Thank you again for your observations and input. You've raised
several questions for me and certainly given me quite a bit of food
for thought. :) I appreciate that greatly.
--- In email@example.com
, "Anthony J. Bryant" <ajbryant@i...> >
On TV and in movies, all the time. It's how directors/actors "remind"
the audience that the speakers are foreign. But
> in point of fact, in real life, I have never personally encountered
it. One of the first things people in
> conversation classes learn is how to speak to (and address) people
in the target language.
I have encountered it in real life. My family is fortunate enough,
despite our wretched location, to have both friends and family who
come from other cultures and other countries. It took me a good
number of years to realize that not everyone in Iowa has New York
Jewish friends to teach them Yiddish, or Great Grandfathers who spoke
German, or ASL speaking cousins, or Swedish cousins who still come to
visit from the Old Country, or Mexican or Korean Aunts, or Italian
friends, or French friends, or even Mexican friends. I thought I was
normal, and found out I was really very unusual and lucky. I've found
out since that Iowa, apparently, is the center of the loaf of Wonder
Bread - all white and about the same texture.
Although the most common way to learn another language these days is
in a formal language class, not everyone learns another language in a
formal language class. Some just learn from other native speakers. I
doubt there were many formal language classes in period. From what
I've seen of the linguistic teaching materials from the Victorian
Era, conversational language as we understand it today wasn't exactly
the method taught then, or even earlier. For example, I learned most
of my Spanish from my Tia, and while I learned family forms of
address early on, I didn't learn Señior/Señiora/Señiorita until much
later. (an oversight on my Tia's part, I think. She never expected me
to use Spanish other than with her.)
I've got two deaf cousins, and while I can hold up my end of most
conversations with them, I'd end up finger spelling "Mister"
or "Miss" because those aren't signs I've ever had to use with them.
Signs in sign language are the foreign words, finger spelling is like
using English to get your point across.
Is your suggestion that the movie convention of inserting foreign
words and titles into conversation has no basis in real life, or that
it could be seen as demeaning to the cultural group being portrayed?
Or am I misenterpreting the intent of the statement and is there no
suggestion at all, just a statement that you've never personally seen
the phenomenon? All three are worthwhile things to explore in the
persuit of accuracy and persona.
If it's not common, then we likely shouldn't do it based on a desire
If it's demeaning, then we absolutely shouldn't do it out of respect
for the culture.
If it is common, but you, as a PhD and with letters in a foreign
history, haven't seen it, then it may be because it's simply
something not seen in academia, but more common to the less educated
classes. If so, then it's still likely not appropriate for most
Society persona, most portray the nobility that the SCA charter
assumes us all to be, but it may be appropriate to less educated or
lower class persona.
Any of those, then, still leave questions on how to portray persona
in a way that consistantly reminds other people that any of us
(French, German, Norman, Japanese or Tuchuk [though I wonder about
them. often. ;)]) are actually people from a culture very different
than the one common to the modern world, particularly the Modern USA.
For me, it's about the history, but the element of the SCA that's
attractive to me is getting inside the head of that historic person
and examining both the modern and the historic world from that
There are huge differences between the Modern USA and the Historic
World, let alone the Historic Japanese World. That's obvious just
reading the archives: As I understand it, Ronin and Ninja are both
pretty much "bad things" in the eyes of the Japanese, but they
contain elements that appeal to our culture, the same culture that
created and now idealizes the rugged individualism of the Old West.
(Why do I think there's a paper in there somewhere?) Learning about
those differences is one of the most interesting things we do, IMHO.
> There's no honorific there (unless you mean "san"). Japanese is
an "open syllable" language and doesn't have terminal
> consonants (except for "n", which is arguably a mutation of "mu"
with a loss of strength of the vowel). A native
> Japanese can't *say* "Hess" without lots of practice. It
becomes "Hessu" (U being the standard weak vowel) and still
> sounds a lot like "hesso".
> The addition of "-san" has nothing to do with the sound or the
effect. "Mr. Hessu/o" sounds just as silly to a
> Japanese as "Hesso/u-san."
I understand the linguistics involved, to a degree. It's similar to
the reason that many native Spanish speakers place an "e" sound at
the beginning of English words that begin with "S": in Espania, "s"
is never a beginning letter. If it's at the beginning of a word, it's
prefaced with an "e" sound - thus my Aunt's brother calling me
Esabrina instead of Sabrina. I also understand "san" or "sama" to be
the equivalant of the honorifics Mister or Miss/Mistress/Ms. which is
inaccurate, to be sure, but as close as we've got in English to what
I understand as the intent - polite forms of address. For example,
members of my family down south call me Miss Sabrina. Same idea, as I
The example, however, was sited more as a case of fitting the
European name to the language at hand, as opposed to adapting the
form of address to the name in question. We do the same thing all the
time. As an English speaking person when I introduce my French
aquaintance Mark Boucher in English, I introduce him as Mr. Boucher.
If I introduced him in (gawd-awful) French, I'd call him Monsieur
Boucher. If it were a language I were less familiar with the forms of
address, for example. . . I can't remember a thing of the Russian I
took, so if I were forced to function in (worse than my French)
Russian, I'd probably say he was called Mr. Boucher or Monsieur
Boucher (and then quickly beg off onto Spanish or English for the
rest of the conversation.)
It does beg the question, however, what makes a persona? Is it just
the clothes and the attitude? If so, then what purpose do pages and
pages of information about what kinds of titles to use in other
languages (not just Japanese, mind you, but the French, Spanish,
Russian and German pages, too) serve?
If persona is attitude and clothes and if we're all speaking English,
why should we call anyone by any title other than ones found in
English? Is it to help others see the individual in persona? Does it
serve any purpose at all? If not, then I'd be the first to happilly
say let's just use English titles since we're speaking English and
emphasize culture in the way we act.
It would make it very simple for everyone involved.
If my most indulgent and excellent source of information is Baron
Effingham in his English persona he'd be Baron Hiraizumi (assuming I
picked the right name) when wearing his Japanese garb and using his
Japanese persona. All kings would be His/Her Majesty or King Thus-and-
so and dukes would be His Grace or Duke Thus-and-so, etc, no matter
what his or her nationality. And Lady Anne would be Lady Anne and the
whole question would be moot - though the translations would still be
interesting just to help point out the stratification of Japanese
society, or the similarities between German and French nobility.
That would seem to be the Most Logical Thing, since very few of are
going to actually be speaking Japanese at events anyway, though I
still like the idea of calling Lady Anne Anne-sama or Anne-dono. It
appeals to me in a very non-period Anime sort of way. :insert wicked
evil grin: There's something to be said for that, too.