Tuesday, 5 January 2010

The problem with dictionaries...

With now just over a week before my thesis is due (EEEEEEK!) I've been spending a lot of time at home or in coffee shops / 24 hour diner type restaurants. I've of course been spending a lot of time with the love of my life - my little Vaio P, and my long-time best friend - my electronic dictionary (I've had this particular one for nearly 7 years now, and two friends who bought them at the same time have had theirs die, I live in fear that the same thing will happen and I'll have to "upgrade" to a newer model that doesn't have dust from 400 year old bug-eaten documents ingrained into the frame...).

Anyways. I've been spending a lot of time with my dictionary. And most of the time I love it. I love the jump function (that my previous one didn't have, so that 7 years later having the feature still makes me happy). I love the example sentences. But sometimes I don't particularly love the words it spits out at me. For example - I have a small section on multi-cultural services in libraries - which in the Japanese case includes programs for both foreigners and Japanese (ie returnees from time abroad and mixed families). I look up something slightly more formal than the common "haafu" (half - for biracial kids) but my dictionary doesn't have an entry for "biracial." So I look up "mixed-marriage." I find "sakkon," made up of the characters for "miscellany" and "marriage" but there is no definition given when I jump over to the Japanese dictionary. All it says is "same as rankon." So I jump over to the definition for "rankon" and the first word of the Japanese definition in the Japanese dictionary is an English word in parenthesis - PROMISCUITY.

I actually read through the definition and apparently it is a specific term based on mid-19th century theories of the American anthropologist and sociologist Lewis Henry Morgan. I don't have the time to let myself procrastinate enough to actually find out what he said, or figure out why a few jumps on my Japanese dictionary led me from "mixed-marriage" to "promiscuity," but it did make me shake my head over just how much I could read into this on the general Japanese outlook on mixed-marriages.

Right. Enough procrastination. Back to thesising...

1 comment:

  1. How dismaying! Your Dad and I wondered, at the beginning of our relationship, which was more perplexing for people - our 'international' relationship, or the disparity in our age. I can totally see the mixed-marriage issue being more salient in Japan - probably the most race-conscious society I've ever visited. The term for biracial kids, 'haafu' is awful! Why not call them 'double' - half makes them sound inferior. In any case, I think the concept of race should be abolished. And I encourage exposure to promiscuity as an antidote to excessive racially-based prudishess. love and hugs, C