This Day in History Entry #72

June 29th, 2010 by Wordsman

Realism is all well and good
But at times it’s a “can,” not a “should”
Cannons, used for their sound
Also burned to the ground
The Globe Theatre; it was made of wood

Event: A theatre cannon misfires, causing the Globe Theatre to burn down during a production of Henry VIII
Year: 1613
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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #11

June 28th, 2010 by Wordsman

A. 冊 B. 台 C. 杯 D. 匹 E. 本 F. 枚 G. 羽

Clearly, this week’s puzzle was too easy, because pretty much everyone got it either right or partially right.  A Fan was dead on with his guess of A, which proves that sometimes laziness is the answer.  Shirley came close, for while she was not able to identify the classifier used when counting books, she did pick out the kanji that means “book” (yes, they’re different).  It seems that Dragon should perhaps lose points for specifically abandoning the correct answer, but the precise description of the meaning of B serves to remind us that reading is an act of serious devotion . . . and, apparently, decapitation.

So here we go.  A is the counter word used for counting books or other bound volumes.  B covers a variety of machines, including computers, microwaves, and cars.  C is for glassfuls and is part of the expression “Kampai!” the Japanese equivalent of “Cheers!” (though in terms of exact meaning, it is closer to “Down the hatch!”)  D is a counter word for animals (and, if you feel like being rude, people).  E is nice and confusing, because while on its own it means “book,” among other things, it is the counter word for long, cylindrical objects.  The definition of “cylindrical” is pretty broad, however, and it can be used to count a wide variety of objects, including pens, trees, swords, umbrellas, roads, and even (in a metaphorical sense) telephone calls and bus routes.  F is for flat objects like pieces of paper, plates, and CD’s.

G is the counter for birds, which I included for two reasons.  One is that it features in the Japanese equivalent of “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo“: niwa ni wa niwa niwatori ga iru.  It means “There are two chickens in the garden.”  Our counter word friend G is the third wa.

The other reason is this passage from Wikipedia, which I found while doing “research” for this entry:

“Japanese Buddhist monks were not allowed to eat any meat other than birds, but they liked rabbit meat so much they came up with the contrived ‘explanation’ that rabbits are actually birds, and that their ears are unusable wings. The rationale was that while moving, the rabbits touched ground only with two feet at a time.”

Oh, those wacky monks!

I know that some of you sometimes feel lost when reading KYPC, so I’ve decided to help you out by teaching you some directions.  Here is this week’s two-part challenge: I am giving you two sets of directions, one generic (up, down, left, right) and one cardinal (North, South, East, West).  First you get to guess which is which, and then you can see if you can pick out North.  Once you have, we’ll be able to use this information to align our linguistic compasses, and you’ll never be lost again.  Possibly.

A. 北 B. 西 C. 東 D. 南

A. 上 B. 下 C. 左 D. 右

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The Jenoviad Entry #72

June 25th, 2010 by Wordsman

With no ideas, they wandered ‘round
Got to Wall Market, late
Maybe there they’d find a way
To reach the upper plate

A scavenger sold batteries
Cloud bought ‘em all, one go
“Batteries?  How will those help?”
“Hey now.  You never know”

Near Corneo’s mansion
(Which Cloud passed at triple speed)
They found some kids goofing around
With a great wire lead

“Yo!  Where’s this go?” Barret asked
Of one obnoxious putz
“Up,” he said, “but climbing it?
You must be hella nuts”

“Here’s our way!” the big man cried
“Using this, we can soar”
“Man, what’s with you and wires?”
“Hey, one saved our butts before

“‘Sides, this ain’t just a wire
See?  It’s golden, full of hope”
“Yeah, whatever,” grumbled Cloud
“Just head on up, you dope”

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This Day in History Entry #71

June 22nd, 2010 by Wordsman

Hitler and Stalin were for war geared
But a truce came ‘fore their armies neared
They each other despised
So most were not surprised
When they launched Operation Red Beard

Event: Nazi Germany launches Operation Barbarossa, an invasion of the Soviet Union and the largest military offensive in history
Year: 1941
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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #10

June 21st, 2010 by Wordsman

A. 加 B. 独 C. 仏 D. 米 E. 蘭 F. 露

First of all, KYPC would like to welcome Theoman to the fray and salute him for taking a different approach.  That being said, his guess as to what B might sound like is roughly the same as his letter grade would be if this was a traditional test.  In this case, the sound it produces is do.  Say it all together now: “D’oh!”

