Sunday, May 20 2007

Rare, but common

More adventures in context. I was working through the 熟語 drills in Kakitorikun, grade by grade, and found a real stumper: 百出.

I knew the two characters well (“hundred” and “to leave”, respectively), and could guess the correct reading, but I’d never seen the compound, and my WordTank didn’t have a J-E entry for it. Neither did Kanji Sonomama. Neither did Kodansha’s Furigana Japanese Dictionary, nor several other printed dictionaries that usually gather dust at home. My WordTank had a J-J entry for it, but it read 「種々さまざまに数多く現れ出ること」, and my attempt to work through this word-by-word did not produce much enlightenment.

It certainly didn’t produce “arise in great numbers” (courtesy of The Compact Nelson, although Edict also has it). More significantly, I was still in the dark as to why a word that young kids are expected to know isn’t considered common enough to put into a variety of J-E dictionaries.

The answer seems to be 議論百出, which is a saying with the rough translation “diverse arguments arising in great numbers”. I’m not entirely sure what it means, but I’m satisfied with its presence in the drills now. There are a lot of four-character compounds that would be well-known to someone growing up in Japan, but that wouldn’t come up often in translation.