Tag Archives: writing

Close-up – pretty in pink & white

While preparing a post about my short trip to Karatsu 唐津 here is the promised second flower post – close-ups

raindrop focus the light to pearls in white and rosé

the beauty of fallen leaves, glowing from within

somebody arranged single blossoms of camellia 椿 along the way

in between a blue eyed cocotte crossed my path

now that the early spring of plum blossoms and the high spring of cherry is over I am looking for the fruits of their effort and the next bloom – azalee 躑躅, rhodora  (there are different kinds, I just choose on of the possible japanese names) and chestnut



love hate words

Under this inspirational and completely misleading title I would like to present today: Links I found over the few last days for language nerds, writers & lovers of words (English language centered).

Let us get started with something funny:

Cracked.com is one of my favourite comedy sites, it can be stupid but also brilliant – as humour should be. The link I would like to share leads to a very subjective list of 6 Words That Need to Be Banned from the English Language – because they make the author feel uncomfortable. As an ardent lover of words I would rather not ban a word but invent one. But! I admit there a words in my language making me cringe: e.g. “Glibber” (guck, slime) – the word arranges itself to a rather disgusting sound in my head not only due to its meaning. There are more… but I would like to hear some from my readers! Out of languages I know and do not know – please feel free to share them!

On a rather unpleasant but important sidenote: My own mother tongue German has a few forbidden words, unpleasant because of the horrible history Germany has. Language got misused and violated to justify dreadful crimes.

The next links I am going to share is the exact opposite: From plitter to drabbletail: the words we love answers to a questionnaire from The Guardian about writers favourite words and a commentary to this from The New Yorker: Writers Choose Their Favourite Words
So: What is your favourite word? I have to say it is rather difficult for me to choose one. I really love the German languages ability to build new words, to make them up, combine and re-shuffle them. But my favourite words are more hidden things, words with a story: “Hühnergott” – a flintstone with a natural hole in it. Not only does its meaning – the chickens god – contains a little story in itself, it is also a regional word: known only in East-Northern Germany. I already had to explain it quite a few times. Another word I love is the name of a tiny blue flower: “Gewitterblume” – thunderstorm flower. There is a saying that if one breaks it, it will call for a thunderstorm. I grew up with this believe – and sometimes tried it out… I do not remember the outcome though. Franz Fühmann wrote a short story about this.

Let us look into Grammar now: Commas – do we love or do we hate them? Honestly they confuse me. The fact that German changed the rules how & when they are used or not, does not make it easier. I am lost when it comes to English comma rules. But as it turns out I am not the only one: So TED (another favourite of mine) assembled videos about it and combined them with tw others about Grammar and wording: Be a better writer in 15 minutes: 4 TED-Ed lessons on grammar and word choice.

Another wonderful tool for writers: The elements of Style by Strunk & White. It is rather analog though: a book.

And now at the end two videos – again from TED:

Anne Curzan about What makes a word “real” – slang as a tool to fill meaning gaps in the English language. Which is a fascinating idea and in my opinion an overlooked way of how language evolves in general!

And last but not least the ever wonderful Erin McKean about The Joy of Lexicography. The print dictionary in times of change.

word maker – abbr.: worker

“New words grab peoples attention”  – so go ahead and make up words

as a German I come from a language which loves to make up new words and as a learner of Japanese I also enjoy it – especially the way Erin McKean calls LEGO: “If you use enough force, you can put any two of them together.” – so apparently: The FORCE is with you!

I tend to do this in English as well which led to seemingly new words – nobody ever had problems understanding – because 1+1 = 1

one predefined word plus one predefined word makes up one new word – and guess what: it is already predefined per definition

Sure I can also make up words & then shove a completly new definition up its throat – like the Japanese and we German also love to do – especially through the *borrow (actually steal a word from another language and miss-use it via redefining*-methode. We use a predefined word & just change the definition (often it is more of a (slight) shift). One of my favourite ( quite silly) examples out of my wonderful mothertongue:

das Handy – which means mobile phone. It is in fact handy, but I am pretty convinced the thought-bubble thinking up this unique German faux-English goes more in the direction of: I use it my hands (which in German is: die Hand), so lets Englify (I made this up right now, it should be: anglicise) it with some pseudo-English-suffix (you know: marketing and stuff) and BAMM newest addition to our dictionary. But don’t forget to push the German grammar rules on it (which is this case means: neutral article “das”, plural & genitive ending “-s” and all the things coming with it). Fun fact: many Germans are convinced it is the English word for mobile phone.

