Category Archives: language

Codebreaking in New Guinea, 1944

From Hell’s Battlefield: The Australians in New Guinea in World War II, by Phillip Bradley (Allen & Unwin, 2012), Kindle Loc. 6019-37:

On 20 March [1944], Emirau Island, 120 kilometres northwest of Kavieng, was occupied unopposed, and by the end of April two airfields had been constructed there. With Kavieng and Rabaul isolated, MacArthur could now make a great bound towards the Philippines. Having convinced the Joint Chiefs of Staff that Wewak should be bypassed, he planned to strike Hollandia (modern-day Jayapura), just across the border from Wewak in Netherlands New Guinea. Apart from isolating the Japanese Army in New Guinea, MacArthur wanted the prime anchorage of Humboldt Bay and the Lake Sentani airfields for his drive towards Japan.

Intelligence made the Hollandia decision possible. ULTRA decrypts, the decoded Japanese naval and Army communications, had already played an important part in New Guinea operations. ULTRA’s first success had been to expose Japanese intentions during the Papuan campaign, particularly the planned invasions of Port Moresby and Milne Bay. Later plans to reinforce Lae had been uncovered by ULTRA and then undone by the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. ULTRA had then kept MacArthur informed of the air buildup at Wewak, which had been so efficiently nullified by Kenney’s air arm. Now it gave MacArthur the priceless advantage of knowing that Hansa Bay was being reinforced and would be a tough nut to crack. The same was true of Wewak, but the decrypts confirmed that both Aitape and Hollandia were weakly held. The Japanese commanders were thinking in small steps, while MacArthur was planning a great leap.

The Australians played a major part in this intelligence coup. When the radio platoon from the Japanese 20th Division headquarters had pulled out from Sio in the wake of the Australian advance, its men had to carry the heavy components of the radios. However, a large trunk containing all their code books and other cipher material was left behind, buried in a nearby creek. It was discovered by Australian sappers sweeping the former headquarters site for mines and sent back to Australia, where the documents were painstakingly dried out and analysed. The cipher keys gave the Allies access to crucial intelligence on Japanese Army strength and plans in New Guinea.

So MacArthur would boldly strike for Hollandia six months ahead of the originally scheduled date. Though the operation’s code name, Reckless, may have indicated otherwise, MacArthur had the intelligence and the resources to succeed.

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Filed under Australia, Japan, language, military, Papua New Guinea, U.S., war

Fate of Basque Ethnicity in the Philippines

From Basques in the Philippines, by Marciano R. de Borja (U. Nevada Press, 2012), pp. 138-139:

Today most Filipinos are very familiar with two things related to Basque culture, though without knowing it—chorizo de Bilbao, a kind of sausage, and jai alai. At the same time, the Basque legacy in the Philippines is perhaps manifested most obvi­ously in the number of Basque place-names. Many of Manila’s streets still have Basque names, though many more have been erased and changed in recent years for the sake of modernization and nationalism. The most obvious example is Avenida Azcárraga, which was renamed Claro M. Recto Avenue in honor of the great Filipino nationalist and senator. Among the surviving Basque street names are Ayala, Arlegui, Barrengoa, Bilbao, Gaztambide, Ozcariz, Elizondo, Guernica, Durango, Echague, Goiti, and Mendiola. In Makati, the posh residential and business enclaves are called Legazpi, Salcedo, and Urdaneta.

The current map of the Philippines is still replete with provinces, towns, and cities that bear Basque names, such as Anda, Arteche, Azpeita, Lavezares, Legazpi, Loyola, Mondragon, Nueva Vizcaya, Oroquieta, Oteiza, Pamplona, Urbistondo, Urdaneta, Zarraga, and Zumarraga.

The Basques’ outstanding achievements and the high status enjoyed by their de­scendants in contemporary Philippine society must be considered against the back­ drop of the future of Basque-Philippine identity. We should first answer the follow­ing questions: How do Basque descendants view their ethnicity? Do they still regard themselves as unique? To what extent have they assimilated into the local culture?

The new generation of Basque descendants have little contact with the Basque Country. Some are still proud of their Basque heritage, although compared to their counterparts in Latin America, they are fast losing their ethnic consciousness, if in fact it is not already lost. This is in part a function of the vast distance that separates the Philippines and the Basque Country, as well as a function of the limited number of Basque settlers in the Philippines at any time. Such demographic paucity makes it impossible for a strong Basque-Philippine culture and identity to flourish. Except for some articles that are published occasionally about a few families of Basque origin, many third- and fourth-generation Basques lack ethnic awareness and are oblivious to their roots. And even when they are vaguely aware of their origins, they lack a deeper knowledge, appreciation, and understanding of things Basques. Only a handful have ever been to the Basque Country. As Andoni F. Aboitiz, a fourth-generation Basque has said: “We really think of ourselves as Filipinos first and of Basque descent second.” Even if some descendants are proud of their Basque roots, they seem to prefer not to talk about them. As Robert Laxalt, an American novelist of Basque origin, has observed: “Reticence has always been the deeper mark of the Basque character.”

