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Intermediate Japanese Language Learning with Dazai Osamu

Complimentary Japanese Reading Lessons From Maplopo Schoolhouse

Season ONE—水仙 (Page TWENTY FIVE)

 

EP25. Spotlight: もの, Dazai Osamu (太宰治), Daffodil (水仙)

Video file / Japanese Podcast Episode / Online Intermediate Japanese Course

Read the full EP25 transcript, Spotlight: もの | Intermediate and Advanced Japanese

[Chill Music Playing]

Shining the spotlight on もの here now.

Let’s look at our example sentences, and Dazai’s sentence… starting with Dazai.

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

“The nature of retainers is that they’re always inferior to a lord.”

Example sentences:

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

“We all know having your heart broken is sad and painful.”

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

“A woman remains forever a mystery to man.”

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

“Generally speaking, horoscopes—are for the most part— pretentious nonsense.”

Okay. So first things first. What does もの mean? Let’s look at the meaning. [stuttering] And, in its very literal sense—the very base understanding of this word—is “thing,” right? You’ve probably seen this before and are likely familiar with it.

So, もの can mean “a thing,” or “substance,” or some sort of physical object. But, in this construction of the sentence, it’s not really what it means… we’re not going to be taking it literally. Uh, likewise, you may remember us talking a little while ago about こと. Uh, こと technically means, “matter,” or, “circumstance,” right? Maybe even “events of a particular situation.” Um, but like もの is operating here, it’s kind of very, very blurry, right? Uh… We don’t tend to kind of look at this usage in the sentence in its literal sense. So, just keep that in mind. That’s the meaning, but it doesn’t really mean that.

The takeaway here is that もの is really talking about all sorts of general things in life, right? Things that we are familiar with—and that if you asked a friend or a neighbor their opinion on it—they would pretty much say the same thing, right?

So, these sort of general, um, opinions that we all would agree on in society (and what we’re talking about is the intrinsic nature of these things that we’re all generally agreeing upon, right? The trait or the attribute that we all recognize as being true. So, you can talk very broadly about a child being a certain way, or a woman being a certain way, or… the idea of… (as in our example) a broken heart feeling a certain way, or causing you to experience pain or regret, or whatever it is. So, qualities of the thing that we all know, and can all basically agree upon, and then talking about those in a very general sense.

It’s important to note that there’s an inherent vagueness in this statement, and to really draw attention to that we wanted to create a really wonky example to show you what this sentence would look like if it was translated literally. Because you might be inclined to do that if you look at it just right off the bat. Because you’ll see there are two references to もの, right? In the beginning of the sentence we’ve got a もの… and then later on, it’s used again (in Dazai’s sentence). And he’s doing that… he’s using this redundancy… to kind of reinforce (make a point) that this thing is generally accepted as true. But, when you think about the sentence in English, you don’t necessarily say that… right?

So, let’s look at our, our third example here. So, in this example a natural translation would sound something like this:

“Generally speaking, horoscopes are (for the most part) pretentious nonsense.”

Now, if we wanted to really put that もの in there twice, we might say something like this: “This thing, that we call a horoscope, is for the most part, a thing that is pretentious nonsense.”

Now, that sounds ridiculous right? Uh, because it is ridiculous. However, note that if you put some comedic spin on this, it could work. But only in that sense, right? The sentence is not supposed to be funny… but you could make it funny by saying something like:

“This thing (that we call a horoscope) is… for the most part…, a thing, that is pretentious nonsense.

So, you could do that, but that would sound silly, right? And so you don’t need to do that you just say: “Generally speaking, horoscopes are for the most part, pretentious nonsense. We get the point.

Get more examples–and even more audio and video so you can solidify your understanding—by visiting the full course. At: maplopo.com forward slash schoolhouse

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