Posted in Japanese as a Second Language, Japanese Culture, Japanese Language, linguistics

Emoji Etymology

I encountered a delicious etymological treat this week. Emojis! 😋I did not know that “emoji” is a Japanese word. I thought it was the internet’s way of taking the word “emotion” and shortening it or combining it with something, as the internet loves to do. It was a light bulb moment. 💡 Ah, ha! This is why there are so many Japanese kanji and Japanese cultural items in the emoji library!

Let’s break down the word in Japanese.

Emoji, pronounced with a short e sounds (/ɛ/ [e as in egg 🥚]), is made up of three kanji: 絵文字. えもじ The word is more recognizably Japanese with this “e” ‘s pronunciation as it sheds the English’s long e sound (/ɪ/ [e as in emotion ❤️]) connotation. 

The first character , literally means a picture, drawing, painting, sketch, etc. I see this kanji in book stores advertising picture books for kids “絵本えほん .”

The middle character () means sentence, composition, text, writings, etc. It’s the character you see on the Google Translate app icon.  

The last kanji: ( ) means symbol, character, (i.e. kanji) hand-writing, penmanship. ✍️ It’s the “ji” in kanji.

and together become a compound kanji and means the English equivalent of “letter” (as in the letter of the alphabet) or character. Thus, capital letters in Japanese are called 大文字 おおもじ , literally “big letter,” and lowercase is 小文字 しょうもじ , you guessed it, “small letter.”

Therefore, + the compound kanji 文字 もじ = 絵文字 えもじ = picture letter = 🖼️🔤.

I adore self-explanatory words. Kanji can do this, not always, but often. Kanji allows for one to get the feeling of the world through the visual representation, even if one does not know the denotation. I can usually guess at the meaning of words without knowing how to pronounce them. English is the opposite, where one may be able to guess at the pronunciation, but not necessarily the meaning of a word. 

Kanji’s visual reliance on meaning contributes to my belief in why 習字 しゅうじ (There is that “ji” again.) i.e. calligraphy is still taught widely in Japan and is even a profession when penmanship has mostly died out in American schools. Though I know that the advent of computer keyboarding also played a vital roll in penmanship’s demise. ⌨️

If you are interested in seeing a professional calligraphist at work, check out Kayo-sensei @Kayo_Japanese_Lesson on Instagram. Her work and teaching style is exquisite. https://www.instagram.com/kayo_japanese_lesson/?hl=en

Kanji’s powerful visual impact is another reason why I believe Japanese people are skilled at “reading the air” because they have to read the air sometimes even when they read words. Ex: 四字熟語 よじじゅくご (four-character idioms.) Americans are more verbally direct, and like meaning to be in “black and white,” i.e. ink on the paper. That idiom does much cultural talking. 

What I also find intriguing is that the Japanese language has now come full circle. ♻️ Kanji started as pictures, morphed into ideograms, and eventually was combined in Japan with a syllabary that held phonetic value, and now technology is taking people back to the origin of writing roots.   

Until recently, I never like using emojis as I thought them cheesy. 🧀 However, when I started my Instagram, I found them useful as a visual cue with a semantic tie-in to signify the switch between my writing in English and my Japanese translation. Example: I love nature! 🌱 自然 しぜん 大好だいすきです! 

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” and emojis help achieve this and aid in lending tone to compositions. 🖋️ Maybe emojis aren’t cheesy. Maybe they are the most intuitively human way of writing. 🤔

What is your favorite emoji? Why? Or write an idiom in emojis, and let’s see if I can guess which one you mean.

Works Cited

“Emoji.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 June 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emoji.

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Posted in Japanese as a Second Language, Japanese Language, linguistics

Misheard Words

Have you ever learned a word incorrectly because you misheard it? You won’t know at the time, of course. Such a realization comes afterward when you bump up against others using the word, and your lexical paradigm doesn’t match your interlocutor’s. 

You see, our brains are meaning-making machines and will try to make meaning make sense even when it does not, and will fill in words it thinks it hears. The school game telephone (also known as Chinese whispers) exploits this property linguistically known as a mondegreen, which got its name through Sylvia Wright’s famous mishearing of the poetic line “layd him on the green” as “Lady Mondegreen.” 

Mondegreen is a mondegreen!

Well, I recently had a charming mondegreen experience with a gentleman on the internet. It is apparent that he had been using the word “wheel barrel” in lieu of wheelbarrow for some time and was corrected. Seemingly with the same refusal of Sylvia Wright to accept the real term (she preferred her misheard version of the poem as it added tragic romance), he turned to Facebook for solidarity. 

Through our exchange, I informed him that he had experienced a mondegreen, and as the Facebook group I was in was about gardening, I asserted that he must have a “mondegreen thumb.”

I am proud of that pun. (I suppose I have the linguistical humor of a man as both in Japanese puns are known as 親父 おやじ ギャグ[old man jokes] and in English “dad jokes.” Pulling off lexical ambiguity is just so snicker worthy!)