Intermarriage is another factor that has weakened the Basques’ ethnicity. Al­though it was often the practice for newly arrived Basques during the nineteenth century to marry among themselves, succeeding generations did not follow suit. Many took Spanish and American spouses, while others married mestizos and Malay Filipinos. The Ayala family, example, has practically lost its Basqueness, ex­cept for its name, and that could still be lost since the current heirs of the Ayala clan carry the surname “Zobel.” The most Basque among the present Basque-Filipinos today seem to be the Aboitizes. Looking at their family tree, it is evident that inter­marriage with other Basques has been encouraged. A majority of the Aboitiz clan carry a second Basque name such as Arrizaleta, Luzurriaga, Mendieta, Moraza, Mendezona, Ugarte, Uriarte, and Yrastorza.

In the Philippines, there is no equivalent of the eusko etxea, or Basque center, that is maintained by Basque descendants in Latin America and the American West (par­ticularly in the states of California, Idaho, and Nevada). The United States also has the NABO (North American Basque Organizations, Inc.), the umbrella organization that oversees nearly thirty Basque clubs and provides them with common cause and activity. There is also an Argentinian FEVA (Federación de las Entidades Vascas de la Argentina, or Federation of Basque Entities of Argentina), which links more than sixty Basque centers and institutions. In the Philippines, there is not a single Basque club at present.

Philippine Basque descendants no longer speak Euskara. The predominance of regional languages, such as Ilonggo, Bicolano, and Cebuano; the promotion of Fili­pino, the Tagalog-based national language; and the strong influence of American culture with a corresponding extensive use of English in education, business, and government in the Philippines have together wreaked havoc on the vestiges of Spanish tradition, not to mention the Basque one. The Spanish language, which was still dominant among the Philippine elite during the American occupation, slowly waned in influence. By the 1960s, Spanish lost its premier status, and, although it was included as an official language in the 1973 Philippine constitution, its decline was irreversible. It was finally eliminated as an official language in 1987.

Even as an academic subject, Spanish has dwindled to nothing. Constituting twenty-four required units in the school system in the early 1950s, it was demoted to twelve units in the 1980s. It was subsequently abolished as a requirement. Many Basque descendants today cannot even speak Spanish—considered the language of the aristocracy and landed gentry in the Philippines—let alone Basque.

The new generation is simply too assimilated to the mainstream of Philippine society and culture.

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Berber Awakenings in the Maghreb

In the wake of the Tunisian Revolution in 2011, The American Interest published a backgrounder article headlined The Berber Awakening by Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, who had just published a book on The Berber Identity Movement and the Challenge to North African States (University of Texas Press, 2011). Here are a few excerpts from the article.

North Africa has long been the neglected stepchild of Anglo-American Middle East academe and policy institutes. This region, commonly known as the Maghreb, was traditionally the near-exclusive preserve of European (mainly French) policymakers and scholars, owing to proximity, colonial experiences, linguistic familiarity and economic interests.

This neglect is now coming to end. North African studies have flourished recently in the scholarly realm, in English as well as French. On the policy side, the wake-up call came for some with the radical Islamist challenge and bloodletting in Algeria during the 1990s. For others, it came with the discovery of young men of Moroccan and Algerian origins in the ranks of al-Qaeda. For democracy and civil society promoters, Morocco under King Mohamed VI offered a model to emulate. But if any of these didn’t happen to grab your attention, there was Tunisia 2011, which provided the spark for the explosions of popular protest rumbling across the entire Arab world and parts of the Muslim world beyond….

Constitutionally, Algeria and Morocco are certainly Arab-Islamic states, with Arabic being the sole official language. Organizationally, they are both members of the 22-nation League of Arab States, as well as the largely moribund five-nation Arab Maghreb Union (along with Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania). Beginning in the 1930s, the ideologues of Algeria’s national movement proclaimed the Arabic language, along with Islam and territorial nationalism, as the central pillars of their challenge to a century of French settler-colonialism and incorporation into metropolitan France. Morocco’s urban nationalist elite had a similar Arab-Islamic orientation.

Upon achieving independence, both countries directed their educational and cultural nation-building efforts toward the east, toward the Mashriq, linking their societies’ roots to the rise of Islam and the spread of its Arabic-language civilization across North Africa beginning in the late 7th century. Both Algeria and Morocco had to work hard at “becoming Arab”, importing thousands of teachers from the Mashriq to instill a standardized version of written Arabic to replace French as the language of administration. This Arabic differed sharply from the North African dialectical Arabic (darija) spoken in daily life—let alone from the widely spoken Berber dialects. There are three primary dialects in Morocco, and two primary ones in Algeria, along with two additional ones spoken by smaller groups.

