At Donki, I saw this sign. It says:
× Happy Price
◯ Great Price
◯ Nice Price
At least they are doing better than Yaechika over at Tokyo Station, like I described in this post; they managed to avoid using a strange exclamation point.

Let me give you a tip. Let's say you've got an English phrase you've written, but you're not quite sure if it's natural or not.
Let's say 例えば~したとすれば、仮に~したとして、~だと仮定して、まあ言ってみれば、例を挙げるならば◆【用法】単に say とだけ言う場合もある (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
Let Google help you! Go to www.google.co.jp. First, you should temporarily change your default language to English. You can do that in the top right corner of the page:

In the settings page, choose English at the top of the page:

In the search field, type your phrase, but surround it with quotation marks, like this:
  • 引用符 (いんようふ) (n) quotation marks; (definition from Edict)

Be sure to use the quotation marks. They are essential. The next page will have your results, including a number of how many results. That number is in the top right corner of the page. If the number is small, it's a good clue that you might have a problem with your phrase. "Happy price" has 190,000 results, but "great price" has 8,930,000 results. "Nice price" has 920,000.

In the case of "happy price", almost none of the results on the first page are written by native English speakers. That's a good clue that it's not natural English.

Of course, you could ask me, too!



Passing through the underground shopping mall on the east side of Tokyo Station, I saw this sign. It says:
× Happy! Winter
○ Happy Winter!
○ Have a happy winter!
○ Enjoy winter!
I often see this pattern in Japanese English usage: two words, with the first followed by an exclamation point.
  • 感嘆符 (かんたんふ) (n) (ling) exclamation point; exclamation mark; (definition from Edict)
I've got to tell you that we NEVER do that in English. Exclamation points always go at the end of a phrase, never in the middle.

Here's an example of something a native speaker might do:

Even though I could find this image on the left, we really seldom wish people "happy __(season)__". The usual things, at least for Americans, are "Merry Christmas!" (not "happy Christmas"), "Happy Easter!", "Happy Valentine's", "Happy Halloween!", and "Happy Thanksgiving!". I've never been told or faced with advertising in the US wishing me "Happy Spring!" At least, I think I haven't.

The next holiday greeting I can give you is "Happy Groundhog Day", which is February 2. (explanation below from Eijiro on the Web)
groundhog ウッドチャック◆【同】woodchuckカナグラウンドゥハッグ、グラウンドホッグ、分節

Groundhog Day
恋はデジャ・ブ◆米1993《監督》ハロルド・ライミス《出演》ビル・マーレイ、アンディ・マクドウェル聖燭節、グラウンドホッグ・デイ、マーモットの日◆2月2日。米国ペンシルヴァニア州の祝日。冬眠していたウッドチャック(Groundhog)が2月2日に穴から出てきて、自分の影が見えるかどうかで春の訪れを調べるという伝説。影が見えると春はまだ遠くあと6週間ばかり冬が続くといわれる。ペンシルベニア州パンクサトーニー(Punxsutawney)ではこの日に恒例行事が催され、パンクサトーニー・グラウンドホッグ・クラブの会長がフィル (Phil)と名づけたウッドチャックを穴から出して天気予報を行う。
The weather this winter has made me really happy, at least here in Tokyo, so I'm hoping that winter will last a little longer.



Someone advised me the other day:
Nick, you always put the chopsticks on top of your bowl before you take a picture.
× That's not a good manner.
○ That's not good manners.
When you mean "the way something is done", use "manner". However, when you mean something like "etiquette", use "manners".
  • (definitions from Edict)
  • 風 (ふう) (adj-na,n,n-suf) (1) method; manner; way; style; (2) appearance; air; (3) tendency;
  • 方法 (ほうほう) (n) method; process; manner; way; means; technique; (P);
  • 作法 (さほう) (n) manners; etiquette; propriety; (P);
  • 習慣 (しゅうかん) (n,adj-no) custom; habit; manners; (P);
This person was talking about the manner in which I place my chopsticks. Take a look at today's photo. I'm using a chopstick rest for the chopsticks.
  • 箸置 (はしおき) (n) chopstick rest;
Compare that to a recent photo of my noodles:
Do you approve of my manners now?

The other thing to notice in today's photo is that it's not noodles! Maybe you thought I only cook noodles, but it's not true! The menu for tonight's meal was fried brown rice, which was flavored with garam masala and Sri Lankan pickles. I ate that with dried tofu and cilantro, plus a bowl of spinach, onion, and garlic soup.

As a foreigner here, it's easy to have bad manners sometimes. If you catch me doing something in a manner which I should not, let me know!



I saw this poster about fire safety awareness a while ago and totally forgot about it. Given that it is winter (think kerosene heaters) it is better late than never to write a post about it.
Actually we are going to take a name-that-thing-in-English quiz. Take a look at the poster on top.

