As the Beatles said!

Yeah, yeah yeah, yeah

唯唯諾諾
i.i.daku.daku

Literally: only – only – agreement – agreement

Alternately: Going along with what someone says without considering the merits or the rights-and-wrongs of it. Yes-manning.

Notes: Despite the literal meanings listed above, my sources note that both 唯 and 諾 are ways of saying “yes,” – where the former is an immediate affirmative response and the latter is expressing consent – meaning this yojijukugo’s structure is literally the same idea expressed four times in a row for extra emphasis.

This phrase is similar to 付和雷同 but with more of an emphasis on the lack of concern for good or bad, which makes it pretty topical.

Note that pronouncing 唯 as yui or replacing it with homophone 易 (i) are both considered errors. However, using the doubling mark to write 唯々諾々 is 100% valid.

IIBB

Also the name of chapter 84 of the Broken Blade manga, but you knew that. Yes, yes you did.

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Fantasy GM tip: 100% definitely do let a neural network name your next inn.

I’m a follower of the lewisandquark blog, which is an intermittent dose of hilarity in which a neural network is trained to produce something like English – Harry Potter fanfic titles, death metal band names, new color names – and the blogger samples some of the best and worst results on our behalf.

A recent post was about pub names, and they’re just awesome. From “King Brad Inn” to “Rey Ofe White Bear Pivsing Jambork Hotel,” they’re very consistently a set of winners that would add massive color to any fantasy gaming setting.

Do your players want to drop serious coin on respectable accommodations? They can try the “Green Head Hotel.” Or perhaps they’re investigating a Gothic mystery and need to lodge at “Torn House Inn.” Or perhaps they’re on a diplomatic mission in goblin country and the only thing that doesn’t smell like a pig colon is the high garret at “Garled Blorge.”

Use them. Use them all! And for any party brave enough to spend the night at “Tivern” or “Moldy Goine” or “Old Hell Kick,” maybe reward them with a brand new spell chosen from this list here.

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When the cover-up actually is worse than the crime

李下に冠を正さず
(Rika ni kanmuri wo tadasazu; “Don’t straighten your hat below a plum tree”)

Definition:

Don’t do things that invite suspicion or misunderstanding. Even if you’re innocent, it’s best to avoid even the accidental appearance of guilt. If you reach up to adjust your hat below a plum tree, someone at a distance might think you’re stealing plums – so you’re advised to take care of the hat somewhere else just in case. For example, if you’re not guilty of crimes, it’s best not to act like you’re doing your best to obstruct justice in a desperate cover-up.

Breakdown:

We begin with the unusual compound noun 李下 (rika), “below a plum tree.” It’s marked as location by the particle に (ni), followed by the noun 冠 (kanmuri), often translated as “crown” but in this case referring to a more esoteric kind of headwear (although its use was likely restricted to the aristocracy). This noun in turn is marked as the object of a verb by the particle を (wo). And the verb in question is 正す (tadasu), “to correct” or “to straighten,” in imperfective form with a negative ending that could be interpreted as either conjunctive or sentence-final.

Notes:

This saying comes to us from a Chinese poetic collection predating the Six Dynasties era, known as the 古楽府 (in Japanese, Kogafu). It’s part of a longer phrase in which it follows 瓜田に履を納れず (kaden ni kutsu wo irezu), “Don’t adjust your shoes in a melon field.” Both phrases together can be boiled down to the four-character compound 瓜田李下 (kaden rika).

The character 正 can be replaced with 整 without any change in meaning or pronunciation.

The original 冠 was a pretty funky kind of hat:

Kanmuri

Example sentence:

「ただの失敗だからこそ、隠さずに早く謝りに行った方が良いんだよ。瓜田に履を納れず李下に冠を正さずだからね」

(“Tada no shippai dakara koso, kakusazu ni hayaku ayamari ni itta hou ga ii nda yo. Kaden ni kutsu wo irezu rika ni kanmuri wo tadasazu dakara ne.”)

[“All the more because it was just a mistake, you should go apologize right away instead of trying to cover it up. You don’t want to accidentally make yourself look guilty of real wrongdoing, after all.”]

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Whee!

I only used to have nine pen!

有為転変
u.i.ten.pen

Literally: exist – do / change – turn – strange

Alternately: Everything in the world is in a constant state of flux. Everything changes; nothing stays the same. A Buddhist comment on the fleeting and mutable nature of the world we live in.

Notes: U is an uncommon reading for the character 有, brought to us by the compound’s Buddhist origins. That said, the only phonetic variants of this phrase leave the initial character as it is, while the final character 変 can also be pronounced as ben or even as den.

This yojijukugo too comprises two two-character words: 転変 is “to change,” while 有為 is a more arcane expression referring to phenomena or events brought about by fate or karma. Note that this only applies to ui, though: homonym yuui means “talented.”

UITenPenCover

Also the title of a Vocaloid album. I wonder if the monks would have found it appropriate that their phrase also changed like that.

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Out of rain, out of brain

雨晴れて笠を忘れる
(Ame harete kasa wo wasureru;
“The rain stops and you forget your umbrella (hat)”)

Definition:

As soon as a painful situation is over, the help one received is forgotten. When rain is threatening or falling people make sure to take an umbrella, but it’s all too easy for the umbrella to be forgotten and left behind as soon as the rain has stopped.