So who are the Berbers, and why are they worthy of attention? Simply put, the Berbers are North Africa’s “natives”, the population encountered by the region’s various conquerors and “civilizers”: Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Vandals, Arab-Muslims and Europeans. Berber social organization was classically tribal, and they spoke varieties of a single, mainly unwritten language classified today as Afro-Asian. Their encounters with foreign forces, which generally were more powerful, produced a variety of responses ranging from resistance and retreat to acceptance and assimilation. Overall, Berbers straddled multiple worlds, assimilating the “other” with whom they were engaged in one form of accommodation or another, but retaining distinct attributes of their own.

Inevitably, given their relative weakness, this collection of tribal groupings was branded by a derogatory term: “Berbers”, from the Greek and Roman appellations for “barbarians.” Subsequent Arab-Muslim conquerors quickly adopted the term, and it has stuck ever since. Not surprisingly, modern-day Berber militants reject such stigmatization imposed from the outside, and prefer to call themselves Amazigh, which translates into “free men.”

The Amazigh are worthy of our attention for several reasons, one of which is their underappreciated demographic significance. Speakers of one of the Berber/Tamazight dialects constitute approximately 40–45 percent of the population in Morocco, 20–25 percent in Algeria, 8–9 percent in Libya and about 1–5 percent in Tunisia. They total some 15–20 million persons, a number that exceeds the total population, for the sake of comparison, of Greece or Portugal. These numbers, while considerable, are significantly lower as a percentage than they were a century ago, thanks to complex processes of economic and political integration that have occurred throughout the region.

Indeed, it is this very decline that has helped spur the modern Amazigh identity movement, one which explicitly foregrounds a collective Amazigh “self”, complete with a flag, anthems, collective memory sites (lieux de memoire), a “national” narrative and ancient and modern icons. Thus the movement seeks to renegotiate the terms of Berber accommodation with various “others”: the nation-state, Islam and modernity. The movement’s central demands are recognition by state authorities of the existence of the Amazigh people as a collective and of the historical and cultural Amazighité of North Africa. The most immediate and concrete manifestations of that recognition would be to make Tamazight an official language equal to Arabic and to begin redressing the multitude of injustices which they say have been inflicted on the Berbers in both the colonial and independence eras through corrective educational, social and economic policies. More generally, the movement challenges the fundamental national narratives of these countries, which until recently consigned Berber cultural expressions to state-sponsored folklore festivals, complemented by National Geographic-type television programs on remote and exotic mountain villages, on par with the nomadic Touareg “blue men” of the desert.

In their efforts to fashion a “modern” ethno-cultural collective identity out of the older building blocks of their societies, the Amazigh activists are part of a more general trend that challenges hegemonic Arab-centered nationalism. Ironically, the ever-accelerating processes of globalization, which some thinkers have heralded as the harbinger of a long-awaited post-national age, are also generating an intensified “politics of identity.” The new politics of identity in the Muslim world is marked by the ethno-cultural assertion of formerly marginalized minority groups, combined with a demand for the democratization of political life. For some, like the Kurds, this has reached a critical mass, morphing into full-fledged nationalism. For others, like the Muslim residents of Ethiopia’s Ogaden region, this kind of nationalism is forming fast. Berbers have not yet reached that stage, and they may never reach it. But they, too, have achieved a measure of recognition and self-definition that was inconceivable a generation ago.

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Filed under democracy, Islam, language, Maghreb, Mediterranean, Middle East, nationalism

The Arab Awakening in 1915

From Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East, by Scott Anderson (Doubleday, 2013), Kindle Loc. 2832-2871:

BY THE MIDSUMMER of 1915 on Gallipoli, so many men were dying in such a confined space—in some spots, the opposing trenchlines were less than thirty yards apart—that informal truces began to be called in order to gather up the dead. The arrangements were usually worked out by local commanders, so that at a specified time grave-digging parties from both sides would step out into no-man’s-land and begin their ghastly work.

This certainly appeared to be the intent of the Ottoman lieutenant who, on the morning of August 20, climbed from his army’s forward trench and, under the cover of a white flag, started across no-man’s-land. Instead, upon reaching the British line, the young officer announced to his startled hosts that he wished to surrender.

Following standard procedure, the man was bound and blindfolded and passed down through the Med-Ex trenchworks to regimental headquarters. If standard procedure had continued to be followed, he would have been interrogated there by an intelligence officer, then sent on to the central prisoner-of-war stockade before eventual transfer to a POW camp in Cyprus or Egypt. But there was nothing at all standard about this prisoner. His name was Mohammed al-Faroki, and despite his unassuming appearance—he was just twenty-four and very slight—the story he told was so remarkable that successive British officers felt their superiors needed to hear it.