I know my students from the German as a Foreign Language classes often struggle with the long winding words we use in German – but go ahead & play with it! To figure out the meaning from a set of partial meanings can be like a good puzzle.

and now: enjoy Erin McKean’s TED-talk “Go ahead, make up new words!” for children – even if you are a grown-up since one never gets too old to be creative and playful, especially with words:


to be most fully and freely yourself

… humans are humans. And humans are different and the same everywhere.

Difference is just as big as you allow it to be. I try stating something maybe outrageous: When it comes to human relationships Empathy and Intuition could us do more than Comparition and Differentiation

these are the last words of my entry from two weeks ago

allow me to back them up with quote by Pau Auster, from his autobiographic notebook of physical memories from 2012: Winter Journal (faber and faber, p.117)

Because you know nothing about where you come from, you long ago decided to presume that you are a composite of all the races of the Eastern Hemisphere, part African, part Arab, part Chinese, part Indian, part Caucasian, the melting pot of numerous warring civilizations in a single body. As much as anything else, it is a moral position, a way of eliminating the question of race, which is a bogus questio in your opinion, a question that can only bring dishonor to a person who asks it, and therefore you have consciously decided to be everyone, to embrace everybody inside you in order to be most fully and freely yourself, since who you are is a mistery and you have no hope that it will ever be solved.

remembering autumn

I don’t have time to write today~ but I wanted to share three pictures I took during an autumn stroll, around two month ago~

the end of the year is drawing near. And although it would not make a difference – logically, theoretically – if one finishes it tasks until the 31th of December or the 1st of January. It does make a difference – emotionally, pychological. Which means December is the month were we run and hurry and work until late to get things done. To have this sense of accomplishment, a feeling of relief.

But in spite of this I still want to appreciate moments of beauty:

light & water & structure

DSCF2106 DSCF2107 DSCF2108


I finished my PhD recently. In literature, German literature from the GDR.

Which is precicly the reason why I am writing less than planed. Another reason is: I am lazy or rather – I have difficulties to get my ass up to my computer, open it and start writing.

I need to figure out my future.

Maybe I do not need to figure it out but live it. walk on: 一歩一歩 – step after step – Schritt für Schritt. writing every day – 毎日書く – is my current goal. I am managing, so far I have written every day in a notebook, in my timer, tiny pieces of paper… but I am actively trying only since last sunday. there’s still a long way.

the japanese is a quote – by a friend, the musician Nishimoto Takeshi – I wrote about him three years ago. this is how he grew into being an artist, a creative person. create every day – music.

imagine yourself. imagine yourself in the future. what do you want to be? can you see yourself? do you know what you want to achieve? or to create? if you can. sit down and practise.

I want to create with words. so I will sit and practise writing.  practise my own language. practise different languages. practise grammar, phrasing, expressions, orthogaphy. practise translation. poetry. prose. fiction. non-fiction.

and if I cannot write anymore. read, read and walk. walking, touching, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting – experience. so I can sit down again and write.

it is also a quote out of a song, I guess it’s in more than one song. it is said often. more than once or twice.

it’s simple. but aren’t the simpliest things often the most difficult?

teaching German to foreigners taught (and teaches) me a lot. about live, different lifes and ways not to give up.

let’s continue


talking about reading:

Learn & Change

As I wrote last week, I would love to share my thoughts on a few books I have read during the last months

I am going to start with the last one I finished: Beauty in Disarray (1966)

Written by Setouchi Harumi (瀬戸内 晴美) or Setouchi Jakuchō (瀬戸内 寂聴), the name she recieved in 1973 after becoming a Buddhist nun (to almost everybodys surprise). She was born May 15, 1922, studied Japanese literature, was married (and divorced around 1946), has a daughter. With prestigious literary prices under her belt she is one of the major female writers of Japan. She is alive and kicking – at the moment active in the anti-nuclear movement. She is one of the persons I would love to meet. So much could be said about her life – it is an adventure worth more than a small entry in this blog. So I leave it at that – for now. I recommend the essay: Setouchi Jakuchō: Female Subjectivity in the Exploration of “Self”, Sexuality and Spirituality by Masayo Kaneko, published in The Outsider Within. Ten Essays on Modern Japanese Women Writers. ed. Kuribayashi Tomoko with Terasawa Mizuho in 2002.

