Emotion and Etymology

IN Japan we call words ‘Kotoba’ or ‘Koto-no-Ha.’ Its literal meaning is, the leaves of Idea. Indeed, our idea is like the trunk of tree, while the words are like the leaves. As the botanist judges what tree it is by seeing its leaves, so we judge what idea one has by hearing the words.

There are great differences between the richness and poorness of words in the different countries. Japan is certainly richer in her words than England. Just for an example, we have more than nine words for the word ‘I.’ The Emperor alone calls himself ‘Chin,’ and all his subjects call themselves ‘Watakushi,’ ‘Washi,’ ‘Ore,’ ‘Boku,’ ‘Sessha,’ ‘Soregashi,’ ‘Ware,’ ‘ Yo,’ etcetera, according to the circumstances. The second or third person changes as much as the first person, ‘I,’ and all the verbs accordingly. When I started to learn the English, first time, I asked my American teacher, ‘What shall I call myself before the Emperor?’ He said, ‘I.’

‘Then what shall I say before my parents?’ — ‘I.’

‘What shall I say before my men friends? And before my women friends?’ — ‘I.’

I was quite astonished and said, ‘How simple, but how rude is the English language!’

However, to-day I am living in England and using only the English language to express my ideas, and I do not find her poverty of words even though the stock of the English vocabularies in my head is much poorer than the English people’s. And why? Because I can put my own feeling in them. I think words are just like pictures. If you draw a line without any idea, it is no more than a simple line, but if you draw a line with the feeling of tree, it will look like tree, and if you draw it with the feeling of water, it will look like water. With our own emotion, we can make that single word, ‘I,’ into modestness, haughtiness, or anything.

Then the resource of conveying our emotion to each other does not depend upon the wealth of words only. It is our imagination and our sympathy which communicates our emotion. The more sympathy we have to each other, the less important are our words.

We have a saying in Japan, ‘Lovers always talk nonsense.’ Indeed their conversation must sound nonsensical to the third person, but, don’t you know, they are communicating emotions to unmeasurable extent between themselves? It is not always necessary to be in the sexual love, but the fraternal or paternal love often conveys its deep emotion with some poor words, or even with quite wrong words.

When I was in Japan, I had a boy friend called Junji Nonoyama. My brother took us both to the nearest large town, called Nagoya. We came back by foot in midnight. It was raining hard. We arrived at Junji’s house. Junji knocked the door. His sister came to the door and said, ‘Why have you not stayed in a hotel instead of coming back so late in such a dreadful night?’

Junji said, ‘Oh, because it is so wet and so late.’

His sister welcomed him, saying, ‘I see, I see, I quite understand you.’

After we left there my brother said, ‘What has she seen in Junji’s argument? It is most illogical to say he has come back because it is wet and late!’

I said, ‘Ah, but it was their delightful fraternal love which they understood each other. His sister must have appreciated Junji’s devotion toward her.’

I was in my early teens then, but since this incident I began to wonder that where there is sympathy there must be some emotion communicating to each other deeply, quite apart from their words. There is another example. When I was seven or eight, my aunt came to my house. She had four daughters. She was talking with my sister about her second daughter. But all through her conversation she was calling the second daughter by the name of the third daughter. My sister, too, was talking in the same way. After my aunt had gone I told my sister how they were mistaken about the girl’s name. She was quite amazed, as if she was awakened for the first time then.

When the people become the slaves of emotion, they often commit accidental comedy. One of my father’s friends married a woman who looked like the Japanese toy tigers. The villagers nicknamed her, ‘Toy-tiger wife.’ But of course no friend would dare say that to her or her husband. One day, some friend visited on them, and the husband and that friend began the game of ‘go’ (a Japanese draughts, far more complicated than that of English). The ‘go’ players were getting more and more excited, and the friend became almost unconscious of his surrounding. Each time when he played, he shouted, ‘ Here is the toy-tiger wife! ’ And the husband joined him: ‘Now let me see the toy-tiger wife!’

‘Don’t you see the toy-tiger wife?’

‘Oh, you toy-tiger wife.’

‘Now then, what will you do with your toy-tiger wife?’

‘Better get rid of this toy-tiger wife.’