Breakdown:

We begin with the noun 雨 (ame), “rain,” followed immediately by the verb 晴れる (hareru), “to clear up.” (One can imagine the subject-marker particle が (ga) here, but as is often the case it’s been elided.) Hareru appears in conjunctive form, leading us to the second clause of the sentence. This time the noun is 笠 (kasa)… which is a little complicated. I translate it as “umbrella” below, but the correct character for an umbrella is 傘 (also pronounced kasa). A 笠 is more properly a traditional conical or dome-shaped hat of the kind we mostly see nowadays as part of a Buddhist monk costume regardless of weather. In either case, the 笠 is marked as the object of a verb by the particle を (wo), and that verb is 忘れる (wasureru), “to forget,” in sentence-final form.

Mi Kasa

Mi kasa es mi… sombrero?

Notes:

This saying is very close in meaning to 喉元過ぎれば熱さを忘れる, although with slightly different focus and nuance.

But in contemporary America, it’s all too topical: now that the days of abusive labor practices are a distant memory we see a sustained attack on unions and worker protections; now that Lake Erie is no longer polluted enough to catch on fire we see a sustained attack on environmental protections; now that the Civil Rights era and the lessons of WWII have brought a new set of laws and a semblance of equality, the forces of bigotry are twisting languages and laws to their own ends while threatening renewed violence. And so on and so forth. Don’t rest on your laurels. Don’t assume that your rights and protections are inviolate. Keep in mind that for evil to be victorious, the only requirement is for good people to do nothing.

Example sentence:

「当然大統領は馬鹿じゃないと世界中の人々は思い込んだが、雨晴れて笠を忘れるように、色々油断して禍を招いてしまった」

(“Touzen daitouryou wa baka ja nai to sekaijuu no hitobito wa omoikonda ga, ame harete kasa wo wasureru you ni, iroiro yudan shite wazawai wo maneite shimatta.”)

[“The people of the world fell into thinking that it was natural for the president to not be an idiot. But like forgetting your umbrella once the rain has gone, we let down our guard and invited disaster.”]

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Level-up Ramen

So let’s say you’ve got some packets of ramen noodles. I’m not even talking about the cups with a smattering of freeze-dried corn and peas on top; this is the ten-for-a-dollar college student staple. But let’s also say that you want to get some nutrients in your diet and are willing and able to acquire and prepare vegetables. In that case, you might want to try this recipe:

  1. Start with water in a pot or large saucepan. I use 1.5 times the recommended amount for the number of noodle packets (3 cups per packet). Add the flavor powder from the ramen, and/or some bouillon, consommé, or other flavoring of your choice. Bring the water to a gentle boil and keep it there until serving.
  2. Cut carrots into slices a couple millimeters thick (I actually just sliced a handful of bagged baby carrots lengthwise) and get them in the water to soften.
  3. Similarly slice and add some onion (I used half of a yellow onion) and mushrooms (bog-standard button mushrooms work fine, but if you can afford it I thoroughly recommend trying various Japanese mushrooms!)
  4. Cube some firm tofu or chop some meat (about one centimeter, or half an inch) and chuck it in there.
  5. In the same vein, feel free to add other ingredients in order of hardness. At this point I put in napa cabbage stems (the thick white portion), separated from the thin leafy parts and cut into strips.
  6. When the other ingredients are have been cooked to about the firmness you want, add the noodles. You’re no more than five minutes from eating at this point.
  7. After the noodle blocks have started softening and coming apart, add some soft greens. I added the napa cabbage leaves and cut leek at this point.
  8. If you want some more protein and flavor, crack an egg into a bowl. When the noodles and greens are at the desired softness, pour the boiling soup over the egg.
  9. Take a couple of minutes to eat a side dish or stare at the moon or whatever, stirring the soup a bit every now and then. By the time it’s cool enough to eat, the egg should be cooked and integrated into the broth.
  10. Add any other flavorings you want and enjoy! I recommend 七味唐辛子 (a.k.a. “shichimi“), or the killer combo of fish sauce, chili sauce, and a splash of lime juice.

This takes about half an hour, and produces two to three servings per ramen packet, depending on the size of the bowls you use.


Obviously, there’s a lot of room for customization. You can turn the animal-product dial from “vegan” to “has a layer of schmaltz on top,” and the ingredients dial from “a handful of cheap veggies” to “gourmet cornucopia.” The only really important keys are to add the ingredients one or a few at a time, bringing the water back to a gentle boil each time, and to do this in the order of the amount of cooking they need.

That said, the veggies are the real heart and soul of the soup, with the noodles themselves being more of a backbone. If it were a band, the noodles would be the drums and the veggies would be almost everything else, with meat or egg taking the role of lead vocals. Um, anyway. In order to keep the soup from becoming a gray mass I do recommend throwing in some warm colors and some greens – carrots and leeks, for example. If you want to make a more classic Japanese ramen, feel free to top with slices of hardboiled egg, meat, or fish cake. If possible, eat with chopsticks and with gusto.

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The flame and the flood

天変地異
ten.pen.chi.i

Literally: heaven – change – earth – different

Alternately: Natural disasters or bizarre natural phenomena. Bad or weird stuff that’s not man-made. You know, like eclipses, record-breaking storms, and floods.

Notes: 天変 refers to unusual celestial events like meteors, comets, and eclipses, along with bizarre or drastic weather such as tornadoes, torrential rain, and powerful storms. 地異 refers to terrestrial events such as earthquakes and tsunami, floods, and volcanic eruptions.

Apparently some people replace 天 with homophone 転, but this is considered an error. On the other hand, doubling the 変 to get 天変地変 (~chi.hen) is a valid alternate version.

TenPenFuGen

That’s a scar from a pyroclastic flow that tore a town in half and killed dozens of people. Fifteen years later, I was living within sight of the volcano, albeit on the other side.

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