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.Continue reading “Emoji Etymology”
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.”Continue reading “Misheard Words”
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 vs. 建前.Continue reading “How many languages do you speak?”
I was teaching a Mommy and Me English as a Second Language class to a lovely young mother and her two-year-old son. The lesson’s topic was body parts. Not wanting to use Japanese to explain the meaning, I would touch the location of the vocabulary word and then move such anatomy in a goofy way. This game was quite popular with the two-year-old, and I was feeling on fire as a teacher, for we were in that beautiful intersection of learning, engagement, and genuine joy.
I said, “Touch your chin,” and proceeded to place my finger on my mentum; however, Japanese-toddler logic mandated not the mentum as modeled, but what he very knew to be his chin. You see, “chin-chin” (ちんちん) is the Japanese kid word for penis.Continue reading “Homophone Mishappenings”
Language, though shared by a group of people, is also unique to each individual. A word’s sound may have a personal feeling to someone different from the shared speaker’s connotation and or denotation.
(Metacognition Flash: Isn’t it interesting that humans have feelings about the words that we use to express feeling?!)
Linguists and poets have noticed this subjective association of pleasantness, or lack thereof, surrounding a word regardless of its meaning, and this has lead to a subbranch of linguistics called phonaesthetics.Continue reading “Sounds Beautiful”