All the time the wife was listening to this in the next room. When the game was over, the wife came out and jilted the husband. There was a great trouble. However, all those incidents which I have given above were between the friends or families. But suppose you are among your enemies! The matter differs a great deal.

Here comes in the necessity of the right words and good rhetoric. Even your most thoughtful words often bring you an unexpected result. For the emotion has life, while the words are dead things and very often you cannot represent the living emotion with the dead words, and your enemies are always watching to take advantage.

Once upon a time, there was a very loyal and truthful subject in China. All the other officers in the Court were jealous of him, and accused him to the Emperor as a traitor. The Emperor believed that accusation and banished him to the boundary of the country.

Afterwards the Emperor began to recollect his goodness and summoned him to take the former position. He was overcome with the happy emotion, and sent a poetry to the Emperor:

The straight root reaches to the ninth spring beneath the earth,
And it has no curve whatever.
No one knows it in this world except the Dragon in the ground.

The poor man meant that he is always straight and righteous even where nobody can see. Only the Emperor who has power in heaven as well as in earth can see it. But the surrounding officers of the Emperor took it as a great insult to him. ’For,’ they said, ‘the dragon in the ground must have meant the death of the Emperor.’ So they executed him into death.

In Japan, Yoritomo, the first Shogun, had a hunting near Fuji mountain. There was a rumor that he was assassinated. His wife was much grieved with this rumor. Noriyori, the younger brother of the Shogun, said, ‘Be in ease, for here am I, Noriyori.’ It was merely his sympathetic emotion toward his sister-in-law. But the Shogun took it as a rebellious word and demanded him to commit harakiri.

In Japan or in China, there have been innumerous disasters through the insufficient words for the emotion, which fell into the enemy’s hands. Therefore our first lesson for the children is to be careful of our words. Some three thousand years ago, there was a boy King called Sei, in China. His uncle Shuko was Regent for him. One day this boy King cut a leaf of the tree into the shape of ‘ kei ’ (the sign to appoint a mayor). He gave it to his boy friend and playfully said, ‘I shall appoint you as a governor.’ Shuko bowed down before his young nephew King and asked in most cordial way, ‘In what state will your Majesty appoint this subject as the governor?’ The boy King said, ‘I was only joking.’ Whereupon Shuko said, ‘The King shall have no vain word whatever,’ and he made the King obliged to make that boy into a governor of some state. Shuko threatened the boy King and made him into a machine. Poor boy King! He could freely express his emotion no more. He must have lessened all his pleasure in this world.

If such is the life of a king, it is worse to be a king than to be a prisoner. However, that description of Shuko’s has been worshiped by some Japanese and Chinese. There are quite many people who are over-cautious even when they are among their most sympathetic friends. They are frightened to utter a single word in fear that ‘ it might make the listeners misunderstand.’ These people are evidently trying to make the world deadly dull. It is all through their lack of sense and wisdom as well as sympathy, and I simply get sick of them!

On the other hand, look at the law courts of to-day. Some solicitors, especially young, inexperienced ones, often play upon the words unnecessarily. They leave the main fact far behind and go on fighting with words. Thus they spend the precious time and money in vain. And after going round and round with words they only have to come back to the main point at the end. Of course, there are too many awful liars in this world, and, to some certain degree, the fighting of words may be necessary to find out the truth. But the real resource to find out the truth must be by one’s wisdom and sympathy, not by unnecessary and insincere words. By saying ’sympathy’ I do not mean to agree foolishly with the false statement. I mean sympathy combined with wisdom to judge one’s real feeling.

Here I am using the two words ‘sympathy’ and ‘wisdom,’ for which I feel I need to give you the explanation with an example. Suppose there is a man who has never tasted champagne and you want to convince him what is champagne, you shall have to describe the taste of champagne with other things which he has already tasted. If his mental power is strong, he may be able to imagine something as near to champagne as possible. But surely he shall not know exactly what champagne is until he puts the champagne in his mouth and tastes it. On the other hand, suppose one has already tasted champagne. You need no explanation at all. If you say only ‘champagne’ he would make a glad eye upon you and reply, ‘Oh, yes!’ The words between you and him are simple, but the emotion will communicate each other quite fully. Now, ‘wisdom ’ is that power to understand what is champagne after tasting it, and ‘sympathy’ is that power to imagine what champagne is by listening to your description. Therefore if one has neither ‘wisdom’ nor ‘sympathy’ he is no more than a dead stone; the case is absolutely hopeless for you to convince anything to him.

