To Make A Dictionary

Define passage;

NOUN

  1. The act or process of moving through, under, over, or past something on the way from one place to another
  2. A narrow way, typically having walls on either side, allowing access between buildings or to different rooms within a building; a passageway
  3. The process of transition from one state to another
  4. A short extract from a book or other printed material

Passage, like many words in the English language, is a word with many context dependent meanings. This compilation of various interpretations from foundation to delivery is what makes learning the language of communication a life-long endeavor. It’s the driving force that causes words to evolve and adapt over time. It also happens to be the reason that translators can’t simply match words 1:1 when converting them from one language to another.

“The Great Passage” or “Fune Wo Amu“, however, isn’t so amalgamous. In the opening scene the main character Mitsuya Majime makes it clear that the passage in reference adheres to [1]; that being the process of moving from one place to another. While this happens at a unknown point in the chronology, it’s a sentiment also shared by veteran dictionary maker Tomosuke Matsumoto in the very first scene in which they meet. As they describe their work “A  dictionary is but a vessel that allows passage through an ocean of words”.

Most strikingly, there are no ego’s to be found in the creation of The Great Passage. Despite being literal arbiters of words, their pursuit is wholly benevolent, seeking to provide a tool for others to better navigate the social world. It’s a charming endeavor, not least of which is due to the natural failings of the principal cast, whom each have their own troubles in understanding and expressing themselves, particularity Maijime and his dealings with social anxiety.

Despite the slow pace and later romance dominant focus of the narrative, there is a fair amount you can take away from the story and plenty of my own takings will be missed in this post. I however find myself layered in irony at the mere pretense of talking about Japanese characters making a Japanese language dictionary. After all,  the only reason I can do so is by putting my faith in anonymous subtitlers having done an accurate job of translating the words to English. From my perspective that makes approaching this production with sensitivity an impossibility and as such I don’t want to take the traditional analytic approach.

All that said I don’t intend to disparage anyone who has made the attempt. If words such as “selfie”, “twerk”, “LOL” and “OMG” can make it into the Oxford English Dictionary, then its apparent that the power to decide meaning is in the hands of the public more so than the ones compiling and defining it all for reference and distribution. Likewise, interpretation has never been something to stay chained down by trivialities.

So I’m going to talk about The Great Passage not by the exploratory journey it’s defined to be but as a serendipitous spotlight on the sights unseen. You see, for a show all about definitions, I think the most appropriate way I could honour that is by contributing my own experiences to the words that both titled and close out each episode.

For the uninitiated, each episode is crowned with a single word. Defined by it’s creators, it takes a literal, metaphorical or pragmatic approach to describing the episodes content. Given that each of these words can be interpreted even further than the singular example provided, I thought I would do just that with the following.

Vastness

Life is filled with endless choices and outcomes. A lot of the possibilities open to us are contingent on various other factors that we can and cannot account for. However underlying this is the principle that the best path forward might not necessarily be transparently available. It creates this inescapable vastness that I’ve personally found taxing in ways I never expected when I was young and sheltered from responsibility.

Finding a career in the vast but selective job market has proven difficult. I’ve found work at every stage, but nothing yet that I find fulfilling. A part of me feels that I should keep exploring the desert land of the economy in order to find that oasis, but the sheer size and scale of it forces me to suppress these ambitions in favor of a touch of realism. I very much wish there was a compass for this just as The Great Passage is intended to be for the ocean of words.

Vastness doesn’t have to be confrontational, although for me it has been. I suppose you could say I’d rather be led than be the leader, but functionally, I just want to be given the means to pursue what really makes me happy.

Encounter

Encounters are often unexpected. Opposite to organisation, they can happen anywhere at anytime with a plethora of consequences. You can perhaps call any first experience an encounter, which in my mind helps romanticize things away from a spectrum of good or bad. The word encounter sounds closer to pioneering and adventure than a to-do list of things you should, or are fated to, experience.

Despite how imagine them, I rather fear encounters. I’m one of those people who prefer routine. I’ve simply lived a life that has repeatedly punished me for being bold and unprepared, so subsequently I’m averse to change.

That doesn’t mean encounters are inherently negative however. If my forays onto Twitter and WordPress are anything to go by, then I can find some solace. Here are a bunch of people with no obligations towards me, no prior knowledge of me, and yet they’ve welcomed me all the same. I still don’t relish encounters, but this one has been exciting.

Love

A motivating emotion. It can drive you upwards with great feats, or pull you down so low that daily life becomes unmanageable. When describing it to the young or the unloved, people often call it unexplainable, as in something you just have to feel to comprehend. That’s a bit grandiose for my liking but somewhat true. If I had to explain it myself, I would opt for saying “It’s a bodily necessity, like breathing or eating, it drives empathy and promotes self-worth, how it ‘feels’ in the moment is secondary and not much concern”.

Me and love have had a shaky relationship. Throughout my younger years I craved it more than anything, yet rejected it when it stood at my doorstep. When pain and misery have come to define you, it can be a hard time convincing yourself that it’s okay for something else to take it’s place. Nowadays I eagerly dish it out but remain unsure if I deserve any myself. “How selfish am I permitted to be?” is something I commonly ponder whenever I decide to be happy.

