Max and I were working on lawn and garden projects when the Alpha Japanese Female (AJF) joined us on the “back forty” to discuss some changes we had talked about regarding the flower planters.
Back in the 1860s, the Homestead Act granted farmers 160 acres free and clear if the property was planted and developed. The 160 acres was subdivided into quarters of 40 acres each. Each of the two front plots was called a front forty and each of the back two was called a back forty.
In Rancho Cucaracha, our back forty refers not to 40 acres but to 40 square meters, or maybe 40 square feet, that comprises our garden area. Whatever, it’s small.
But that has nothing to do with today’s story.
As we were looking over the roses, we noticed that we had a new garden visitor and we simultaneously exclaimed,
AJF: “Ah! Kamakiri!” (Actually, “ああ！カマキリ!”)
Me: “Woah! A praying mantis!”
We chuckled because outbursts of mixed language are common for us. In our little mixed stew of a family, sentences often begin in English and end in Japanese, and vice versa. Nouns and verbs of either language are considered completely fungible.
It’s not really a conscious thing and sometimes we even toss into the mix a few popular Hawaiian words.
No matter the language, Max will likely ignore commands unless food is offered as a bribe for obedience.
The verbal jumble is a good thing and it brings much laughter and joy to our lives. It sometimes adds enrichment to the topic under discussion. Consider our friend the praying mantis.
In English we call the insect a “praying mantis” because the way it holds its arms suggests an act of religious supplication.
In Japanese, the name “kamakiri” is made from two words: “kama” which is a sickle-like instrument used by farmers as a tool and, in the old days, as a weapon and “kiri” meaning to cut. Indeed, the little green monster used its strangely shaped forearms to cut its prey by snipping faster than a mohel getting paid by the piece.
Combine the two names and you have a more robust description of the big green bug than either language would have separately provided.
But that has nothing to do with today’s story either.
Recently Sir Max has been afflicted with a very minor ear infection, a common problem for the flop-ear breeds especially during hot weather. Not a big deal. A couple days of treatment and he’s good as new.
The enzyme product that we use to treat him (Zymox) requires daily infusion of the mineral oil based medicine over a period of seven days.
The medicine doesn’t really bother the Malt but it stains his ears tan and makes them very greasy and lank, hanging close to the sides of his little apple-shaped noggin.
On the fourth or fifth day of treatment I overheard the AJF calling Max “fukuro.” This was first time I had ever heard her refer to the wee beast by that name. I thought it an unusual word choice.
See, the Japanese word fukuro has a number of different meanings depending on intonation. When written, different characters are used for the different words so the meaning is clear. When spoken, the intonation and context tell the listener which fukuro is witch. (:snorf:)
Fukuro can mean “owl” or “mother” or “paper bag.” I figured that the AJF was calling His Furriness an owl and she confirmed that translation by pointing out that, minus his ears, the dog’s face looked to her like an owl.
I don’t know about that. Here, you take a look and see if you think there is a resemblance. Nah, me neither.
Having multiple meanings for words that sound almost identical is fun. I’m sure you can see the opportunities to construct sentences where an owl’s mother has a paper bag and you end up with one fukuro after another.
Of course homophone games happen in many languages. French is an especially rich target and Google Translate has provided silly people with tremendous opportunities for this kind of nonsense. I present as proof the following videos.
Our fun with fukuro never got to the level of this video but we had a good laugh about Max the Owl.
Our hero wasn’t laughing but when we called him a fukuro one last time he responded, “Who? Who? Who?”
So maybe Malts have a sense of humor after all.
Categories: The Dog From Rancho Cucaracha