If this were any other game, A Fan would presumably know better than to hedge his bets by guessing every single answer.  That being said, his intuition provided him with some very useful hints this time around, though he could use some work interpreting them.  A is a country legendary for the rudeness of its citizens . . . Canada (kanada).  The character means to increase, as in, “We went to Canada, and the temperature just kept increasing . . . negatively.”

B, the German tank taking its favorite shortcut through Belgium, is, in fact, Germany (doitsu, like “Deutschland”).  The character means “alone,” running the full range of connotations from “independent” to “isolated.”  D is not a Frenchman but an American, who has even more reason to celebrate that goofy goal (amerika, though in modern Japanese it is usually pronounced bei).  It means rice, which could mean that we love our grains, or it could mean that we’re rich, since for many years rice was synonymous with wealth in Japan.  Also interesting to note is that the Chinese use a different character to represent the U.S., one that means “beautiful.”  So the Japanese think we’re rich and the Chinese think we’re pretty.

Now we come to our two friends on the far right, including F, A Fan’s “official” guess, perhaps because he thought that I had slipped up and subconsciously made France choice F.  However, it is in fact the great sleeping bear of the East, good old Russia (roshia).  The character means neither sleep nor bear but “dew” or “tears,” which I think Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy would appreciate.  And E is Holland (oranda), represented by the symbol for orchid.  A tulip would have been better, I suppose, but hey, they were close.

The only true answer was hit upon by our dynamic duo, Dragon and her inexplicably psychically linked partner Shirley, who saw through the orchids, the rice, and the dew to France, letter C (furansu, though the character is more commonly pronounced bu or butsu).  This one probably his the least explicable definition of all: Buddha.  So let’s stick to the explanations you came up with.  If you remember DeGaulle’s nose and that Gaul was divided into three parts (which, as I’m sure we all remember, were Gallia Cisalpina, Gallia Narbonensis, and Gallia Comata) you’ll have no trouble finding France.

Phew!  That was a lot to get through.  But we’re not done yet.  Since I know you must be tired from reading all that, let’s stick to a simple subject this week: counting.  We’ve already covered the easy part, the numbers one through ten, but sometimes that’s not enough.  Think about counting bread.  You can’t say, “two breads”; it’s “two slices of bread” or “two loaves of bread.”  Lettuce is the same way, as is paper, as are cattle.

Most counting in Japanese works this way, pairing a number with the appropriate counter word.  There are counters for cylindrical objects, flat objects, and various kinds of animals, but I’m a writer, so I want you to find the counter for books.

A. 冊 B. 台 C. 杯 D. 匹 E. 本 F. 枚 G. 羽

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The Jenoviad Entry #71

June 18th, 2010 by Wordsman

He was playing with Marlene
“Daddy!  Your whiskers tickle!
Oh!  Hi Cloud!  D’you like that girl?”
Which left Cloud in a pickle

Barret saved him, intervened
“I guess we’d better stir
Aeris saved my little girl
Now let’s all go save her”

“I concur,” said Tifa
Drawing her gaze off of Cloud
“Any further Shinra crimes
Just cannot be allowed

“But what about Marlene?”
Barret: “Why can’t we leave her here?”
Tifa: “That mom’s in no shape
To watch a girl, I fear”

Still, they had no other choice
Told Marlene to watch out
“Now!  To Shinra HQ, quick!”
But no one knew the route

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This Day in History Entry #70

June 15th, 2010 by Wordsman

England’s King John did not quite well feel
Loss to France caused his finance to reel
When he tried to raise cash
The barons did backlash
Wrote a charter, and “asked” for his seal

Event: King John puts his seal on the Magna Carta
Year: 1215
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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #9

June 14th, 2010 by Wordsman

The KYPC Champion of the Week award goes to Shirley, for being the only one to correctly identify anything this time around: F is indeed a mountain.  Unfortunately, the correct answer (which, just in case anyone wasn’t sure, was “lake”) was D, the only character not to be mentioned by anyone.