I guess love needs balance.

Anyone got a set of scales for me?

Steady Progress

Steady Progress is two words goddammit. Regardless, there is two things to emphasize here. Steady; as opposed to rushed or stalled. Progress; against time or personal milestones.

This one is hard to evaluate relative to my own experiences. I don’t have many immediate goals, and for those that count the finish line is a hazy spec in the distance. This makes defining anything as progress either arbitrary, unclear or dangerously misleading. I’ve always been an advocate for the idea that success is perception, which coincidentally is something best done by other people. That’s not an excuse from introspection but rather an admittance that maybe we aren’t the best judges of our own merits and failings.

I’ll let you decide if I have developed and in what ways.

Waver

Waver. A favourite word among motivational speakers seeking to validate but simultaneously reject life’s downfalls. It speaks to a deviation from the desired path, yet subtly implies that the course can be corrected. A compass might waver, yet it still points towards a general direction. A meter could waver, yet its movement is still refined to a finite arc.

So what analogy applies to me? Well I’m not a terribly decisive person for a start. I don’t plan incredibly well and frequently overestimate my abilities. In this sense “to waver” fits me better than a term such as flip-flopping, because it’s hard to say you’ve turned your back to something that was never a true commitment in the first place. As I explained in vastness, I’m searching for that much needed fulfillment. If I can be bold enough to treat it as an eventuality, then I can describe the journey itself as wavering from that end goal.

I’m not one of those aforementioned motivational speakers, however I will steal a predominately held belief from them, in saying that in order to combat wavering, you must accept support from others. Getting lost is fine. So is letting someone bring you back onto the beaten path.

Resonance

Resonance can be explained in various ways, but I think what chiefly rises up is an expounding response. Something that resonates has clarity. It is understood or observable. It is a sound with just the right amount of reflection to your ears. It is a message that touches peoples hearts or minds. It is not ambiguous in nature but full and vibrant.

I like the word resonance, because it encapsulates how I feel about opinions and criticism. Resonance downplays the importance of big platforms and loud voices in favor of meanings that matter to people. Questions that get them thinking about new things and debates that they can derive long standing value from.

Resonance is the undercurrent of my work and personal life. I don’t care for legacies or power as much as I care that I can share my perspectives in a form that inspires. An article with 10,000 views will only ever be important to me for the % that were meaningfully effected by it. I would gladly see the overall numbers cut down if it meant the reach, or rather, resonance, could be made better.

Trust

I find it convenient that Trust would be a title for this show and for this little project, given that it was the main theme of one of my last posts, started from the bottom. As much as I would love to leave you with that, I guess it could be misconstrued as lazy.

Trust is demonstrated. You can’t prove it without reliability. So…

Currently anonymous reader: “Truth or dare?”

All Hail Haruhi: “Truth”

Still anonymous reader: [Posts hard hitting question in the comment section]

Somewhere in the multitude of universes, the creators of Fune Wo Amu are silently shaking their heads over my disgraceful tribute to their work.

Compile

The name of the game is gathering and centralizing information. That ‘information’ could be anything from wikipedia articles to old vine videos. Compilations are at the behest of the compiler, which is why Fune Wo Amu repeatedly reinforces the idea of each dictionary having its own personality.

I think my favourite illustration for this word would have to be fandoms. In no other format do you find such sweeping numbers of people dedicated to the collection and distribution of obscure content. While our ancestors thought about little more than basic necessities; in the form of fandoms, we now dedicate our days to collating experiences, commodities and data that is secondary or even tertiary to furthering our continued living.

Isn’t that just extraordinary?

Course

I talked a fair amount during my thoughts on ‘waver’ about the weight of course as a form of direction, so now I’d prefer to understand course as momentum. To course as in to run or pass rapidly through a path – how it is explained by The Great Passage.

Perseverance is an important skill to have in life. Being able to keep up the pace through thick and thin allows you to accomplish goals quicker and with less conflict than those without the quality. I personally believe that it is impossible to course through life without perseverance, which makes Kyon in particular a role model for me. I’ve actually avoiding referring to other anime in favor of real life anecdotes, although the opportunity here is just too perfect to overlook.

His secret to coping alludes me to this day, but if anything, he demonstrates that if you stay the course, the result can be rewarding. Twice; once in the movie and once in the show, he was faced with creating a blank slate or carrying on with the life he had. In both circumstances he never gave up on the original, because to him the trials and tribulations are worth coursing through. Be more like Kyon. Push through the hardships if you think it’s worth it.

PS: As a rule of thumb, if you can tolerate Haruhi, then you can be President of the World…

…or a Japanese student

1me4GFR

Pride

Everyone needs pride. Except maybe Fullmetal Alchemist & Co. Taking satisfaction from work done or goals achieved provides the fuel for even more accomplishments. An inability to respect what you’ve done is indicative of ethically questionable actions or severe self-depreciation. That doesn’t mean pride is an inherent good, it is a sin after all, however a need for moderation goes without saying.

