…because some thoughts are worth remembering
My husband doesn’t speak Japanese, but he knows some key phrases (e.g., hajimemashite, oyasumi nasai, otanjyoubi omedetou gozaimasu) and an odd collection of vocabulary picked up from aspects of Japanese history and culture that got popularized in the U.S. (e.g., samurai, shuriken, sushi).
We found a pretty authentic Japanese restaurant that didn’t break the bank in our neighborhood in the Bay Area: typical Japanese menu printed in both Japanese and English, with many Japanese speaking clientele, Japanese decor complete with tatami floors, and I was able to order in Japanese (first time I was able to do that here).
On the way out, I said what we usually say after a meal: ご馳走様 gochisousama, a phrase used to thank those who prepared the food after the meal is over. Knowing the phrase, my husband mumbled it. No one heard it except for me. Perhaps he wanted it that way, afraid to have his pronunciation mocked by native speakers who staffed the restaurant.
In language, speaking with accuracy and confidence are both important. It is especially true where a mere tone difference can mean something completely different (e.g., hashi pronounced with different tones can mean bridge, chopsticks or edge). But when you are showing appreciation for something, and you can only have one of the two elements, it’s better to be confident in what you are trying to say than be accurate. Loud trumps right.
Gochisousama means thank you for the feast. The word gochisou (polite version of the word feast) composes of the Chinese characters that means “running about” to symbolize that in preparing this feast there was significant preparation. By saying gochisousama, we are saying more than thanking for the final product but the effort and care they took in preparing the meal. I wonder if my husband would be willing to risk being inaccurate in his pronunciation and confidently shout “gochisousama!” to show that he means it (now that he knows what the phrase really means).
Photos: (1) Men awaiting their turn in the largest parade in Sapporo, Hokkaido for Shinto shrines; (2 & 3) Lunch time menu items at Gochi, Cupertino, California; (3) The Japanese culture places expressions of appreciations so high that even toilet paper rolls in hotels thank you for your business (printed on the core of the toilet paper)