He claimed to be a member of a secret military society called al-Ahd (the Awakening), comprised largely of Arab officers like himself, that had been waiting in vain for months for the right conditions to stage a revolt against their Turkish overseers. Rumors of shadowy fifth-column networks inside the Ottoman Empire had become rather commonplace by that summer, but what was different about Faroki was that he supplied a list of his alleged al-Ahd coconspirators, most of them high-ranking officers, complete with details on which units they commanded and where they were currently deployed.

Testament to the importance given the lieutenant’s claims, on August 25, General Ian Hamilton, the overall commander of the Gallipoli campaign, fired off a report to War Secretary Kitchener himself. Deciding that the intelligence unit in Cairo was best equipped to judge the truthfulness of the lieutenant’s story, London ordered Faroki put on board a warship bound for Egypt.

At least initially, neither Gilbert Clayton, the overall commander of the British military intelligence unit in Cairo, nor any of his subordinates knew quite what to make of the young man brought to their Savoy Hotel offices on September 10. Their attention was piqued, however, when Faroki suggested the British had squandered a profound military opportunity by not going ashore at Alexandretta in the spring of 1915. According to Faroki, not only had Alexandretta been guarded primarily by Arab-conscript units at the time, with many of their commanders committed al-Ahd members, but these units had even carefully sabotaged the city’s defensive fortifications in anticipation of an imminent British landing force. Those efforts had come to naught, obviously, when the British instead launched their disastrous Gallipoli campaign. That wasn’t the worst of it, however. Once Gallipoli started, Djemal Pasha had swiftly sent the Arab units in Alexandretta to the battlefront; as a result, Faroki explained, many of the would-be conspirators of al-Ahd now lay dead on the Gallipoli hillsides, killed by the very “enemy” they had hoped to join.

Up to this point, much of Faroki’s story was easy enough to verify. The founder of al-Ahd, a man named Abdul Aziz al-Masri, was living in exile in Cairo, and he was brought in to vouch for Faroki’s bona fides. As for his claim that Alexandretta had been guarded by troops anxious to mutiny, this was precisely what Lawrence had ascertained from his interviews with Ottoman prisoners and had stressed in his lobbying for a landing there. But Faroki had more to tell. A lot more.

For some time, he claimed, he had served as a kind of liaison between al-Ahd and another Arab secret society, al-Fatat, in Damascus. From this linking, al-Ahd had learned of the covert negotiations between al-Fatat and Emir Hussein in Mecca toward staging a joint uprising against the Turks. In the process, al-Ahd had also learned of the secret correspondence between Emir Hussein and the British in Cairo. The upshot of all this was that, if armed and supported by Britain, both Arab secret societies, the civilian al-Fatat and the military al-Ahd, were now prepared to join Emir Hussein in revolt against the Turks.

Such a partnership would come with a price, though: British recognition of an independent Arab nation encompassing virtually the entire Arab world, from Iraq in the east to Syria in the west and extending down to the tip of the Arabian Peninsula. The precise parameters of this Arab nation were open to some limited negotiation—the would-be rebels recognized Britain’s colonial claim to Aden and its commercial interests in southern Iraq—but the one absolute precondition was that the French were not to have a controlling presence anywhere. If all that was agreed to, Faroki explained, then the British could have their revolution in the heart of the Ottoman world.

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Expulsions of Germans, 1945–49

From Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II, by Keith Lowe (St. Martin’s, 2012), Kindle Loc. 4614-4678:

The statistics associated with the expulsion of the Germans between 1945 and 1949 defy imagination. By far the greatest number of them came from the lands east of the Oder and Neisse that had been incorporated into the new Poland – almost 7 million, according to the German government figures. Almost another 3 million were removed from Czechoslovakia, and more than 1.8 million from other lands, making a total of 11,730,000 refugees altogether.

Each of the different zones of Germany coped with this massive influx of people in its own way. Probably the worst prepared was the Soviet zone, whose towns and cities were amongst the most comprehensively destroyed by the war, and which was in the process of being stripped of everything of value for Soviet war reparations. A flood of refugees arrived in the aftermath of the war, mostly from the new Poland, but also from Czechoslovakia. By the end of November 1945 there were already a million of them trying to scratch a living here, disoriented and virtually destitute. During four years from the end of the war at least 3.2 million refugees settled in the zone, and possibly as many as 4.3 million. A further 3 million or so paused there temporarily before moving on to other parts of Germany.

