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Lexical Leavings

by Tom Gally



Most--maybe all--English-Japanese dictionaries gloss the future tense "will" and "be going to" as …だろう or …でしょう. This is extremely misleading, as it suggests a tentativeness that the English future tense does not have. This misunderstanding persists in phrase and sentence examples, as shown by the following from three different dictionaries:
The party will be postponed if it rains tomorrow.
あす雨ならパーティーは延期されるだろう。

the shit hit [is going to hit, will hit] the fan
〔卑〕 大変面倒なことになった[なるだろう]

By the time you have washed and dressed, breakfast will be ready.
顔を洗って着替えたころには朝食の用意ができるでしょう。
This persistent mistranslation is the equivalent of teaching the pronunciation of the English voiced and unvoiced /th/ sounds using サ行 katakana--it forces an English category into an inappropriate Japanese category and thereby sows error and confusion.
(February 13, 2003)