The essays title already tells a lot about the themes Setouchi writes about. Beauty in Disarray is the story of the declaration of the “New Woman” movement and it is a biography of Ito Noe (1895-1923), writer and feminist. A fascinating woman deeply connected to the womens liberation movement during Taisho (1912-26). She got in touch with main figures of the Socialist and Anarchist movement, she became main editor of Seito (Bluestocking) – a literary and feminist magazine – at the age of 20, she was mother of seven, married three times and always stayed true to herself.

The figure of Ito Noe, the way it is described by Setouchi, is neither a positive or negative. In parts one can relate to her, I could relate to her and her actions. In part her youthful selfishness made me want to slap her cheeks. Or at least snap at her. Moving forward without minding her surrounding. She must have been a strong will and her way to handle fear and insecurity is not short of recklessness. I was envious. I also disliked her. ( (Sometimes I found myself in her actions or antics – then I disliked her even more. Who wants to see ones own stupidy perfectly reflected?) And I laughed. Setouchi wrote her as a real woman. Not a heroine. Not a larger than life fighter for equality. She was easily influenced, by men, women, atmosphere, words and actions. She set her mind on something and did it. When she failed, she moved on. When she wanted to learn, she listened, she read, she learned. She was ambitious and lazy.

Beauty in Dissaray teaches about the political and especially the feminist movements in Japan during Taisho, as well as a media history of the early 20th century. It demands an already set or to aquire knowledge about the new literature which changed the perception of what literature can and should do, like Ibsens Nora. A lot of things are just touched upon but not fully conducted. This biography forces the reader to go on a search: about historical figures (so many names are popping up, flowing in and out of the pages, the socialist/anarchist movement (not only in Japan by the way, it stretches over to Russia, China, Europe), feminism as part of the political movement and also as part of a general movement towards emancipation.

Names I am definitelly planing to check: Kamichika Ichikio (1888-1981), a female reporter of politics and economics – she was treated as an equal to her collegues at Nichi Nichi, a newspaper of the time. Hiratsuka Raicho (1886-1971), writer and first editor/founder of Seito.

Setouchis writing lays between fiction and non-fiction. As much as it is a biography it is a novel, and vice versa. She is using contemporary sources like literary magazines, manifests, letters etc. She also includes interpretations of her own, as well as others. But she also creates situations, emotions, thoughts – imagination and fact are strongly connect in her work.

The problems I had with the book are, in my impression, more related to the translation and the publisher. For starters, this book has one of the ugliest and misleading covers I have seen in a while. Honestly, if I had seen it the before hearing/reading about the book, I would have thought of it as a cheap erotic novel, set in an exotic setting to spice things up. Do not get me wrong, I am proud of my collection of erotic literature and I am definitelly going to find Kashin, Setouchis first priced work, then labelled as pornography. But the cover does not do the book good in any sense. The title unfortunatelly did not help with this. The original title 美は乱調にあり is translated correctly and it helps the translators didn’t choose “confusion”, another possible translation of 乱調. A problem I had was the impression of the Japanese sentence structure forcing itself into the English sentences. Which makes it – at least at the beginning – difficult to follow the flow of the words or rather thoughts.

I recommend this book by heart, although I am not sure how it would be recieved. It is definitelly not a book you read and forget. But one which inspires – to learn more, to read more, to be more courageous.

Books by Setouchi Jakuc I would love to read as well are her priced Natsu no Owari and the even more famous Hana ni Toe. Not to forget her new translation of Genji Monogatari in to modern Japanese from 1998, which proved to be a great success.