The British zone, which bordered none of the deporting countries, had a little more time to prepare. In the autumn and winter of 1945 the British organized an operation to take in millions more refugees, code-named Operation Swallow. Between February 1946 and October 1947 eight trains plied their way back and forth between Szczecin and Lübeck, each composed of covered freight wagons with a total capacity of 2,000 people. Other trains took refugees from Kaławska to Mariental, Alversdorf and Friedland; and from April 1946, refugees were also transported to Lübeck by sea. In this way some 6,000 ‘eastern’ Germans were transported into the British zone almost every single day for a full year and a half. By the end of the decade more than 4.25 million new people had settled here.

Further south, the Americans continued to receive refugees from Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia – more than 3.5 million of them in total. The authorities there struggled to cope, and hundreds of thousands were still languishing in refugee camps at the start of the 1950s. According to General Lucius D. Clay, the American military governor in West Germany, the influx of refugees increased the population of the British and American zones of West Germany by over 23 per cent. In East Germany, according to its first president, Wilhelm Pieck, the increase in population was as much as 25 per cent. The effect this had on all parts of Germany (with the exception of the French zone, which received relatively few refugees) was verging on the catastrophic. Most of the cities had been reduced to rubble by Allied bombing during the war, and the country’s shattered infrastructure simply could not cope. Even after their arrival refugees continued to die in their thousands because they were unable to find the shelter, the medical aid or the food to sustain them after their westward odyssey.

For those who were least able to find work or integrate themselves into German society – mostly the sick, the elderly, or widowed women with children – several years in refugee camps was all they could look forward to. Conditions in these camps were sometimes not much better than finding shelter in ruined buildings. A report on the camp at Dingolfing by the Bavarian Red Cross, for example, described a high number of invalids and people with tuberculosis living in overcrowded conditions. They had no proper shoes, clothing or bedding. In another camp in Sperlhammer cardboard had to be pasted to the walls of the barracks as protection against the water that leaked through.

Worse than this, however, were the social and psychological problems experienced by the refugees. People from the east or the Sudetenland were sometimes regarded as foreigners by other Germans, and tensions often rose up between them. As General Clay wrote in 1950,

Separated from Germany through many generations, the expellee even spoke in a different tongue. He no longer shared common customs and traditions nor did he think of Germany as home. He could not persuade himself that he was forever exiled; his eyes and thoughts and hopes turned homeward.

According to one man deported from Hungary, it was difficult for his fellow expellees to forge a new life for themselves, ‘Not only because they had lost their homelands and practically all their material possessions, but also they had lost their identity.’ The social democrat Hermann Brill described the refugees he saw as suffering from a deep state of shock. ‘They have fully lost the ground from under them. That which is taken for granted by us, a sense of security from life experience, a certain personal feeling for their individual freedom and human worth, that is all gone.’ In July 1946, a Soviet report on politics in Leipzig described the refugees as still ‘deeply depressed’ and ‘the most indifferent to politics of any group of the Leipzig population’. Unable to adjust to their new circumstances, they did little but dream of returning to their ancient homelands across the border.

The right to return was the one thing that these Germans would be denied. Their expulsion was designed from the outset to be permanent, and with this in mind ever stricter border controls were set up: Germans would be allowed to leave, but they would not be allowed to come back.

Furthermore, their deportation was only the first stage of a much larger operation: after they were gone, attempts were also made to erase all traces of their existence. Even before the Germans had been driven out of Poland and Czechoslovakia, towns, villages and streets were being renamed. In the case of villages that had never had Polish or Czech names before, new ones were invented for them. German monuments were torn down and new Czech or Polish ones erected in their place. Swastikas were taken down everywhere, although their shadow could still be seen on many walls for years to come. The speaking of the German language was banned, and the few Germans who were allowed to stay (by renouncing their German nationality) were advised to speak Polish or Czech even in private.

Schools were banned from teaching the German history of areas like the Sudetenland or Silesia. Instead, Germans were portrayed as invaders on lands that had historically always been Polish or Czech. The new areas of Poland were referred to as the ‘Recovered Territories’, and Polish children there were taught nationalist slogans, such as ‘Here we were, here we are, here we stay’, and ‘These regions are reclaimed property’. Students in the border areas were not permitted to study German, even as a foreign language – in contrast to other parts of Poland where it was allowed.

It was not only in schools that this new, nationalist mythology was taught – the adult population was also fed propaganda on a prodigious scale. In Wrocław, for example, an ‘Exhibition of the Recovered Territories’ was held, and was visited by some 1.5 million people. Amongst all the obligatory political exhibits stressing Polish-Soviet brotherhood there was a huge historical section, largely devoted to the relationship between Poland and Germany. This emphasized the thousand-year conflict between the two countries, the return of Poland to its ‘Piast Path’ (in reference to a medieval Polish dynasty who defied German kings to create an independent Poland centred around Silesia), and an exhibit entitled ‘Our Immemorial Right to the Recovered Territories’.