Mistaking wheel barrel for wheelbarrow is a perfect example of a mondegreen as it is a near homophone and a barrel on wheels is a logical description of the item. The mind would accept this easily. Yet, in truth, it is a wheelbarrow, and if one digs a little etymologically, it too makes sense. Barrow comes from the Proto-Indo-European word “bher” which means “to carry.” It is also the root of the term to “bear” children. 

Mondegreens are found in all languages and make for useful language learning tools, i.e. mnemonics. For example, when learning English, Japanese students are taught to remember “my name is….” as マヨネーズ(mayonnaise.) Likewise, English speakers learning Japanese are taught to remember “Don’t mention it/you’re welcome” as “Don’t touch my mustache.” (どいとしまして。)

Growing up, my mother would summon us to the table for diner with a “EAT YOUR DUCKY MOSS!” for いただきます. (A phrase of gratitude said before eating. The approximate translation being: I am grateful for what I am about to receive.)

What is a misheard word that you have experienced? How did you figure out it was mondegreen? What are mondegreens that have helped you learn something? 

Works Cited

“Mondegreen.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 31 May 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mondegreen.

“Barrow (N.1).” Index, http://www.etymonline.com/word/barrow.

Posted in Cross-Cultural Cooking, Hashimoto Cooking

Almond Bread

After my firstborn, a combination of stress and genetics triggered Hashimoto’s thyroiditis in me. (The fact that this disease was discovered by a Japanese person does not lose its irony on me.) I was exhausted. There is no tired like autoimmune tired. If you have an autoimmune disease, you understand and probably, like me, are willing to try any diet to regain scraps of energy to simply function.


After going on an elimination diet, then to paleo, and then through trial and error, I have found that my body works best on a gluten and dairy-free diet. (I am also grateful for the serendipity that I live in Japan where most of the traditional dishes are sans these ingredients.) With the diet change, my antibody count went from in the 800s to the 30s. (I have the blood work to prove it.) I went into remission for about a year, and was able to get pregnant with my daughter after a bout of infertility.

The results are worth the discipline, but that doesn’t make me miss bread any less. I crave it. I dream about it. (I freak out sometimes in my dreams because I’ve eaten gluten and then I wake up, realize reality and am relieved.)

Therefore, during last summer’s recess, I made it my mission to find delicious substitutes. Though nothing is the same as the real deal, my cravings can be satiated. Below is a recipe for one of the best ones I have found so far. To add more glory to it, I recommend adding a smidgen of margarine on it fresh from the oven.

Many of the ingredients for the recipe are difficult or expensive to get in Japan so I usually make an Amazon.com order.

What diet is best for your health?

Works Cited

Kaylie. “Healthy 5 Minute Gluten Free Paleo Bread.” Paleo Gluten Free Eats, 10 Nov. 2016, paleoglutenfree.com/recipes/healthy-5-minute-gluten-free-paleo-bread/.

“I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it.”

― Vincent Van Gogh

This quote describes me and blogging perfectly. I hope my readers will enjoy my growth process as much as my content.

What are you currently doing in order to do?

Doing in Order to Do

Posted in Study Skills

How Can I Help? Freebies!

Parents are stressed. Teachers are stressed. I know because I am a parent and a teacher. I have also learned that if I find a tool that helps me, it may also be a benefit to others.

Therefore, I’m providing a free resource to help those thrust into telework due to COVID-19.

This desktop wallpaper organizer specifically helps with task prioritization. Place the apps, files, etc. on the screen under the relevant category. Do that which is in the left columns first.

Desktop Wallpaper Organizer: Minimalist Chalkboard

FREE! Desktop Wallpaper Organizer

Additionally, I plan on making more free resources available as time, energy, and my toddler allow. Please check out my Shop turned Freebies! 

How are you helping during the COVID-19 crisis? 

Posted in Life Musings, poetry

Tea Party

I wrote this poem during my high school days when I was in my third depression, and when I found what an incredible healing tool writing could be. The 14th stanza (I’ve put it in bold.) has become a mantra for me when life splits at the seams.

(Woab! I just had a metacognition flash typing that paragraph: The act of finding something beautiful in a terrible time reflects the poem’s message itself. I found writing in my depression. [Oh, the isometric beauty!])

Of course, I’ve updated the poem a bit, and am offering it in hopes that it might be a source of solace for whatever life personal plagues you with while COVID-19 plagues our world.

Tea Party 
Once there were three maidens,
Ms. Barty, Ms. Harty, and Ms. Higgins,
Who were all very close friends.
They had all suffered through hardships greatly
And wished with life to make amends

On a bright spring day,
With the sun and shadow mingled 
under the lilac tree,
There, our ladies three made their way
To drink their afternoon tea
At Ms. Barty’s tea party

Their troubles they poured into one another,
As they poured out the tea,
And set the china on lacy doilies fanning splendidly.
There they sat and sipped reverently.