And also there are many people who have already tasted champagne, yet when you describe champagne, they try to ignore everything. These people are what I call ‘insincere’ or ‘awful liars,’and you often find them among the very poor lawyers. We must get rid of them.

As I said before, words are the leaves of the trunk called Idea, and our urgent duty is to find out what kind of tree it is. Even if there is a deformed, imperfect leaf, the genuine botanist can tell what tree it is. So the genuine people ought to be able to find out one’s true idea with his imperfect words.

Hitherto I have been discussing how to find out the third person’s emotion and idea by their words, especially in the case where the third person is very poor in rhetoric. Now let me talk how we ourselves should express our feeling with our words.

It is just like to lift up things with your hand. Suppose there is a chair. If you get hold of the end of one of its feet, you may not be able to lift it up, though you use all your strength. But if you find out the centre of gravity, you can lift it up quite easily with your one finger. So with our feelings. If you don’t know which part of your feeling you should pick up in your words you would never be able to communicate your feeling to the other. The more words you use, the more you get into muddle! It is exactly same thing as you get hold of the wrong part of the chair. As you need to find out the centre of gravity to lift up the chair, so you need to find out the important pitch or gist to express your feelings.

Perhaps one or two words may be sufficient to express your whole feelings in that way. By saying this, I do not mean to ignore the beautiful rhetoric with abundant words.

On the summer day, when the trees are covered with abundant beautiful leaves, we are delighted to look at them. So with our words. If every word of ours is quite sincere to our emotion, the richer is our vocabulary, the more we can win the hearts. The ancient Chinese Odes are the best examples to prove this. Confucius said to his scholars, ‘Read the Odes, for they give you the lessons of the human emotion as well as the vocabularies.’ It is my habit to read them before I go to bed almost every night, and their sincere emotion, expressed by rich vocabularies, soothes my weary mind, which is so often worn-out in this troublesome world. I can only express my feeling with one of the Odes itself: ‘I always think of those ancient people in order to lessen my own burdens.’ Let us hope that we may some day express our own emotions as the Odes have done. However, the human natures are not always so beautiful as the trees, which are always natural to their nature. It is often that some people have too much superfluous words which only kill their real emotions, and sometimes they have quite false words. By the way, have you ever seen the trees get any false leaves? Ah, how far inferior are those people than the trees! If one should have too much superfluous words or false words I would prefer that he would be rather imperfect in his words. This is the main reason why there are many girls who love the foreigners more than their own countrymen. For when the foreigners cannot master the different languages, their imperfect words sound very innocent and that attracts the girls’ hearts very much. But beware, girls! You may find them out quite humbug when they begin to speak your words perfectly.

Now about the superfluousness of words, I have something to say. There is some difference between the public speech and private conversation. Just the right words for the public speech may become too much superfluous for the private conversation. Too much exciting gesture and too many emphasized words are absolutely unnecessary to convey our emotion among a few people. You would not shoot partridges with the twelve-inch gun, would you? In Japan we call those manners vulgar, and surely they are either insincere persons or fools. Fortunately most English people have no faults of such bad manners. But I have noticed that too often among the Continental people. They are simply disgusting. The best resource of friend-making is to express our emotion in proper way; and to express our emotion, we need to study the rhetoric and elocution, but above all these knowledges we most urgently need our sincerity and sympathy. And nothing could be nobler than to be natural to our own natures.

Just while I was writing this chapter I received a cutting from some English paper published in Japan. It was such a good example to prove my logic, therefore I quote it here.1

‘ . . . by Mr. Yoshio “Markino,” a gentleman who does not seem to know how to spell his own name, and whose contributions to English journals and periodicals written in a pidgin-English which is supposed to be “quaint” are becoming somewhat wearisome . . . The style is a pose, for it is difficult to believe that Mr. Markino cannot write more accurate English after his long residence in America and England, and the constant use of the language not only in every-day life, but in literary work . . . . The real fact is that Mr. Markino finds that the English public or the periodicals like these essays in broken English, and he supplies them with what they want.’

