Monday, April 20 2009

The limits of Kanji Sonomama

For the first time in a long time, I had to pull out my other electronic dictionary. Why? Because the short essay I was trying to read was filled with place-names. On the DS, I had to write one character at a time, hope it was used at the start of some word (Kanji Sonomama doesn’t have a true kanji dictionary), and then type each one in on my Mac and look them up in Enamdict.

My other dictionary, a Sharp Papyrus, has clumsier stylus input and a generally less useful interface, but a much wider variety of dictionaries, including names and places.

Even with both handhelds and my JMdict search tools, it’s still a tough slog, because Ikuma Dan writes in colorful, literary language, using pre-war orthography. For instance, 眼 for “me”, 筈 for “hazu”, 儘 for “mama”, 未だ for “mada”, 又 for “mata”, and my favorite, 何處 for “doko” (處 being an obsolete variant of 処).

It’s been an interesting experience, but one I won’t repeat any time soon; in the time it takes me to decipher two pages of his writing, I could read thirty pages of a children’s or young-adult book.