A. 川 B. 島 C. 原 D. 湖 E. 森 F. 山

A is a river, which means that when Shirley thought of waves she had the right idea but the wrong axis of orientation.  B is an island, which you can tell because it has F, the character for mountain, tucked away in the bottom there, and islands are kind of like mountains on the ocean floor.  And the rest of the character is a bird, so you can picture the image of an island surrounded by gulls.  And you can remember that the rest of the character means “bird” because, as we discussed in a previous entry, it looks like a dinosaur, and dinosaurs evolved into birds.  That may seem like a lot just to remember “island,” but sometimes the best kanji mnemonics are the most convoluted.

Anyway, C represents not the drainage pond in the cloverleaf loops but the field that used to be there before they decided to put in a freeway.  D is our lake, which offers little in the way of obvious explanation.  You may recognize the moon on the right, which could evoke the image of moonlight reflecting off a calm lake surface.  Or it may symbolize the vaguely crescent-shaped Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest freshwater lake.  E, sadly, is neither three water boatmen nor three acrobatic water skiers but three trees, and hence, a forest.  And F is the mountain, who, in typical mountain fashion, does very little to disguise his presence.

But enough of this small-time stuff.  It’s time to take on geography on a much grander scale.  Now we’re going to deal with countries.  In Japanese, the majority of foreign countries are referred to by names that use Japanese syllables to approximate their sounds: the U.S. is amerika, Mexico is mekishiko, and so on.  Today they are written with katakana, characters which have a sound but no meaning, but originally they used kanji.  These were ateji, kanji used for their sound rather than their meaning (Chinese, which has nothing but picture characters, uses a similar process to represent foreign names).  So, the meanings of the characters don’t have anything to do with the countries themselves . . . or do they?

While kanji are no longer used to write out countries’ full names, often times one of the old characters (typically the first one) has survived as a way of referring to the nation with which it was paired.  This is all just a long way of saying: find France.

A. 加 B. 独 C. 仏 D. 米 E. 蘭 F. 露

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The Jenoviad Entry #70

June 11th, 2010 by Wordsman

“Oh, the war,” said Tifa
“Yes, that’s what I thought, at first
Then I heard about the lab
And came to fear the worst

“One day a man came to our house
He said he was a Turk
He had the air of someone
Who does most unsav’ry work

“He said she was an Ancient
Said she had a higher call
Aeris—oh, God bless her!
Wanted none of it at all

“But that man Tseng would not give up
Said he’d be back some day”
The mom, she took a swig, and said
“I guess that was today”

Tifa tapped Cloud discreetly
They would leave her to her grief
They snuck up to see Barret
A man filled with relief

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Movie Two-Liners Entry #68A

June 9th, 2010 by Wordsman

Last week’s puzzle:

Two artists who got in trouble because of where they were travel to a place where they can get in trouble for what they are. When they end up having to flee from a mistimed birthday celebration, they escape with the aid of a man who refuses to let anything get in the way of what he wants.

And the answer is . . . ▼

Now, it is my sad duty to announce the indefinite retirement of Movie Two-Liners. I started with a considerable reserve, but it has steadily dwindled, and as the weeks go by it has gotten harder and harder to come up with new ones. I have already used just about all of the movies that I know very well, and as my familiarity with the details of a film decreases, so too does my ability to write creative descriptions. I hope to come up with something to replace this feature in the near future, or perhaps even return to it once I have taken a break and taken some time to watch more movies. In the meantime, however, there will be no new posts on Wednesdays.

But before I go, here is one last two-sentence movie description. I did not write this one myself, but I hope you will still enjoy it.

“. . . a movie about a bus that had to speed around the city, keeping its speed over fifty. And if its speed dropped, it would explode!”

And the answer is . . . ▼

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