Readers, notice what this writer declares definitely: The real fact is that Mr. Markino is so and so. How does he know my inner heart? And how dare he declare it in such a decided way? The real fact is just reverse. I am not a slave of either the publishers or public. You may realize what I really mean if you see my paintings. There has been loud cry among the publishers and public that I should not paint any other way than the Japanese style. From the business point of view, I would get ten times better result only if I ‘ posed ’ and painted Japanese style. But I cannot do so. I am doing just what I am really feeling. So with my writing. It is merely unexpected coincidence that the English public like my own English. But suppose the English public hate my writing, do I change my style? No, never! In fact, there are some among my most intimate English friends who love me, but hate my English. One of them told me the other day that he would correct my writings into the pure English if I could n’t write better, for the sake to avoid that ugliness. But I refused. Now let me tell you whether I am ‘posing’ or not.

There is some great reason why my English is not progressing quick enough — quite apart from my stupidity on the language. It is true that I have been in America and England long enough to speak English perfectly. But, first of all, remember that I am an artist, and I have not had the chances enough of ‘the constant use of the language in every-day life’ as that writer imagines. For instance, while I was staying at a lodging-house in Oxford, to illustrate a book, I used to go out to find out the subjects, and then paint them in my room. My landlady used to bring my meals to my room, and I only nodded my head to her. Only the place where I might have had a chance to talk was a tobacco-shop where I used to buy the tobacco every day. But in three or four days’ time, my tobacconist began to know what tobacco I wanted. No sooner I entered into his shop than he took out a package of my tobacco and handed it to me. I left the money on the counter and came out with this single word, ‘Good-day!’ After three months I finished my works there and came back to London. At Paddington Station a few friends were waiting me on the platform. I talked with them about five minutes and my jaws were too tired to talk any more. More or less in the same way I have spent all my life in England until quite recently. Beside I his fact, as I have so often said, I hate reading book. Who could expect me to improve my English, then? Fancy, the writer accuses me that I ‘pose.’ ‘Pose’ for what? Suppose if that writer were the Chinese Emperor and I the poet, he would kill me. Suppose if he were the Shogun Yoritomo and I his brother, he would demand me to do harakiri!

The writer so foolishly says, ‘a gentleman who does not seem to know how to spell his own name.’ I suppose he expects me to spell my name Makino, after the rule of ‘the Roman spelling association’ which is existing among the foreigners in Japan, and some Japanese who are in contact with them. Poor man! I dare say that ‘Roman spelling’ rule may be useful for the foreigners in Japan as long as they cannot write the real Japanese characters. By the way, most foreigners in Japan cannot write Japanese characters, though they are staying there longer than I in England, therefore they use that Roman spelling rule to write Japanese. Only I don’t sneer at them and say they ‘pose.’ But do you ever expect all the nations in the world would follow after that rule? I hope you are a little wiser to keep on your own common sense!

For instance, look at Esperanto! Its own idea is most splendid. But what is the use to learn the Esperanto for one’s self as long as the whole world would not learn it? I sincerely advise you that you need to learn those practical languages more urgently. If you learned French you would have a great convenience in France, and if you learned German you would have a great convenience in Germany. But where can you get much convenience by learning the Esperanto except with those small numbers of people who have learned it? This world has many languages already, and the Esperanto speakers have added one more new language to the world instead of reducing many languages into one. I must tell you that the Roman spelling in Japan is far more limited and far more local than the Esperanto. The Great Britain has forty-five or forty-six millions population and still larger numbers in her colonies, and how many of them have been in Japan? And among those comparatively smallest number who were in Japan, how many understand the Roman spelling, which is so inconvenient that neither English nor Japanese can read without studying? And it is also so imperfect that many Japanese words are impossible to be spelled in its way.

I am not surprised if there are not quite one hundred people in this country who can read the Roman spelling. Could I possibly be such a fool to spell my name for the sake of a very few people and give a great inconvenience to so many millions people, as well as to myself? To tell you the truth, I used to spell my name Makino when I arrived to England. Once I went to a bootshop in Knightsbridge and bought a pair of boots. The shopman said he would send them to my lodging in Milner Street on the same day. I waited two days. No boots came to me. I went to the shop again and inquired about them. The shopman said, ‘We have delivered them to your address on the same day, but a housemaid said to our deliverer that there was not a gentleman called Mr. Mayking. Here are the undelivered boots for you, sir.’