This was not merely the claiming, or even the reclamation, of territory: it was the rewriting of history. In the new, nationalist Poland, any trace of an indigenous German culture had to be eradicated: this was to be a Poland for Poles only.

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Filed under Britain, Czechia, education, France, Germany, language, migration, nationalism, Poland, U.S., war

Antarctic Cuisine: Skua Piles

From Hoosh: Roast Penguin, Scurvy Day, and Other Stories of Antarctic Cuisine, by Jason C. Anthony (U. Nebraska Press, 2012), p. 185:

Skua piles, named for the kleptoparasitic gull, are a USAP tradition and the clearest sign that we are a transient community. Simply put, departing people leave behind their excess stuff in a heap near their dorm recycling area, and arriving people grab what they need for their season. If you’re in the right place at the right time, you can find anythings: homemade bookshelves, insulated work clothes, flannel sheets, half-filled shampoo bottles or, less usefully, broken pencils, used batteries, and sex toys. Skua piles are so fundamental to the local culture that “skua” is as common a verb as it is a multipurpose noun. Stuff is skuaed, the wise go skuaing, and so on. Much of the food is condiments people are too lazy to return to the galley or odd items that no one really wants to eat but are unwilling to throw away. I saw the same can of fiddlehead ferns from Maine disappear and reappear over several years. Dusty jars of nearly flavorless spices that I twice claimed, never used, and returned years ago may still be snatched excitedly each summer by a desperate home-cooker. But again, anything is possible in the skua piles; I have stumbled upon rafts of cooking supplies and a new electric teakettle that someone didn’t feel like mailing home, as well as quick-cook oats, rice, and other staples there for the taking.

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Wordcatcher Tales: kamoba, kamohikibori, nozokigoya

This summer, during our train trip around Shikoku, the Far Outliers got a chance to visit one of Japan’s most famous gardens, Ritsurin (‘Chestnut Woods’) in Takamatsu. It’s not on the official list of the three most beautiful landscape gardens—Kairakuen in Mito, Kenrokuen in Kanazawa, and Kourakuen in Okayama (all of which I’ve visited)—but it definitely belongs in the same class. Among its unique features is a large pond that used to be used for duck hunting. The untrimmed overgrowth around its edges offers cover for hunters to conceal themselves.

At one end of the pond, there is an artificial structure designed to enable large numbers of ducks to be captured with nets. Called the 鴨場 kamoba ‘duck place’, it consists of a 鴨引き堀 kamohikibori ‘duck moat’ with a 覗き小屋 nozokigoya ‘peeping hut’ (or 小覗き konozoki ‘small peephole’) at one end. The duckcatchers would duck down behind the raised banks along both sides of the duck moat waiting for the signal from the watcher in the duck blind, then leap up in unison and toss their nets over the ducks in the narrow ditch below.

I was familiar with the term 馬場 baba ‘horse place’, meaning ‘race track, hippodrome’ (as in Takadanobaba in Tokyo), but had not encountered the term kamoba ‘duck place’ before. Nor had I ever heard of people hunting animals within the grounds of any of the major landscape gardens in Japan. The bilingual sign explaining the purpose of the kamoba at Ritsurin translated nozokigoya as ‘peeping hut’ but could well have translated it as ‘duck blind’ (or ‘hunting blind’) in this instance.

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Wordcatcher Tales: Japanese nautical terms

I’ve always been fascinated by the great variety and complexity of nautical terminology, especially on sailing ships. I’ve encountered it mostly in my reading. I don’t really have much sailing experience, except as a passenger aboard ferries and ocean liners, plus the occasional opportunity to go aboard a museum ship. The four-masted, sail training ship Nippon Maru, which I explored last month in Yokohama, was a special treat because it offered a glimpse of sailing-ship terminology in two languages, Japanese and English.

rigging-types-signage

Running rigging and standing rigging


Here’s the text of the English translation on an explanatory sign about the rigging on the Nippon Maru. Though phrased rather awkwardly, it is very clear and instructive.

Running Rigging and Standing Rigging
Ropes which are used for moving yards, raising or lowering sails are called running riggings. The ship carries around 1,100 running riggings and the total length of these riggings accounts for 14,938m. The number of blocks fixed with running riggings accounts for 854 in total. Running riggings have different kinds: Halyards, Sheets and Tacks to raise the sails and Downhauls, Clewlines, (Clewgarnet), Buntlines, (Leechlines) and Tripping lines to furl the sails. When spreading, it is necessary to loosen the rigging which is hauled for furling. When moving a yard, Braces will be used and to loosen the starboard side of the yard, the port side will be hauled. Wires to secure the mast and the bowsprit are called standing riggings. The ship carries 168 standing riggings and the total length of these riggings accounts for about 3,678m. These riggings include the pieces of shrouds which are horizontally tied to ratlines to go aloft. Most of the standing riggings are placed at the back of the mast in order to handle loads induced by the wind pressure coming in from the back.

