Wednesday, 13 April 2011

False Cognates

Def: False cognates are pairs of words in the same or different languages that are similar in form and meaning but have different roots. That is, they appear to be, or are sometimes considered, cognates, when in fact they are not.
Tepco Logo

Is the Tepco logo a symbolic false cognate? The Tepco logo was introduced in 1987 and was created by graphics professional Kazumasa NagaiSome . Current satirical pundits say that the three circles on the top of the logo represent the three wise monkeys or () ) sanbiki no saru on the front of the Tōshō-gū shrine in Nikkō, Japan. Mizaru sees no evil, Kikazaru hears no evil and Iwazaru speaks no evil. For North Americans, the symbolic false cognate is Mickey Mouse. Given the antics of Tepco in the last month, Disney Corporation should sue Tepco for infringement of copy write and the use of their cartoon narratives. Certainly the Japanese Prime Minister, Naoto Kan has been channelling both derivatives of the symbol since the beginning of the nuclear crisis. They have a saying in Japan, 「窮地で初めて男の真価がわかる」(”kyuchi de hajimete otoko no shinka ga wakaru”; “It is when a man is placed in a tough situation that we first know his real worth.”) It’ll be interesting to see how Naoto makes out.

And who pays? The Japanese taxpayer of course. There is no catastrophic insurance for the nuclear industry. To quote Bill Schmick, “Nuclear risks like the present fallout from the Fukushima plant tend not to be insured by private companies. The quasi-government-owned Japan Earthquake Reinsurance Company will most likely bear the brunt of those losses (although this government agency might only insure half of the losses or less).  Actually, few if any insurance companies worldwide will insure against a nuclear accident, which makes the ongoing concern over the Indian Point nuclear unit in New York considerably more serious.” The reactor sits atop an old fault line that in the worst case scenario could conceivably expose 6% of America’s population to radiation and affect a comparable amount of the nation’s assets.”One question I have is why isn’t any of this discussed in the mass media? As I said earlier in posts on other blogs this is not an act of God but the logical consequence of a series of human decisions.

Meanwhile GE is laughing all the way to the bank. GE made during 2010 $14.2 billion profits worldwide and $5.1 billion profits in the US. Their tax bill in 2010 –ZERO! For most people that would be enough but GE also got a tax benefit of $3.2 billion and their financial services branch was bailed out by the US government (i.e. taxpayers.) President Obama knows a winner when he sees it so he has designated G.E.’s chief executive, Jeffrey R. Immelt, as his personal liaison to the business community and as the chairman of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness which is expected to discuss corporate taxes. 

Japan has certainly been unfortunate in the culture wars. Japan gives America Pearl Harbour, anime and sushi while America shares by giving Japan Fat boy in Hiroshima, Mickey Mouse and now Mark 1 nuclear reactors. Next time Jeffrey Immelt visits TEPCO’s chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, Tsun should quote a line by Takakura  which he delivered just before he and Ryo Ikebe were about to 殴りこみ(nagurikomi, invade the headquarters of a rival gang) in Kosaku Yamashita’s 「緋牡丹博徒」 (“Hibotan Bakuto,” “Red Peony Gambler,” 1968): 「所詮、俺達の行く先は赤い着物か、白い着物」 (“Shosen, oretachi no ikusaki wa akai kimono ka, shiroi kimono ka“; “After all, we’re bound for either a red kimono [worn by prisoners] or a white kimono [worn by the dead].”) Japan needs to borrow into the substratum of the American psyche with all the persistence of Nogales tunnel rats.  Thanks to Sarah Noorbaksh for quote.

I had an appointment with my respirologist today. If you wonder why I post at such ungodly hours in the middle of the night, I have sleep apnea. Like Aspergers this affliction does have its positive benefits, nothing like a spot of hypoxia to send your mind spinning down strange and less travelled paths. This blog started on a high note with an arty post but has rapidly descended into low humor. My bête noir is a sense of absurdity which is the maturation of my youthful existential angst as manifested in the smoky environs of Montreal’s Winston Churchill pub. I attempted to seduce impressionable young American transfer students from McGill posing as an exotic intellectual coureur de bois spouting Camus and Sartre. I’m not sure what direction this blog will take. I am working on a cooking recipe with a political twist in contrast to a lot of blogger recipes. Right now I’m having too much fun playing with the concepts to post. Trying to stay away from pedantic plodding think pieces. Any ideas?

I’ve posted long enough on this blog to invoke Godwin’s Law. Definition: As an Internet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.


  1. The last two paragraphs of this post are hilarious. I think your blog will be very successful because you have a great sense of humor and have a lot of knowledge on interesting topics. In my own experience, the most successful blogs are the ones that are eclectic. Sticking to just one topic bores readers and limits the reader base. Writing about everything that comes to mind at a given point, however, is usually a key to success.

  2. Why don't you write a post about your take on the Canadian elections? I'd love to hear your thoughts.