I recently had a discussion with my friend Max about the nuances of Japanese pronunciation (maybe not so recently; it was when I was back home in Hawaii). One of the more interesting things we talked about was the fact that, in Japanese, there’s no “f” sound. This is a result of the fact that Japanese people don’t fold/bite their bottom lip when pronouncing it; they shape their mouth almost as if they were blowing out a candle (go on, give it a try). So, in Japanese, the “f” in fu (ふ) is pronounced more like an “h”, and the sound becomes hu.
Consequently, Japanese words that have been incorporated into the American vocabulary (such as tofu, futon, or Mt. Fuji) are not really pronounced the way most people think they are. For example, it’s not “tofu”, it’s “tohu”. Of course, when the Japanese word for “bean curd” (とうふ or 豆腐) is romanized, it’s still written as “tofu” because… well, just because. It’s traditional, maybe.
So, why am I telling you this? Well, I had forgotten Max’s and my conversation until today, when I saw this video about college students vandalizing the huge sand dunes in Nagoya:
Some people might not understand why a little sand graffiti warranted news coverage in the first place. Well, Koichi tells me that, in Nagoya, these sand dunes are a pretty big deal (he lived there for a year), and my roommate, Atsuko, confirmed this; “It’s a world heritage thing!”
Personally, I didn’t find the “scandal” (the ominous-sounding Ministry of Environment has begun an investigation) as funny as the fact that the hooligans chose the word “HUCK” to scrape out into nearly 50m of sand. While I admit that they could have done this because of their love of classic American literature or especially-absorbent towels, I’m willing to bet that these boys meant to write something a little more… rebellious but, sadly, mistook the “f” for an “h”. Boo foo.