Fun in the san-san-san

On a lark I decided to switch my Facebook interface to use Japanese. I noticed today that on a particular day when I befriended several people

> Russellさんが Aさん、 Bさんさん、 Cさん、 Dさん、 Eさんさんさんと他1人さんと友達になりました。

That’s “Russell-san became friends with A-san, B-san-san, C-san, D-san, E-san-san-san, and one other person-san.”

Aside from the strangeness (to me) of adding the [honorific -_san_]( to the phrase 他1人 ‘one other person’, there is the extreme strangeness of the multiple -_san_s appended to some of the names. I looked at some other people’s front pages, and found the same pattern exhibited two other times, as well as a slightly different pattern: A-san, B-san, C-san-san, D-san, E-san-san, and F-san (no ‘others’ mentioned).

At first I thought it might be that some of the -_san_s got omitted for some names and then stacked up somewhere else, but in no case was someone’s name missing the honorific suffix.

Reberu appu!

This is the result of a train of thought that went like this. The other day I was in the linguistics department and looked at a sign that’s been at the base of a set of stairs for a few years now. It said something like, “Step up your fitness level: take the stairs.” I wondered, for some unknown reason, how this would be expressed in Japanese. Of course I really have no idea (though I’m sure that such a sign is possible, or even probable in Japan…though on the other hand, there are many places where Japanese people use staircases where Americans would use or at least expect an escalator or elevator; well, at least in places where “accessability” is important).

Not really knowing a word for _fitness_ other than _kenkoo_ ‘health,’ I just figured that probably, on signage like this, English was more the way to go: _fittonesu reberu_. Then there’s the question of _raise_. There are a few words like _ageru_ which correspond to _raise_ in some contexts. But again, why do that when you can go English: _appu!_

And then yes, we had _reberu appu_, or _level up_. That got me to wondering: how many uses of _level up_ (including the pseudo-exclamative “level up” as well as the verb “(to) level up” in both transitive and intransitive senses) are original to the American gaming community, and how many (if any) are the result of Japanese influence – or are all Japanese uses taken from elsewhere?

Japanese loan phonology

From time to time, I’ve observed that I mishear /p/ as /h/, in particular in initial position. It doesn’t happen all the time, but occasionally it does, and it hinders understanding (it might be that it happens more than I notice it, but in many cases it doesn’t really matter for parsing). Now, me and my office mate have a running joke that I do this because of my experience with Japanese, in which /h/ and /p/ alternate in certain morphophonological environments (in addition to h/b and b/p alternations). Historically this is due to intervocalic weakening of /p/ to /h/ via some intermediate steps.

One day, another colleague was walking by, and during a conversation with him, he evidently misheard one of our /p/s as as /h/ — and, crucially, he is very familiar with Japanese. So the theory lives on…

I wonder if others have experienced anything like this (assuming that there is a “this” to be experienced).