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TooBen Creative Writing Based on Translation

Since 2006. Last update June 28, 2021. Copyright (C) TooBen. All rights reserved.
Any reproduction or use of the contents is prohibited.

TooBen Creative Writing Based on Translation

Since 2006. Last update June 28, 2021. Copyright (C) TooBen. All rights reserved.
Any reproduction or use of the contents is prohibited.

Differences Between English and Japanese

Economized Japanese Verbal Expressions

Are They Too Shy?

Many Japanese are reluctant to speak in front of a large audience. As far as public speaking is concerned, they would opt for “freedom of no speech“. Why?

As a 100-per cent native born and raised in Japan, I could make a casual remark that being invisible in public is comfortable. No speech means no unwanted attention from people, no responsibility to articulate your ideas and elaborate your answers to any tricky question (if you get any). You can be in your goo’s state, just like a shapeshifter can relax in their semiliquid condition. You don’t have to shape yourself in any way. You can be just there, doing nothing. So are we just lazy?

“Guilty as charged”, would answer some Japanese people humorously. But deep down in their ethos, even if they don’t know, there’s this ancients-old concept that verbalizing is not always the best option. Let me elaborate this in my column article: Japanese Love for Not Saying.

Anyway, even speech-shy people are not entirely free from saying something, and if that happens, there’s only one ‘strategy’ they can take:

Speak as little as they can.

The result is a word-saving haiku-like speech, which can be inevitably vague and unclear. Thus, the preference for fewer words has become a conspicuous peculiarity of the Japanese people, and it’s breathing loud in many Japanese expressions based on incomplete sentences, word omission, and shortening.

Are Greetings An Unfinished Business?

Honestly, it’s a bit embarrassing for a Japanese (me) to say that even simple greetings use unfinished sentences. But let’s begin with Konnichi wa (こんにちは), a greeting used in daytime. Meaning? It means “On this day” or “This day is”. So, suppose this salutation happens in English, and someone speaks to you, “On this day!” Probably, you want to ask, “On this day... what?”

Then in the evening, they would say Konban wa (こんばんは), which means “On this evening” or “This evening is”, and again, I can’t blame you if you say, “So, what?”

Even when they leave, they don’t conclude anything and say Sayonara (さようなら). Guess what it means: “If so, then”. Well, “If what?” and “then, what?” would be reasonable questions.

Now before closing this section, I have to finish the above sentences as a responsible Japanese. Konnichi wa and Konban wa are complete with an expression used to hope if the other party is well: “I hope you are fine on this day (in this evening)” or “I hope this day (evening) has found you well”. Then, the last one: Sayonara is the first half of the whole sentence: “If so (e.g., there’s nothing that stops me), then I'll leave”.

Trying To Be Modest In Promotion?

That half-finished habit also persists in marketing pieces. Japanese modesty is well-known, but are they sure they want to promote their products? Here are some examples (I put their literal meaning first):
  1. “Pantothenic acid is?” (「パントテン酸って?」) (A supplements handout)
  2. “In cases like those” (「こんなときに」) (A throat candy package)
  3. “Become enveloped in the fragrance of flowers and” (「花の香りにつつまれて」) (An incense package)

Now, let me fill the blanks again. I can complete individual sentence as follows; there are some variations, though:
  1. Pantothenic acid is what? → What is pantothenic acid?
  2. Use/Try/Take them in cases like those:
  3. Become enveloped in the fragrance of flowers and relax.

What's Wrong With Completing Sentences?

Why don’t Japanese complete sentences in the first place? What’s their problem when doing so? Does leaving them half-made make any difference?

The simplest answer to these questions is: not finishing a sentence is part of the Japanese rhetoric. It’s a proven, sophisticated device to create a lingering effect or inspire some expectation on the audience side. In a sense, an unfinished sentence is an invitation to join in and finish it.

Therefore, it’s you (the audience) who fill the blank. How you complete it, with what idea, all depends on the individual, just like the last example above. Some of you may say “relax”, but others may put “reflect on your day” if you practice meditation.

Of course, we can put a complete sentence, but where are the fun and beauty in doing so?

The sunset, a lingering day's business

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