Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

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Japanese Diary 11
Well, I'm back in Bristol - and pleased to have proper access to a computer again, not only because of the build-up of work (officially I'm on leave, but that's an increasingly theological concept these days), but because it allows me to blather on LJ/DW, to do without which is almost as much as to see myself go into my grave.

My favourite Japanese word of the day is asameshimae. This is used in the sense of "Nothing to it!" or "Piece of cake!", but its literal meaning is "Before breakfast".

In wondering about the subterranean links between Japan and Britain, I've repeatedly been struck by the firm place held in Japanese popular consciousness by Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Their influence seems pretty widespread (e.g. here, and need we mention here?), but it's hard to explain, given that Carroll's books rely so heavily on puns and on parodies of mid-Victorian culture that ought not to translate well. Still, mine not to reason why - except for fun.

Anyway, I don't suppose that asameshimae really is a word deriving from the Red Queen's ability to believe six impossible things before breakfast, but it would be kind of cool if it were. I'm struck by the lack of resources I have for finding this kind of thing out. I want a Dictionary on Historical Principles!

Perhaps it's the other way around, and Carroll was borrowing from the Japanese. One never knows.

Indeed! He was a man of wide interests...

Japan's relationship with Victorian England (even now) is pretty fascinating. I've never got the idea that actually understanding it was either required or expected, they just reinterpreted it their own way.

To be fair, that's the way Alice has been used by many other people too.

Every man his own Humpty Dumpty.

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