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    Let’s get the ingen to do it!

    Far Outliers has a post up about one of the more perversely funny aspects of life as a foreigner in Japan: the Creole you end up cobbling together from Japanese and your native language. He The guy he quotes specifically remembers words used by Mormon missionaries, of which I thought these (the words–I haven’t seen the missionaries) were rather sweet:


  • golden kazoku Family interesting in joining the church

  • kanji bandit, kanji jock Missionary who can read and write Japanese characters




  • Added on 20 December: You would think that having been reared in a church that was so obscure I had to go around saying, “No, we’re not Seventh Day Adventists…no, we’re not Jews for Jesus, either. See, it’s like this…,” I’d be especially careful not to slush other people’s religions together. No such luck. Apologies to Joel for turning him into a different author and a Mormon.

    12 Responses to “Let’s get the ingen to do it!”

    1. Amritas says:

      What is ingen? I can’t find it at Joel’s site or in the senkyoushigo glossary. Is it 隠元 ‘kidney beans’?

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      You know, my dictionary always rendered it as kidney beans, but it *is* what they call green beans here, too. You know, like, when you ask in a restaurant what’s in the salad besides canned corn. I think that, technically, there’s a more precise word for string beans that’s…you know, the way there are さつま芋 and じゃが芋 and 里芋. It’s 何とか-隠元, but I couldn’t be bothered to look it up. If you know, I’ll be happy to be enlightened.

    3. Sean Kinsell says:

      So all this time you pretended to be my friend, you were sitting there in HI thinking, Silly pseudo-Asian white boy with your simplified graphs?
      Anyway, didn’t Joel’s list say they called a missionary who’d been newly sent over a “green bean”? My dreamy-associative brain just kind of imagined, like, a pile of receipts that needed sorting, or something, and two old-timers sitting there and saying to each other, “Let’s get the new guy to do it!” Only, the new guy would be called….
      (BTW, I know Amritas is just being curious about language, which is what he’s supposed to be as a linguist, but may I just tell you how humiliating it is to have a tossed-off post title that I knew was lame to begin with analyzed like this? :/ )

    4. Amritas says:

      So all this time you pretended to be my friend …
      Fooled you, didn’t I? :) Maybe you should have shot back with, “What year do you think it is, 1944 or something?!” (For the zero readers actually following this thread, 隱 was the way 隠 was “correctly” written in 1944.)
      I originally was going to end my post with something like “When in Rome …”, though “When in Tokyo” probably would have been better.
      I don’t think there is anything humiliating on your end at all. The humiliation is mine, because I didn’t put greenbean (on Joel’s site) and ingen together.

    5. Amritas says:

      It’s 莢隠元 sayaingen.

    6. Amritas says:

      One more thing: Is your title based on some phrase like “Let’s get the bean to do it!” or some Japanese slang unknown to me like 隠元に任せとけ (I made that up)? I guess what I’m trying to get at is – is there a language in which people are called ‘beans’?
      Maybe I should’ve typed “in” as 隱, but since you prefer simplified graphs, I got lazy.

    7. Joel says:

      Just to be clear: I was never a missionary, Mormon or otherwise, although I did grow up among Baptist missionaries in Japan. I was citing examples from the 1988 article by Prof. Smout. Furthermore, I think my Japanese ability is a far greater source of personal humiliation than that of either of you fine gentlemen.

    8. Sean Kinsell says:

      Whoops! I thought that last part was from your own memory, though I did get that you yourself weren’t a missionary. (At least, I figured you’d have to have been a scarily-precocious child-missionary, and being scary to the prospective converts doesn’t seem to be the usual practice of the missionaries you see in Japan.) And I could have sworn you’d mentioned Mormonism, but now that you mention it–no joke–I think I was talking to my friend who went to BYU while I was typing, and I just sort of made the transference. Sorry to be misleading.
      And I think the most humiliating part was that Marc and I are such dweebs that we thought the Japanese word for greenbeans was a perfectly normal topic to have a five-comment exchange about.

    9. Squidley says:

      Hmm. I never knew that ingenmame shows up in dictionaries as “kidney bean.” I also didn’t know that my FEP would chose katakana to write ingen, or that, for whatever reason, I can’t post in Japanese on this site. Calling ingenmame “kidney beans” seems particularly wrong for two reasons. One is that every ingen I’ve ever been served is something I would call a “green bean”; the other is that every package containing kidney beans I’ve ever seen in Japanese stores is labled kintokimame. Incidentally, kintoki appears to be a garbled version of “kidney.”
      And what’s wrong with having an involved discussion about beans? 😉

    10. Sean Kinsell says:

      Well, what I didn’t know (though I suppose I could have looked it up) was whether, say, green beans were immature kidney beans inside the pod. I suppose I could have looked it up, but I was too lazy.
      And the problem with having a long discussion about beans is that we might eventually get to the topic of red-bean jam. Then I’d have to stifle a retch and absent myself.

    11. Squidley says:

      Red-bean jam, a.k.a. an, a.k.a. anko, is made from yet another bean: the adzuki. Notice that the English word comes from Japanese azuki.
      Anko sure throws some ferriners for a loop, but I like it myself. I also like yookan. I also like almost every soy product I’ve ever had except nattoo. Ick!

    12. Sean Kinsell says:

      That was kind of my point–if we kept talking about beans, the discussion might diversify to the point that we’d be talking about big-beans, small-beans*, and then (inevitably) red-bean jam. Then I’d have to absent myself politely from my own blog.
      Interestingly, I actually like nattou. I can’t take the weird creatures of the deep, but the texture of fermented soybean sprouts somehow doesn’t bother me, and I like sour foods, anyway.
      * If anyone is reading this discussion and is not familiar with Japanese-word-for-bean-related pedantry…well, you poor thing. Feel free to move on. But there’s an interesting bit of arbitrariness in the words for soybean and red bean. Soybeans are 大豆 (daizu, “big” + “bean”), and red beans are 小豆 (adzuki, “small” + “bean”). The former reading is borrowed from Chinese along with the characters in the compound; the second is the native Japanese word pasted over the Chinese compound (though the Chinese-derived pronunciation shouzu is also possible). All this talk is making me hungry for レンズ豆 (renzu-mame, “lentil,” or, literally, “lens-bean,” which I think is very cute. That lentils aren’t biological beans is beside the point) soup. I think I ate the last, though.