Monday, November 27, 2017

Inspirational Math (follow-up)

Brenty sent in an interesting email about this.

I thought you might be interested in more information about the “Fall down 7 times get up 8” proverb. 

I’m not an expert in Japanese by a longshot, but I know enough grammar and usage to understand what’s happened here. It’s a very different language than English structurally, so a lot gets “lost in translation”, quite literally. 

What we’re dealing with here is something that is traditionally written in kanji (Chinese characters), as that’s all Japanese had for a long time after borrowing them. It will be written like this, read top to bottom:

Or 七転八起 which can be pronounced “shichi ten hakki”, which is literally “seven (times) down; eight (times) rise” — one character for each of the four ideas. So, not quite the same as falling and getting up. In Japanese it doesn’t sound so silly: you’re up at the beginning, down and up several times, and then up again at the end. Reminds me a bit of Chumbawumba...

Anyway, Japanese isn’t generally written like that anymore except on fancy placards in a traditional setting, so modern Japanese of the same phrase looks like this:

七転び八起き — “nana korobi yaoki” (Japanese pronunciation for the kanji instead of Chinese, with Japanese hiragana used to modify the kanji. Japanese use “Chinese” pronunciations for kanji linked together like the first example, but these were established centuries ago and bear only a vague resemblance to actual Chinese, since, like English speakers, it sounds different to Japanese ears.)

This has a meaning more like “(always) rise (after) a fall”, since were not using action verbs here, like “rising” and “falling”, just “rise” and “fall”. So it’s the verb situation which translates poorly into English, and conveys a bad math problem/proverb rather than the feeling of getting “up” after each time you are knocked “down” (sorry, couldn’t resist, but also I’m serious).

This would look great on Eli’s helmet, and not seem silly at all to actual Japanese people (can’t say for certain about Chinese, but the characters have the same meaning so I think you’ll be okay):

Anyway, I hope this helps. No ones ever gonna keep you down. Cheers!

Site Meter