Hot and Thick: It’s not just romance novels anymore

I do love it when life sounds like a badly written romance novel.

Today I made a worksheet for my classes.  The students had to fill in the “thicker” blank lines and leave the thinner ones, which I would dictate later.  Whilst handing out the worksheets, I tried to say, “Only write in the thick lines.”

Too bad what I often said instead was, “Only write in the hot lines.”

Yeah, that’s right.  Just like English, Japanese has some pretty crazy homonyms: words with the same pronunciation, but different kanji.  Except people tell me they don’t have the same pronunciation.  Depending on either the syllable stressed or the tone of the word, it can mean something different.  I have serious. issues. getting this right, not least because–generally speaking–Japanese people don’t speak in stressors or change tones. If I ever tried to explain iambic pentameter to my students?  Even if I was fluent?  Yeah, it would not work.  So, here are some homonyms that I think I may never get the hang of:

HOT: 暑い、あつい、a*tsu*i, usually spoken without any particular stressed syllable.

THICK: 厚い、あつい、*a*tsui, spoken like I’m saying the end of a sentence–from a higher tone to a lower one.  Maybe.  I could be totally wrong.

CHOPSTICKS: 箸、はし, hashi

BRIDGE: 橋、はし、hashi

Really gives you a different perspective on building bridges in Japan 0.0 (Though really, the kanji for chopsticks includes a radical for bamboo, whereas the one for bridge contains tree. I think we’re okay.  They’re not building bridges out of chopsticks.)

(I hope.)

I often play with homonyms to make my students laugh.  My absolute favorite one is this:

GOD: 神、かみ、kami

HAIR: 髪、かみ、kami

Yes, that is me circa January of 2010.

Back when I had long hair, I would sweep it all around my head, stick my glasses over the top, and tell this absolutely terrible Japanese joke: “Hello!  My name is kami-sama! How are you?” The word “kami-sama” is commonly used for “gods,” (-sama is an honorific for super polite situations or people).  But here, because of the action I did with my hair, it made it sound like,

“Hello! My name is Honorable Hair! How are you?”

Zoinks did it get my elementary school students going.  Clearly, I love bad puns regardless of the language.

Do you have any favorite homonyms or terribly wonderful puns?  I’m always game for a good (read: bad) pun.  Shakespeare can eat it.  Puns are the best form of humor.  YEAH.