Max the Fukuro

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.

Both are accurate depictions in their own way.

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.

48 replies

  1. 😁Adorbzzzzz!!!! Btw … Buddy’s been struggling with an ear infection as well. I’ve been lenient in looking the other way when he rolls in the grass (Bad me) … hot weather, cool shady grass … thought maybe that’s where the infection came from? He’s all better now … we used Zymox. In need of a bath, though, to re fluff the ears so he doesn’t look like half a fukuro … on the flat side of course. And yes I’m sure Malts have a sense of humor!!! Love to Max!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Max feels Buddy’s pain. The ear infections are just part and parcel of flop ear doggers; Max gets two or three a year but they are mild and respond nicely to Zymox and on rare situations an injection at the vet. But ach! those greasy ears. I’ve found that when treating the ear canals with Zymox it also helps to put a spritz of a chlorhexadine product on the inside of the ear flaps. I get a spray mousse (of course, a mousse!) from Douxo on Amazon that is very convenient to use and seems to help the cure. I’m not 100% sure about Maltese sense of humor. Max is a master of passive-aggressive behavior.

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  2. Tom, your twisted mind has been on lockdown too long or in the heat too long…..probably both. There’s no doubt in my mind that Malts have a sense of humor. How else would Max be able to deal with you!

    Max, you and the owl will never pass for twins, or even distant cousins! Murphy hopes your ear infection clears up fast. She sympathizes because first the ear hurts and then it looks like a grease ball. Aaarrgghhh!!

    I saw a praying mantis a few days ago. First one in years. When I was a kid, in the dark ages, they were all over the place!

    Have fun on the Back Forty!
    Ginger

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, Ginger, that he does not look like an owl. I even looked up Japanese owls on Google Image but they look regular old owls like we have around here. I’m a big fan of the mantids. We encourage them because they are effective predators on other, more harmful insects. We put a couple into the vegetable cages but had to remove them because there wasn’t enough food inside the cage. They are fun to watch and have a lot of attitude – stare you down if you rattle the leaf they have chosen to stand on. As a golden, Miss Murphy must be very familiar with ear issues, just part of having a flop ear pet!

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  3. HA! You make me hoot with laughter! 😀

    Well, Max is way way w-a-y better looking than any old owl! 😉
    Coop and I hope Max is owl…er…all better soon. Ear infections are a bummer. We send gentle hugs and gentle pats and rubs to Max.

    It is funny, wild, confusing when one word has many meanings. 😮 Life is hard enough with out dealing with that! 😉 HA! But we all deal with it! 🙂

    Cool praying mantis! They are fun to watch!
    HUGS!!! 🙂

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    • As a flop ear Cooper is no doubt knowledgeable about ear problems. We hate to see them suffer even a little bit. We’ve found the key is to act promptly, as soon as that rear paw start reaching for the ear. If the dogger actually breaks the skin while scratching things can get worse fast. But this is just a common or garden variety ear issue and he’s already well on his way to 100%. Praying mantises are cool – they are sassy as can be and act like they will eat me alive when I pick them up to move them to plants where we need an Enforcer Bug.

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  4. And, thinking of the symbol of the Kinights Hospitaller, so linked with Malta, how do you make a Maltese cross? Stamp on his toe.
    Being an Eeyore, I have to say that the video, while really funny to the anglo saxon ear, is not at all accurate.
    All those words are pronounced differently.
    Ever wondered why the French do not go in for lines round the mouth…well, not until their teeth fall in from over indulgence in macarons and religieuses? Not, be it noted, la mante religieuse from your garden. Frogs’ legs they might eat, smails too, even andouillette…but they draw lines somewhere and the praying mantis is below the salt.
    It is because the effort of pronounciation involves intense workings of the muscles of the lower face…been there, was obliged to do that and do not want the tee shirt.
    This household too enjoys the interplay of languages…English, French, Spanish and Flemish…though in all of them we have failed to make sense of an owl putting its mother into a paper bag…matricide en papillotte?

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  5. You really need to add :snorf: if you insist on such bad jokes. On the subject of mothers in bags, Japanese children call their parents by different honorifics as the children grow up. Nowadays, “mama” and “papa” are popular, even trendy but most kids transition to a more formal “otosan” and “okaasan” by early teens. Thing is, once men (and its pretty much only men) are in their thirties they call their mother “Ofukuro.” That name means mother but it is derived from two characters which literally mean “Reverend Bag.” The back story is not 100% clear. The name either comes from the practice of Japanese mothers holding the family finances (and thus its future) in a small clutch or possibly because an alternative reading of the characters could mean “no hardship” which would be a nice basis for calling Mom a Reverend Bag which is something I never would have had the courage to try. Anyway, that’s a lot more info than anyone cares about. As to the French homophones, I bow to your superior knowledge. There are so many more, in French, on YouTube and I originally linked several but figure that was gilding the lily and Lily has standards, dontcha know.

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  6. Oh, all right then…’snorf’!
    I am just imagining calling my mother a Reverend Bag…..I don’t think I would have outlived childhood….
    Interesting the change in honorifics as children grow up, though. I can’t think of any equivalent in

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    • But Helen says the pronunciations are all wrong. To hear her tell it, Google Translate’s accents are worse than Chevy Chase in European vacation. “Garkon! Garkon! Bring me zee wine.” But then again, consider the French word for birds: “oiseaux.” Seven letters and not even one of them is pronounced like it looks. Une vanne. I rest my case.

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  7. 😂 Excellent post, Tom. Words are about the only thing I play with these days. 😉 Don’t tell him I said it but with flat ears, Max does look a little like the owl. He’s still the most adorable Malt ever!

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  8. Poor Max. I was up at 4:30 this morning watching The Joy of Painting, and Bob Ross was stroking a 2 week old owl. It did not look like Max at all. During my four years at the University of Texas, we had several things that made reference to 40 acres, and I know Blake Shelton’s God’s Country song makes reference to it as well. Sounds like you and the AJF are perfectly matched. Who else could communicate that way with you?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Owls are wildly popular among Japanese for reasons unknown to me. There are owl cafes where you can sip your coffee and play with an owl. There are all kinds of owl merchandise because they symbolize good fortune. But I’m with you, dogs don’t look like owls. Yeah, the AJF and I get along OK. When we don’t like what the other is saying we pretend not to understand.

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  9. Max will be delighted to know that when in the RAF in the mid 60’s (the decade, not his age) he and his mates used along bit of thread to tie a Praying Mantis to the end of their beds. The Barracks were full of wee beasties and these critters (note US slang) would feed on them.

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  10. I never heard of that but it makes great sense, the mantids are phenomenal hunters. If they were the size of elephants, mankind would be mantis food. We have one particularly large female living on a rose bush and she shows absolutely zero fear of anyone or anything. The hummingbirds come by to buzz her because she is near the bird feeder and she reacts by simply raising those fearsome claws and staring down the h-birds. I had to relocate her once so I could stain a portion of a nearby fence and I picked her up by the middle to carry her to a more distant stalk of the rose and her response was to try and eat my finger. I admire that attitude in a female. Sort of.

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