Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Random Funny Spanish Words

person (persons) hito (homme)

Hito is a word most rudimentary Japanese language, but it is a very complex word. I give the definitions of the Great Dictionary Shogakukan . This is not a neutral word antonym of the word woman.
  1. It means first human species, Homo sapiens . It can also be used for aliens who have roughly the same size and same capacity than men.
  2. Man lives in society. Man as the subject of thought, behavior and being. Person or group of persons. Men in general. People, even the secular world. People. Complete man, adult. Proper person to achieve a goal. Conditions for being a man. Character, dignity, social status. Compared to the other man involved. Others. Entourage concerned. Legal person.
I omit employment as a pronoun. The sense that the question in the letter is "other." Otherness is not a distinct concept in the minds of Japanese. There are other words that clearly tell the other man as tannin (他人) for example, but the word Chinese is only used to highlight the little trade with the person. In most cases, the Japanese prefer to use the ambiguous word hito to refer others.
I cite an example that raises a semantic problem.

ひと の 言う こと は 聞き なさい. Hito-no iu koto-wa kikinasaï

translation theory is "Listen to what the person tells you." But who is this person? In most cases the person is the speaker. So the meaning of the phrase is "Hear what I say." But it has a shade more or less imposing: "This is the voice of reason." That's because the word hito is not just "me", that is to say the other person in relation to the interlocutor, but both "other". The distinction between "me" and "Others" is ambiguous, deliberately or unconsciously.
Moreover, the popular explanation, or even wrong, that the Japanese often give as the origin of kanji is significant. The Chinese character 人 shows a man standing. This is the true origin, and I see no reason to complicate it further. But the Japanese prefer believe that this Kanji is made of two people, represented by two features that rely on each other. And they draw the moral: "You can not live alone." This is probably because they must always find several people in the word hito , which nevertheless think of words hitori (a person) and hitotsu (one piece). (We do not know if these words have the same etymon. This is only a hypothesis. Many scholars in the Middle Ages attempted etymological explanation claiming that the human race was what is unique ( hitotsu) under heaven, but I do not find convincing.)


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