Take a look at the picture where it says "1." Do you have one in your house? I was told that we need to change the batteries at least once a year to make sure it is working.

1. So what is this item called in English?
a) fire whistler
b) smoke detector
c) smoke catcher

Next, let's take a look at what the man is holding (2). Do you know how to use one? I wonder how often we are supposed replace them.

2. What do you call the big red can?
a) fire killer
b) fire exterminator
c) fire extinguisher

Moving right along, take a look at "3"
3. What is the man trying to do?
a) He is trying to put out the fire.
b) He is trying to put off the fire.
c) He is trying to kill the fire.

And last but not least, what good is an organization without a mascot (4)? It seems that most companies have one. I recently saw a funny mascot. Do you know 地デジカ? Tokyo Sky tree has a mascot too but I forgot his name and for the life of me, I don't know this mascot's name either. Perhaps one of you kind readers out there can help me. Anyway,

4. What do we call a person who does such a job?
a) fireblower
b) fire terminator
c) firefighter

For the answers to the questions above check my next blog.

Useful vocabulary
kerosene heater~ 石油ストーブ

better late than never~ 遅くとも来ない[しない]よりはまし
I know we're late for your birthday party, but better late than never, right? :

Better late than never~ 遅くても[遅れても]何もしないよりはまし。◆後にbut better never late(でも遅れない方が良い)と続けることもある。約束の時間や締め切りなどに遅れたときの言い訳として使われることが多いが、された側が儀礼の言葉 として使うこともある

For the life of me~ どうしても、どんなことがあっても◆【直訳】私の命に懸けて~ではない◆否定を強調する口語表現
For the life of me, I can't remember why. :
But for the life of me I cannot remember his name. :



I asked someone the other day "why are you studying English". The person's answer was something like スキルアップ.
× I want to skill up.
○ I want to increase my skill at English.
○ I want to improve my English. (more natural)
In Japanese, we can find many cases of __(n)__ アップ which are not real English, like:
バストアップ (this seems to be a popular search at Google)
None of these are real English. In English, we never use __(n)__ up, and "skill", "level", "price", and "bust" are all nouns.

However, we do have many phrasal verbs using up.
__(v)__ up
For example:
  • get up
  • stand up
  • fill up
  • grow up
I was sitting in a Starbuck's across from a McDonald's and saw McDonald's latest campaign: the Texas Burger. That's what you're looking at in this photo.

I'm from Texas, so it's kind of funny to see Texas used as marketing. Since I'm a vegetarian, I'd never eat one. The gimmick is that it's supposed to be filling, right? Sure, it might fill your stomach up, but it will also fill your veins up with cholesterol. You're better off passing up the Texas Burger.
(definitions from Eijiro on the Web)
fill up
穴・隙間{すきま}・空所{くうしょ}を〕満たす、充填{じゅうてん}する、ぎっしり詰める、いっぱいにする、〔車を〕満タンにする、〔池を〕埋める、〔食欲{しょくよく}を〕満たす At this rate, our landfills will be filled up in no time. : この調子でいくと埋め立て地はすぐに満杯になってしまう。

pass up〔機会{きかい}・取引{とりひき}などを〕逃す、逸する
・How could I pass it up? : 見逃す手はないでしょ?
・That's too good of an offer to pass up. : そんなおいしい話、逃すわけないだろ。
・This is an opportunity I can't pass up. : これは見逃せない好機です。
  • 静脈 (じょうみゃく) (n,adj-no) vein; (P); (definition from Edict)
  • コレステロール (n) cholesterol; (P); (definition from Edict)



Someone looked at what I was wearing the other day and told me:
× Renick, you often wear a parka.
○ Renick, you often wear a hooded sweatshirt (hoodie).
The thing is, I do often wear a parka, but I wasn't wearing it at the time.

Have a look at these definitions. A parka is a kind of jacket, but a hooded sweatshirt is close to a sweater.
  • パーカー (n) parka (hooded jacket); hooded sweatshirt; (P);
  • sweatshirt スエットシャツ、スウェットシャツ、トレーナー、プルオーバー (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
par⋅ka – noun (definition from dictionary.com)
1. a fur coat, shirtlike and hooded, for wear in the arctic and other regions of extreme cold.
2. a hip-length jacket or overshirt with an attached hood, often of wool or of a windproof, water-repellent material lined or trimmed with wool, used by skiers, hunters, the military, etc.
3. any coat or jacket with a hood, as a hooded raincoat or windbreaker.
You can say hooded sweatshirt like the definition above, but native speakers these days say "hoodie". The "ie" in "hoodie" is kind of like ちゃん in Japanese. That's cute, right? トレーナーちゃん or something like that.

This is one of my favorite hoodies on the right at the top. Below that is my parka, which is essential in cold weather and rain. If you ever wanted to give me a gift, a black or gray hoodie is a good choice!