The Japanese terms for ‘running rigging’ and ‘standing rigging’ are 動索 dousaku ‘moving-rope’ and 静索 seisaku ‘still-rope’, respectively. (The matching Korean terms, dongsaek and jeongsaek, are cognate, and the suo ‘cable, rigging’ in Chinese shengsuo ‘rope-rigging’ is also cognate with J. saku and K. saek.) ‘Starboard’ is 右舷側 u-gen-gawa ‘right-gunwale-side’ and ‘port’ is 左舷側 sa-gen-gawa ‘left-gunwale-side’. (The kanji 舷 gen ‘gunwale’ also occurs in 舷灯 gen-tou ‘gunwale-lamp = running lights’ [on each side of the ship], 舷門 gen-mon ‘gunwale-gate = gangway’, and 舷窓 gen-sou ‘gunwale-window = porthole’.) The bow or fore part of the ship is 船首 sen-shu ‘ship-neck’ and the stern or aft part of the ship is 船尾 sen-bi ‘ship-tail’.

These terms were no doubt in use long before Japanese sailors became familiar with European-style sailing ships (before Date Masamune had his first Spanish galleon built in 1613). The same goes for terms like 帆柱 ho-bashira ‘sail-pillar = mast’ and 帆桁 ho-geta ‘sail-beam = yard(arm)’. Nevertheless, the Japanese text begins with the katakana synonym for ‘yard’ (yaado) followed by its kanji equivalent (帆桁) in parentheses, and employs exclusively katakana terms (borrowed from English) for ‘sail’ (seiru), ‘rope’ (roopu), and ‘mast’ (masuto). Why? Because the names for all the subcategories of nautical masts, sails, and rigging have been imported wholesale from English. At eye-level on each of the four masts is its name in katakana: foamasuto ‘foremast’, meinmasuto ‘mainmast’, mizunmasuto ‘mizzenmast’, and jigaamasuto ‘jiggermast’ (and ‘bowsprit’ is bausupritto). There are ways to write ‘front mast’ and ‘back mast’ in kanji, but it is much harder to differentiate four masts using traditional (Sino-Japanese) terminology.

Similarly, the name for every length of rigging on this modern square-rigged four-master is directly imported from English: ‘halyard’ is hariyaado, ‘sheet’ is shiito, ‘tack’ is takku, ‘downhaul’ is danhooru, ‘clewline’ is kuryuu rain, ‘clewgarnet’ is kuryuu gaanetto, ‘buntline’ is banto rain, ‘leechline’ is riichi rain, ‘tripping line’ is torippingu rain, ‘brace’ is bureesu, ‘ratline’ is rattorain, and ‘shroud’ is shuraudo.

The same goes for the names of every spar among the yards, as the following Yards chart shows. ‘Lower topsail yard’ is rowaa toppuseeru yaado, ‘upper (top)gallant yard’ is appaa geran yaado, ‘royal yard’ is roiyaru yaado, ‘spanker gaff’ is supankaa gafu, ‘spanker boom’ is supankaa buumu, and so on. The Korean translation (yadeu) of the chart title suggests that Koreans have also directly imported this specialized English terminology. (In the Chinese title, ‘yard’ is mistranslated as dui-huo-chang ‘stack-goods-place = freight yard’.)

yards-sign

Names of sailing yards

The last chart included here only confirms the extent to which English modern square-rigged sailing ship terminology has been imported wholesale into Japanese naval usage. Its title in Japanese is Jigaa masuto mawari bireingu pin haichizu ‘jigger mast around belaying pin arrangement-diagram’. The nautical terms of English origin, ‘jiggermast’ and ‘belaying pin’, are written in katakana, the native Japanese word for ‘around’ is written in hiragana, and the Sino-Japanese compound translated ‘arrangement-diagram’ is written in kanji. Although the Korean title is written entirely in the Korean alphabet, the breakdown of word origins is the same (and so is the word order): jigeo maseuteu ‘jiggermast’, jubyeon ‘around’, bireing pin ‘belaying pin’, baechido ‘arrangement diagram’.

In the Chinese translation, ‘jiggermast’ is rendered as 船尾小桅 chuanwei xiaowei ‘ship-tail small-mast’ to distinguish it from 后桅 houwei ‘rear-mast’ (= ‘mizzenmast’, cf. 前桅 ‘fore-mast’, 主桅 zhuwei ‘main-mast’). ‘Belaying pin’ is translated rather directly as 系索桩 jisuozhuang ‘fasten-rope-stake’. These Chinese nautical terms do not render the English sounds, as the Japanese and Korean equivalents do.