As the maidens sat abreast
Ms. Barty noticed that her guests
 new possessions had obtained 
“Such lovely-fine things,
What a gorgeous necklace you possess, Ms. Harty!
And, Ms. Higgins, what a glorious ring!”

For around Ms. Harty’s neck, 
a string of pearls did rest
With such a hue with light a-dancing, 
Such luster a-prancing
 across the gleaming pearls

And on Ms. Higgin’s finger 
A golden ring did linger
With gems sparkling like stars plucked from the night
Who forgot to sleep their light 
When the morning dawn did bright 

Such beauty were the treasures 
For Ms. Barty’s eyes to take pleasure 
That for a time she took and leisured
Upon the interest that seized her
Until remember her trouble did she do

“I too have something new for you,” said, Ms. Barty
Although, please you mine, it’s not so fine 
But dim our sorrows might it do
At least until tomorrow 
For now, these hours let us borrow,
And perhaps peace for us may follow.”

From her purse, she took a bottle 
Filled with scarlet wine. 
She filled the empty china cups, 
And peace they did find for a time

While Ms. Barty sat a-thinking
Staring at her friends new wealth,
 And swirling the wine in her cup,
 a notion pierce her heart.
Such a notion that gripped her attention
That she could not drown it with the wine 
And so ruminating with the time
Formed in her mind a revelation
And on this contemplation
 her soul did sup

She placed back the china cup
On the fanning doilies
And turned to the maidens did she,
The maidens under the swaying lilac tree

“Friends, we have suffered greatly,
Our hearts broken often and lately, 
But take this thought not lightly
For it troubles me more than all the others,
And I must know what it means to you, my sisters.

What if sorrow and pain are like wine? 
Their value becoming good over time
Although horribly bitter to go through,
Adds richness to life once been brewed.

Their drinks they did forsake 
As they let this ruminate,
The maidens three
Under the swaying lilac tree

“An interesting point you make,” said Ms. Higgins,
“Although I’m not quite sure what you mean.
Are you sure it’s not the wine talking 
And rightly, you are not thinking?
What is good about sorrow and pain? 
Surely, you do not wish to experience them again?"

“No. I have suffered tragedy plenty.
Dearest friends, just try to see
Even though the idea does seem strange
But, me, the drink has not deranged
I only mean that perhaps sorrow
Cannot be understood until tomorrow.
Just like wine is not good when first made.
Time must pass before it can be an accolade.

Or like the lilac tree,
In the shade that guards us three.
When it must be pruned,
Damage must be ensued,
So that the next season it will flourish
And bloom and joy bring for us.”

“Or like the oyster when the pearl
 is in the making?” said Ms. Harry in a whirl,
Tossing her curls and clutching her pearls.

“Exactly, my dear friend,” said Ms. Barty
“Do you see too, Ms. Higgins?” 

Higgins fiddled with her ring as she thought
And upon the ring the epiphany was draught 
“Like when gold in fire is refining?”said, Ms. Higgins
Glancing at the gleaming band.
“Or how gems cannot form without stress? 
But surely, you do not mean our troubles, we are to bless?!” 

“Of course not,” said Ms. Barty
Our hearts do and will hurt from breaking,
But if I keep in mind that in the process
There are not only losses.
That while life is painstaking
There may be redemption for the taking 
If I we seek the treasures inside the ventures.

Put away the wine they did 
And brewed another round of tea
Seeing that it was heat that made the treat. 
They poured back through their memories 
As they relieved times of old, 
finding portions of suffering now turned to gold.

And so they had a wonderful time
Life had been turned to wine
At Ms. Barty’s tea party
The three maiden-girls
Now marveled at their new pearls
Valuing the sanctity Of life’s bitter-sweet,
 melancholy-harmony
Laughing at the serendipity
Did the maidens all a-three
Under the swaying lilac tree.
My son crashed my photo shoot for this blog post. I was frustrated, but couldn’t turn down his request for a tea party and am so glad I didn’t for we had a marvelous time and he finally tried the butterfly pea tea! He says he prefers the blue butterfly “pee” to the pink kind. 

What is a quote and or mantra that helps you when life is difficult?

Posted in English as a Second Language, Japanese Language, linguistics

How many languages do you speak?

Being able to speak a language is subjective. I have many Japanese friends who speak beautiful English, but do not consider themselves to be English speakers. (This could just be Japanese humility though and not their true opinion: 本音 ほんねん vs. 建前. たてまえ

For example, I took a year of Latin and remember the basic sentence structure and vocabulary words. I do not, however, consider myself a Latin speaker. The same holds true for the other languages I have studied: Old English, Middle English, Spanish, American Sign Language, and Japanese Sign Language. 

On the other hand, I have studied the Japanese language for years and still have many limitations, but have a proficiency level enough to work, live, and get in and out of trouble in the language. I use Japanese daily, occasionally dream in it, and while I still have much to learn, I do consider myself a Japanese speaker.

What about you? How many languages do you speak? 

They are not languages, but I am fluent in Pig Latin and Gibberish, like native speaker level.