The Corner

His Nami, Not My Nami

Apparently several other Japanese readers take violent exception to the earlier post from the Japanese “expert.” I wouldn’t be posting insulting emails, but apparently no students of Japanese are capable of keeping things civil. Two of the cleaner emails:

#1 I lived in Kyoto for almost five years, much of it studying Japanese. I spent months just learning to use a Japanese dictionary.

This bozo’s interpretation of the characters for tsunami is utterly bogus, so laughably so that I think he is pulling your leg, Big Time.

You should go with “harbor wave”.

Japanese Kanji characters usually have at least two readings, one from the original Chinese (borrowed by the Japanese over 1,000 years ago), and the other for the native Japanese word later “attached” to the Chinese character with the same meaning . Tsu is the Chinese reading of a character that means…harbor.

The nami is…..the Japanese reading of the Chinese character for “wave”.

Written in modern Japanese, the readings Tsu (Chinese reading) and nami (native Japanese reading) are fused . Sounds confusing, but it happens.

All that other stuff is just nonsense. 200 proof nonsense at that. I’ve got Kenkuysha’s New Japanese-English dictionary here to back me up.

[Name Withheld]

p.s. : Kamikaze means “divine wind” or “heavenly wind” or the “wind of the gods”.



Mr. Goldberg,

Your non-Japanese-linguistic-academic correspondent has no idea what he’s

talking about. The Japanese — who, as mentioned in that Tsunami piece in

today’s WSJ, have tsunami behavioral patterns ingrained into their own

genetic make-up — call tsunamis tsunamis because the height of the wave

only becomes noticeable once it arrives in the harbor. When a ship is in the

ocean and a tsunami rolls by, the ship will rise a marginally noticeable

amount — you might not even realize it at all. Only once this force of

water reaches the sudden rise of the continental shelf, announcing the

proximity of land, is the actual “wave” created. Think of how a ripple is

created when a streaming water on a sidewalk runs over some rocks…


[Name withheld]

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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