Wednesday, February 4 2009

Cultural notes: another helping

The opening song on the Aya The Witch concert dvd is pretty darn good. It’s the sort of rock song that Aya Matsuura wasn’t really capable of when she recorded it at age 16 (iTunes preview), but pulls off very nicely at 21 (Youtube, skip the first minute).

But what the hell does it mean? It’s one of the many that’s missing a translation at the Project Hello lyrics site, and their quick attempt to translate the title was obviously wrong.

From That Sky~替え玉メンで~

“From That Sky – The Substitute Is Rigid”

Romanized, the subtitle is “kaedama wa kata-men de”, where most dictionaries will tell you that kaedama means “substitute, stand-in”, kata means “hard”, and the most plausible choices for the phonetically written “men” are either 面 = “face; mask; surface” or, well, “men”. Someone associated with the site gave it their best shot and gave up.

JMdict has an obscure second meaning for kaedama, though, and when I saw it, I understood:

second serving (ball) of noodles (to add to previously purchased ramen)

While ramen is often thought of as typical Japanese food, it’s a Chinese import, and the name is always spelled phonetically as ラーメン. And as any poor college student knows, the noodles are often sold dried. Hard, that is. Shortened to four syllables in the usual way, 硬いラーメン becomes 硬メン.

So does it really mean “a second helping of dried ramen”, or is that just as nonsensical as the original attempt? The answer lies in the rest of the song, which starts off with the singer’s phone ringing with an invitation to go out for baikingu (one of my favorite loanwords), and later mentions standing in line for… famous ramen. Ta-da.

Do a Google Image Search for 硬メン, and you’ll find two things: bowls of ramen, and the cover of Aya’s second album.