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Lexical Leavings

by Tom Gally



Over tea at the Hard Rock Cafe in Ueno Station today, a Japanese lexicographer made an interesting point to me: Japanese-English dictionaries intended for native speakers of Japanese should include more dialect words as headwords. His example was the word ものもらい ("a sty(e) 《in one's eye》; a hordeolum 《pl. -la》," according to 新和英大辞典). That's the standard Kanto word that appears in dictionaries, but he said he's met people in Kansai who have never heard of it and know only the Kansai equivalent, めばちこ. Those people using a J-E dictionary would not be able to find an English translation for it, since めばちこ doesn't appear in J-E dictionaries and they wouldn't know to look up ものもらい.

According to 日本国語大辞典, though, there are many other dialect variants of ものもらい, raising again the always vexing issue of where one should draw the line.
(February 2, 2004)