Today’s post is partially a game and partially a language lesson. (Whenever I’m playing any game, music helps me concentrate; here’s the music video du jour.)
Take a minute to think about various homonyms in your native language(s). How different are all of the meanings? What does it all mean?
No, we’re not going to go all transcendental here. It’s merely a way to introduce to you the Japanese word tako (たこ).
First off, doesn’t that sound similar to a Mexican dish? The joke’s on all of us…if you wanted to order a taco in Japan, the correct word is ta-ko-su (タコス). Weird…but maybe not, since tako was already taken multiple times. However, since the word is “pre-pluralized,” they were prescient in knowing how hungry I usually am.
Where were we… tako has a few different definitions. One is “callus” (胼胝, but usually written たこ). No need for a picture of this, but if you’re really curious, take an hours-long walk in shoes half the appropriate size.
A more neutral definition for tako is “kite” (凧). A computer game I played as a kid would often tell me to “shut up and go fly a kite.” There’s one anecdote for today. Click here for topical foreshadowing.
Lastly, we have 蛸 (more commonly written as たこ). This delicious (to me, anyway) character represents “octopus.” It’s time for photos:
It’s a callus! No…but it doesn’t look right, that’s for sure. It’s an octopus head (蛸の頭, tako no atama).
Before stepping just a tad out of my comfort zone, I took a day trip from Sapporo to Otaru, a coastal city in Hokkaido. My goal – as it generally is when in Japan – was to eat lots of seafood. My curiosity was piqued after seeing octopus head as a potential meal option.
Hey now, this kaitenzushi (conveyor belt sushi restaurant) read my mind–I like food.
Oh right, they also read my mind because this is a picture of octopus head nigiri. Come to think of it, I should have started compiling a list long ago of items I’ve tried at a kaitenzushi. (In case you were curious about the taste, it was bland.)
Thus ends our brief look at Japanese homonyms. What homonyms did you come up with? Equally importantly, would you try octopus head?
But how WAS it?
When I was on JET, my Japanese colleague was telling students about their upcoming せんたくもんだい exams. I asked why on earth the kids would need 洗濯問題 but of course I was told that they were doing 選択問題…