyakuBouReiKatouAkinari

A depiction of Kato Akinari, what was apparently That Way

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