I wanted to point to something I’m proud of, in the hopes that it inspires others to follow suit. but in reality I keep thinking of “What Pride had Wrought”, a video game level with annoying and poorly timed puzzles. Thanks, Dragon Age.

Okay. Forget that.

Lets do this.

I’m proud that I haven’t stopped trying yet. I’m proud that I’ve taken as many opportunities as I have to grow as a person. I’m proud that I embrace my individuality. I’m proud that I chose to spend my time with wonderful and inspiring people. I’m proud that I put effort into learning instead of settling for obliviousness. I’m proud that no matter what may yet come in the future, I have periods of my life that will always be treasured.

Light

 

(Writers note: McFly should have quit while they were ahead – you know what song I’m talking about)

Light illuminates. Light highlightsLight brightens. Light is symbolic. Light is natural. Light is artificial. Müller light, now with less than 100 calories!

I was looking for something pretentious to fill out this last title word, but in the process I rediscovered how boring ‘light’ has become in fiction writing. Then I became disappointed that with all the words in the dictionary (literally) The Great Passage chose to close itself out with the most trite and ineffective illustration.

Hah! Better they never saw that coming. Using their poor use of light to shine a light on their poor use of light. Regardless, for all I’ve written as a result of this show, I can’t be too harsh on it for taking the easy route. Instead I’ll turn it around to you, dear friends of WordPress, Twitter and beyond. Throughout the course of this post I have used The Great Passage to shine a light on myself. Now I’ll recycle the concept on you in the shape of an opt-in assignment.

Here are eleven words. Use word association, draw from memories or look up the definitions and how they vary from dictionary to dictionary. Whatever you can think of, I don’t expect you to provide a response, just give it a quick thought and see if you gain anything from the process.

  1. Frisson
  2. Neologism
  3. Rove
  4. Intransitive
  5. Thaumaturgy
  6. Shrift
  7. Omni
  8. Rue
  9. Vamoose
  10. Dysphonia
  11. Preternatural

Yes, I chose words that you’d probably have to look up. Sue me.


I hoped this post served as a sufficient reciprocation for everything The Great Passage set out to do; as a work of fiction and a labour of love within the confines of the narrative. I’m sure many people would have preferred a review or a specialized analysis as opposed to the relative approach I took here, however Fune Wo Amu is a story made by characters driven for communication.

Fulfilling the purpose of the dictionary they made is a one of a kind homage that has allowed me to interact with the show on a level I’ve never had the chance to do before. I can count on one hand the amount of shows that cross the boundaries between fiction and reality in the way The Great Passage has done. To put it plainly, what The Great Passage has equipped me to do has created an experience that will last far longer in my memories than perhaps even the original narrative itself. And I’m content with that.

Thanks for reading.

 

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “To Make A Dictionary

  1. I’m not going to lie, I’m a little jealous of how great of an idea this is. Forgoing the regular review routine to add a more personal touch makes this really nice to read!

    ‘Resonance’ is something that I often feel when reading your posts, especially as someone that has more or less followed down a similar ani-blogging path. Our life experiences obviously differ, but this fact makes the occasional overlap in feelings, anxieties, or experiences, that much more powerful.

    There’s a lot more that I wanted to say, but I can’t quite find the words right now (anyone got a dictionary?) – maybe I’ll figure it out whenever I get to your homework. As always, it’s a pleasure reading your writing and I wish you the best of luck in navigating life’s waters (God knows we all need it).

    Are you ready for my hard hitting question? It’s so unbelievably demanding that I couldn’t bring myself to ask you on a public place like curiouscat.

    What is…

    Your favourite color?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have a soft spot for personal monologues myself. It’s why I’ve enjoyed a lot of idol talk between people like you, thoughtsthatmove and remyfool, even though I don’t really follow the scene. I still remember “The Girl in Pink” post you did, if I remember the name right, solely because you talked about how that idol performance made you feel in the moment.

      On that note: Happy to see you again!

      My favourite colour? Orange. Unfortunately it’s hard to colour match with anything so I don’t see it as often and as prominently as I’d like.

      I have you pegged as a blue guy honestly.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. More or less.

      It was very clear to me that The Great Passage wasn’t meant to be a gripping drama or tear-jerking romance. It’s a story about creatives who are passionate about their work in a way not dissimilar from hobbyist’s. The subject matter might not have broad appeal and the narrative isn’t designed for thrills but I still enjoyed it because of the people behind it (however fictional they may be) and how closely they mirror my own efforts.

      While writing this piece I was drawn to article on the New York times with a lexiconographer from Merriam-Webster. In particular this quote; “Dictionaries are often seen as argument-settling arbiters of truth. But their job, Ms. Stamper notes, isn’t to say what something is, but to objectively and comprehensively catalog the many different ways words are used by real people.”

      Read here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/22/books/merriam-webster-dictionary-kory-stamper.html

      It’s for that reason that I felt like I should record my own understandings of the definitions provided, because the entire purpose of The Great Passage is to reflect their usage by people such as myself. Perhaps I’m too sentimental, but I think that honors the intentions of TGP better than distant critique of it’s themes and plot points.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s