By the way, there is a mistake in the English translation of the directions at the top and bottom of the chart. Both directions are labeled ‘sternward’ in English, but in Japanese only the top arrow points sternward (sen-bi-gawa ‘ship-tail-ward’), while the bottom arrow points foreward (船首側 sen-shu-gawa ‘ship-neck-ward’).

belaying-pin-chart

Jiggermast belaying pin chart

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Wordcatcher Tales: kazari moufu, kissuisen

On my most recent trip to Japan, I had the chance to go aboard two museum ships in Yokohama harbor. One was the former Japanese naval sail training ship, the Nippon Maru, a four-masted barque with auxiliary diesel engines. The other was the NYK Hikawa Maru, a former luxury passenger liner built for North Pacific routes between Japan and Seattle/Vancouver. Both ships were built in Kobe and made their maiden voyages in 1930.

kazari moufu

Decorative blanket folding

飾り毛布 kazari-moufu ‘decoration-blanket’ — Last year, when we toured the Hakkoda train ferry museum in Aomori, we noticed some ornamentally folded blankets in some of the ship’s cabins. According to Japanese Wikipedia, the practice of folding blankets into decorative shapes—like origami in wool—originated in 1908 on the ships ferrying passengers across the Seikan Strait between Aomori on Honshu and Hakodate on Hokkaido. (There is no other Wikipedia article in any language on the decorative folding of blankets.) This year I noticed and photographed the same phenomenon in officers’ berths aboard the Nippon Maru and in first-class passengers’ berths aboard the Hikawa Maru. The Japanese Wikipedia article also links to the FAQ page of an OSK passenger liner named Nippon Maru, whose last entry addresses the question of kazari-moufu. The English version of an explanatory sign outside a passenger cabin on the Hikawa Maru follows.

Ornamentally folded blankets, called “decorative blankets (Kazari-mofu)”, were common during the age of passenger ships. The blankets were folded by stewards and placed with care on passengers’ beds. The designs included flowers (Hana-mofu), a sunrise, and even the helmet of a samurai warrior, generating anticipation among many passengers about the day’s creation. The designs of flowers were originally called “floral blankets (Hana-mofu)” but as stewards became more creative with their designs, the name changed to “decorative blankets (Kazari-mofu)” to better reflect their creations.

waterline labels

Waterline inside Hikawa Maru

喫水線 kissuisen ‘waterline’ — On the lowest deck of the engine room, there was a red line just over head-high on the inside of the ship’s hull that marked the normal waterline, labeled in katakana uotaarain (< ‘waterline’) and in kanji as 喫水線 kissuisen, which translates literally as ‘eat/drink-water-line’. The first kanji shows up in compounds such as 喫茶店 kissaten ‘drink-tea-shop (= teahouse, coffee shop)’ and 喫煙室 kitsuenshitsu ‘drink-smoke-room (smoking room)’. But 喫水 kissui also means the ‘draft (of a ship)’, so ‘eat/drink-water’ is probably better glossed here as ‘displace-water’.

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Wordcatcher Tales: heeltap, punkah louvre

You never know where you’ll learn a new English usage while traveling abroad. I came across a couple new ones while on vacation in Japan this month.

heeltap sign

Deposit Heeltap & Ice here

An English usage new to me appeared on a trash and recycling receptacle in Cafe Cuore atop Miraishin no Oka, a hill of white Italian marble imported and sculpted by Kazuto Kuetani on the grounds of the Kosanji Temple Museum. The Japanese sign reads nomi-nokoshi ‘drink-leftovers’ and koori ‘ice’, so the meaning was clear enough, but I had not encountered that use of heeltap before. The Kenkyusha Reader’s Plus dictionary in my little Canon Wordtank, however, listed heeltap with two definitions ‘heeled shoes’ and ‘drink-leftovers’.

punkah louvre

Punkah Louvre Instructions

Another phrase new to me appeared in a first-class cabin hallway aboard the NYK Hikawa Maru, a Japanese luxury passenger and cargo ship launched in 1930 to run between Japan and Seattle. It was nicknamed the Queen of the North Pacific, and carried Charlie Chaplin among other famous passengers. It was built to compete with the best at the time, and managed to survive the Pacific War because it was requisitioned to become a hospital ship and because its hull was engineered to withstand heavy northern seas and to stay afloat even after hitting a couple of underwater mines during the war.

From reading about British India, I was familiar with the punkah ceiling fan and the poor punkawallah whose duty was to pull the ropes to keep it in motion while his masters attended to other matters. Wikipedia notes that punkah louvre is used to refer to the air vents in passenger aircraft, but this usage for similar individually controlled air vents in passenger ships looks to be older.

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