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07 February 2009

Japanese kids say the darn'dest things

During today's Web browsing I happened to go looking up the wikipedia entry on Romper Room, wherein I found a too-cute-to-be-true story about the show's Japanese version.

Actually, let us start with a little non-cute and factual background -- over the decades since its 1953 debut on a Baltimore TV station, Romper Room was franchised for "local production" to a number of major U.S. cities and to several foreign countries, including Japan. Ronpaaruumu, as it was phonetically retitled, ran from 1963 to 1979 and was hosted by a succession of Japanese actresses who all used the screen name "Miss Midori" on the show. (In Japanese, midori means "green" -- hence the brand name of that garishly colored, melon-flavored liqueur -- but is also a commonplace first name for girls; cf. "Amber" or "Violet.")

Here beginneth the cutesy part; hover your mouse over the yellow-highlighted words for their translation.

The show's second "Miss Midori" was teaching her young studio audience about the Japanese syllabic characters called kana. She drew a character on the board:

...and explained, "Children, this kana is read as ki. Now, who can tell me a word that starts out with the syllable ki?"

A boy quickly piped up, "I know, I know: kintama!"

Maintaining composure, Miss Midori attempted to drop the boy a gentle little hint by replying, with careful emphasis: "My dear, perhaps you could think of an answer that sounds a bit more ki-reina?"

Without hesitating a second, the boy shouted, "Kireina kintama!"

After a hasty commercial break, the boy had been removed from his seat and replaced with a large teddy bear.

(Whether the incident actually happened or not, the actress who played this incarnation of "Miss Midori" apparently went on to a long post-Ronpaaruumu career, and got endless mileage out of this story!)

Addendum: On Googling, I find that the slang kintama literally means "gold eggs": kin = "gold" and tama = "(bird) egg."

posted by Throbert | 2/07/2009 05:13:00 PM | (0) responses
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