Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"Crisis" in Painkiller Jane

Glenn sent a video clip from Sci-Fi's Painkiller Jane to me.


In this scene, Tate Donovan's character has written down the character on a piece of paper, then proceeds to claim it is , "crisis".
"Here, it is Chinese. Wei ji. The top part is danger & bottom is opportunity. Two characters, one word "crisis"..."
Many non-Chinese speakers have used this misleading "danger+opportunity=crisis" reference in their speech, including Condoleezza Rice. My good friend Mark Swofford at Pinyin.info has posted an essay by Victor H. Mair about this misperception.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Kinoki Detox Foot Pads

I have received several emails about Kinoki detoxifying foot pads.

Both Alan and I had a good laugh about the bizarre marketing tactic used by this company. Wired is calling this "the most appalling medical scam since magnetic immortality devices."

The three characters literally means "wood/tree sap". There is nothing traditionally Japanese about the product or the name. Our suspicion is that the manufacturer just picked a
Japanese-sounding name to peddle their schlock product to gullible Americans with a little bit of "Oriental mystique", and then afterward decided to slap the characters 木樹液 onto the TV ad as a sort of decoration.

Matter of fact, Kinoki is a direct rip-off from a brand of Japanese shoe inserts called 竹樹液, or "bamboo sap". They are only used to remove excess sweat from one's feet, therefore to eliminate foot odor. There is absolutely no claim of detoxifying heavy metal from one's body.

In my opinion, the people behind Kinoki detox foot pads should commit seppuku for misleading consumers.

Update: August 18, 2008 - NPR did a story today about this.

The newest craze in consumer health is adhesive pads filled with "detox" herbs that supposedly suck toxins out of the bottom of our feet while we sleep.

An analysis at a California laboratory shows no significant difference between used and unused pads.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Librarian's Freebie

Everyone has a different opinion about librarians. Some may think they are a bunch stiffy nerds who are addicted to books & obsessive compulsively trying keep everything in order. While, other urban myth has branded librarians as a naughty bunch of nympho sexual freaks.

Few weeks ago I received this photo from a librarian. She got it over ten years ago and thought it mean "to give love". Of course with time, certain phrases in any language would morph astray from their original meaning.

I had a discussion with Alan, my senior Japanese linguistic consultant (I want my "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" back, damn it!), about this and here is our conclusion.

Tian: in Chinese means "to give/pay". To me, this tattoo means "pay(paid) love". What do you think?

Alan: This combination 付恋 is not found in Japanese, so it has no fixed meaning.

I can't think of an instance in Japanese where or 付ける has the meaning of "to give/pay" but it certainly does have lots of meanings. A lot of them have to with adding something, fixing or attaching something to something else. There is one sense where 付け means a "tab" or "bill" at a bar or the like, so it has more of the sense of running up or adding to a bill rather than paying it.

The phrase -付き as a suffix means "with" in the sense of something that comes with something else like an apartment that comes with a garage or a lunch set with coffee.

Perhaps the creator of this tattoo wanted 付恋 to mean "with love" but the character order is wrong for Japanese. This would also not be the normal way to write "with love" anyway, because it would be more like 愛を込めて as a set phrase for this.

Well, I guess it could be interpreted as something like giving love in addition to something else. A "freebie" perhaps? Giving a little love on the side? I don't know.

Tian: The owner of this tattoo is a librarian, and you know the rumors about how naughty those librarians... ;)

Alan: Oh, yeah? You don't say... I thought those librarians were a pretty straitlaced, bookish sort. You'll have to tell me some of those rumors...