When I woke up on Tuesday, I checked the weather forecast. It called for rain.
  • call for ~を予言{よげん}する、~を予報{よほう}する (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
Sure enough, when I looked out the window, the sky was gray. That photo on the right is what I saw.

I looked down onto the street below, and most people were carrying umbrellas.
× Oh, it's going to be a raining day.
○ Oh, it's going to be a rainy day.
"Rainy" is an adjective. "Rain" is a verb, and "raining" (v+ing) is used in continuous tenses.
  • rainy 雨の、雨模様{あまもよう}の、雨降り{あめふり}の、雨の多い、雨にぬれた (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
I put on my rain suit on the way out the door and tried to avoid puddles as I was riding my bicycle around town. It was raining almost all day. I ride my bicycle every day, even if it rains. Still, I don't like rainy weather. Cold weather doesn't bother me so much, though.

One of the biggest problems with rainy weather and bicycles is the dirty water on the road. On the last rainy day, my tire or a passing car or bus must have thrown some water on my face. I was in a hurry somewhere. I took off my rain suit and went right inside. When I took a break about an hour later, I went to the restroom and found that I had a big black mark on my face!

If you see me on a rainy day and I have something black on my face, please tell me!


7 ways to improve your English

50 ways to help the planet. 1000 places to visit before you die. 8 foods that fight fat. 10 things not to buy in 2010. Not a day goes by without me seeing such headlines on the Internet. Let's be honest. Who doesn't like reading such lists? (Maybe I am a closet list freak.) So today I am going to give out some advice on how to improve your English. Here is my 7 ways to improve your English list. Drum roll please...

  1. Keep a simple journal. You don't have to write a full chapter everyday. A few sentences a day might do the trick. Writing is an outlet for some people to show their creative side. By writing you can increase your vocabulary gradually.
  2. Watch TV shows. Not only will it improve your listening but it is a window into another culture. Do Americans really walk around their house with their shoes on? (My mother would have tossed me out of the house if I had.)
  3. If you don't like TV shows or don't have enough time to do so I recommend listening to music or a podcast.
  4. Think in English 24/7 (If possible)
  5. Find out more about your hobby on the Internet in English. Do you like playing tennis? I am sure you will find others who love your hobby as much as you. It is a good chance to read about it in a foreign language. Who knows, you might be able to pick up a new tip or two.
  6. Come to class and practice.
  7. Find a book you like (in English of course) and read, read and then read some more. A good book and a cup of tea or coffee, a quiet afternoon. Need I say more?

I hope you find some of the advice useful. Do you have any other methods that have worked for you? Please let me know.

Vocabulary list
closet freak~~ 隠れ奇人 (Is this Japanese?)

do the trick~~目的{もくてき}を達する[達成{たっせい}する]、成果{せいか}を挙げる、うまくいく

toss (something) out of~ ~を…から追放する[放り出す], 放り出す、脱ぎ捨てる

24/7~ 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, constantly

Need I say more?~ I don't need to give additional information because the previous statements are already clear enough.



Wow! What a busy day it was! I got home tonight around 11:15pm, and immediately I started to make dinner. This is a picture of what I made.

It's one of my favorite soups: the one with the five spice powder. The difference this time is that it's full of turnip greens and dried jujubes. The side dish is a kind of half-dried bean curd from Taiwan with cilantro and a soy-sauce-based sauce.
  • turnip greens
  • jujube《植物》ナツメ (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
  • 豆乾 dried bean curd (this is Chinese, not Japanese... I know. I don't know how to say this in Japanese).
You might be saying, "ニック、何時も自分の料理をアピールしている。"
× You are always appealing the food you make.
○ You are always promoting the food you make.

The joint project aims to revive tourist numbers by promoting the beach resorts' attractions. (example from Eijiro on the Web)

promote〔商品などを〕販売促進{はんばい そくしん}する、宣伝{せんでん}する (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
I thought these dishes might be appealing for you. That's why I want to show off.
  • appealing【形】人の心を動かす(ような)、魅力的{みりょくてき}な、おいしそうな、訴求力{そきゅう りょく}がある、目立つ{めだつ}、華々{はなばな}しい
I hope you all can eat something delicious this weekend. Talk to you soon!


Happy New Year!

Some very experienced chefs gave me their suggestions on how to make ozoni. Thanks a lot for the rough recipe!
  • a rough recipe 大体のレシピ
Translating ozoni into English isn't easy; the name becomes really long, like "a dish consisting of various boiled things served in soup at New Year's".

Maybe a better name is "Japanese New Year's Soup". It's still not as easy to say as "ozoni", though.

I think I took too many naps during the break.
  • nap - 昼寝
  • take a nap
    うたた寝する、仮眠{かみん}を取る (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
As a consequence, I haven't accomplished as much as I hoped. In these last few hours of the break, I'll try to get a bit more done.
  • as a consequence 結果{けっか}として (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
I hope to give you a lot of useful posts in 2010. You can look forward to that!