Another time some stranger was calling me, ‘Mr. May-kino, Mr. Maykino.’ I did not answer him because it sounded so different from my real name, and I thought he was calling somebody else. Every time when I met with strangers, I had to explain them that my name was not May-kino. And at last I have invented a new spelling of my name as Markino. Since then, everybody calls my name as nearest to the Japanese pronunciation as possible, and I have had no more trouble. So you see, I am spelling my name for the practical purpose of my daily life in England.

It is not only about the spelling of my name that the third-class brains are playing fool upon. They are always sticking to their own poor logic and giving all sorts of trouble about trifle matters on our daily busy life. Here is a Japanese proverb for such a person like that writer: ‘There is no medicine to cure such a fool as you.’

In England there are more serious and more sincere reviewers than that writer, and they often ask me, ‘Some parts of your books are written with better English than the other parts. Are you really not posing sometimes?’

For this question I have a very sincere answer. I must confess you that I have a friend who is always looking after my writings. She would not correct my own English. But I asked her that when I talk about my philosophy or anything which I really mean very serious, I do not want the reader to laugh over my imperfect English, therefore she should correct them into better English. At first, she shook her head and refused to do so, saying it would be ‘pity.’ At last she has consented to do it. That is why those serious articles of mine are always in better English; and about other lighter articles, she passes them as they are. Then I have a handicap with the printers. They make my ‘to’ into ‘so’ and ‘is’ into ‘as,’ etcetera. It seems to me they make more mistakes with my writing than that of English writers. One of the staff of my publishers told me that it could not be helped. Because when the English writers write books, the printers know they should be correct English, therefore the printers arrange the ’types’ with their sense. But when they print my writing they don’t know what words will come next. Therefore even when they made a mistake themselves, they might think it was my mistake, and the publishers had no control over that matter.

Here let me add that even my lady collaborator often gets into the same ‘muddle’ with the printers when she corrects the proofs of my manuscripts; and once I touched the proofs myself after she passed them. My publishers were furious, and said to me, ‘Whatever for have you made such a mess on the proofs? The printers were grumbling very much.’ I said ‘Amen’ in my desperation.

However, my English will never become the English English. Why? Because I am my father’s son, after all. My father was a great scholar of the ancient Chinese classics. He used to lecture those classics to his young pupils all day long, and even in his leisure time he used to sing out the ancient Chinese poetries in the gardens or in the rooms, whenever he felt the emotion in his heart, and I used to listen to him since I was in cradle. Even when I was such a little baby and could not understand what that meant, I used to imitate his recitation, and no sooner I began to pick up the meaning of words, than he has taught me all the ancient Chinese literatures. Naturally to express my emotion in the way of the ancient Chinese rhetoric has become my own instinct. As such has been my case, I am afraid that I may be onesided, but I cannot help thinking even the quite fair-minded critic would choose the ancient Chinese literature as the highest in the world.

When I was a little boy, I used to swallow the Chinese words in whole, and they came out exactly as they were when I expressed my emotion. To-day my mind is fully grown-up and has the power to digest them. I mean I do not mock after the Chinese literature. The style of my writing is entirely my own, but it is fact that I get all the nourishments from the Chinese literature. Since I came to England I have learned the English vocabulary and idioms. But I can never satisfy myself to follow after the English colloquial. I feel I cannot convey my own emotion enough to you by doing in that way; I could not be more than a parrot then. Therefore, I construct my sentences in my own way, then I fill them up with the English words which I know. I believe this is the only resource to express my emotion truthfully, and I have faith in it. At the present stage, I know my writing is very imperfect, but I have a great confidence to succeed to establish my own new style. Here is a Japanese saying for those impatient people: ‘Wait until I finish up my work and don’t criticize while it is half done.’

  1. In this article the writer has attacked my article about the late Mikado which appeared in the Daily Mail. As this chapter is exclusively devoted to the Emotion and Etymology only, I shall give my explanation about this attack elsewhere if needed. — THE AUTHOR.