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  • Randall Short 1:42 am on November 14, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Feeling and Expressing Thanks 

    What do you mean when you say “thank you”? That is, what actually goes on in your mind when you thank someone for something?

    One helpful way to think about it is to consider your non-verbal language – your facial expressions, posture, tone of voice, and other body language – when you express thanks to someone. Do your eyes open wide, as if in wonder? Do you tend to squinch them a little, as if you were apologizing? Of course, different situations call for different expressions of thanks. That must be the case in just about every language and culture. But what is your default expression?

    How about the people around you? Try this. Observe people closely when they say thanks. Watch their facial expressions and body language. Listen to the sound of their voice. If you can, watch and compare people from different countries, backgrounds, ages.

    —— —— ——

    It’s interesting to consider theories about the origins of “thank you” in different languages. For instance, read this excerpt from David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5,000 Years (thanks to Brain Pickings for the interesting article and quote) and ask yourself if there’s any hint whatsoever of these senses in your own thanksgiving.

    In English, “thank you” derives from “think,” it originally meant, “I will remember what you did for me” — which is usually not true — but in other languages (the Portuguese obrigado is a good example) the standard term follows the form of the English “much obliged” — it actually does mean “I am in your debt.” The French merci is even more graphic: it derives from “mercy,” as in begging for mercy; by saying it you are symbolically placing yourself in your benefactor’s power — since a debtor is, after all, a criminal. Saying “you’re welcome,” or “it’s nothing” (French de rien, Spanish de nada) — the latter has at least the advantage of often being literally true — is a way of reassuring the one to whom one has passed the salt that you are not actually inscribing a debit in your imaginary moral account book. So is saying “my pleasure” — you are saying, “No, actually, it’s a credit, not a debit — you did me a favor because in asking me to pass the salt, you gave me the opportunity to do something I found rewarding in itself!

    Or consider Japanese expressions for giving thanks.

    Take the word for “thank you” that foreigners usually learn first, “Arigato.” When written with Chinese characters, “Arigato” combines the character for “being, to exist”「有る」(aru) and “difficult”「難」 (kata). In its original sense, the word meant something like “this is a rare thing,” or “this is rare and precious.” According to one common explanationarigato originated in the Middle Ages as a religious expression of gratitude for Buddha’s mercy and other precious things that were difficult to get by oneself.

    Also consider the ubiquitous “sumimasen.” This word can be used to say “excuse me” when you bump into someone, to apologize for being late, to call a waiter in a restaurant… and, among other uses, to express your gratitude for all sorts of things. In fact, in everyday interactions, most people use sumimasen more frequently than arigato for saying thanks. How can a single word have so many different meanings, ranging from “I’m sorry” to “thank you”? Once again, it helps to consider its etymology, even if people don’t think exactly in these terms when they say sumimasen today. Several Japanese sites I found give one or both of the following explanations:

    1. Sumimasen is the negative form of 澄む (sumu), which means “to become clear, transparent, serene.” The idea is that your heart is not serene or clear because of what someone else did for you, as if your heart is unsettled by the trouble they went to for you, or because of what you did to them.
    2. Sumimasen is the negative form of 済む (sumu), which means “to finish, to be finished.” Here the basic idea is that you can’t treat the matter as settled when someone does something for you. It’s as if you’re saying, “It can’t end like this; I must do something for you in return” (this comes close to the language of debt we saw above).

    Watch an elderly Japanese lady say “thank you” to her neighbor for some kindness. If you didn’t know the circumstances behind the sumimasen’s and arigato’s, and if you were to judge based on her facial expressions, tone of voice, and overall body language, you might think that she is apologizing for something rather than expressing gratitude. 

    I certainly do not mean to say that people think explicitly in terms of the word’s etymology when they say arigato or sumimasen. But the non-verbal language that accompanies most sumimasen’s and many arigato’s suggests this about giving thanks in most Japanese contexts: when expressing thanks, it is important to communicate to the other person (especially through non-verbal language) your recognition that he or she has gone to some degree of trouble (or “difficulty”) on your account.

    —— —— ——  

    Again, what do you mean, and how do you feel, when you say “thank you” or give thanks using other expressions?

    Do your actual feelings of thankfulness tend to center around (or largely depend upon) the gift you received? Truth be told, I think that for me “thank you” is still partly connected to how happy I am to receive this or that gift. So when a gift or act doesn’t live up to my expectations, it’s easy for me to feel like my “thank you’s” are somehow fake and empty.

    Do your feelings of thankfulness tend to center around (or focus upon) some level of wonder and delight over the other person’s generosity toward you (that is, not so much on the gift or act itself as on the fact that they did this or gave that to you)? I believe that this feeling is often behind my thanksgiving, but not as much – and not as genuinely – as I would like for it to be. As for the language to express this sense of wonder, I suppose some variation of “thank you,” “arigato,” or “kansha shimasu” does it best for me. How about you? 

    Do your feelings of gratitude tend to center around (or focus upon) the fact that the other person went to some trouble on your account? I imagine that some people view this as a guilt-laden (and therefore inferior) form of thanks — and I suppose it could be taken to unhealthy extremes, as with anything. But I think this heart of thanksgiving that focuses on the cost to the other person is quite beautiful, and I love all the drama that goes into a round of genuine sumimasen’s.

    Thank you for reading! 

  • Randall Short 10:02 pm on November 12, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Digging the Biblical World in Tokyo 

    If you happen to be in Tokyo this weekend and are interested in biblical archaeology (and understand Japanese), you might enjoy one or more lectures at this two-day seminar at Sophia University: 


    Excavating the Biblical World 
    The Current State of Biblical Archaeology

    Here’s more information in English and Japanese at Japanese Biblical Studies.

  • Randall Short 8:29 pm on November 10, 2014 Permalink | Reply  


    I’m testing out a new online publishing app for OS X called Desk

    I hope to use it for my WordPress sites. Desk also publishes to Blogger, Tumblr, Facebook, Typepad, Movable Type, and Squarespace (with more on the way).

    I especially appreciate the developer’s aim to make it super easy to write and share posts (see “Decisions, Not Options”).  

    Desk is built with that intent and mission in mind: To reduce the clutter, the noise, the distractions and the obstructions that keep us from writing and sharing those stories.

    I also appreciate the developer’s enthusiasm for storytelling. I hope to do more of that…

  • Randall Short 12:26 am on May 11, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Biblical Languages, Greek   

    New Testament Greek Studies in Japanese 

    If you read Japanese, or if you’re just interested in eccentricities, please take a look at my site for Japanese speakers studying New Testament Greek. The site is called Shinyaku Seisho Girishiago Kōza新約聖書ギリシア語講座).  

    I began with a series of videos in which I explain the exercise problems in the Japanese version of Jeremy Duff’s The Elements of New Testament Greek. Since I posted the first video about 3 weeks ago, the videos have been viewed for around 40 hours. That’s quite a bit more than I expected.

    Elements Girishiago

    This week I’ve begun a series of original short stories. I’m having my students write the stories in Japanese using only the vocabulary (list 1 and list 2) and grammar that they’ve learned so far. Then I translate the stories into Greek. The stories are simple, but they are a lot more fun to read than the exercises. It’s my first attempt to do extensive reading in New Testament Greek. Even if you don’t read Japanese, perhaps you can enjoy the Japanese-Greek stories.

    I’d be grateful for any help with getting the word out. You never know where you might find philhellenic Japanese. 

  • Randall Short 9:25 pm on December 10, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    New Issue of Old Testament Studies (in Japan) 

    At Japanese Biblical Studies, I’ve posted the English and Japanese titles of articles in the recent issue of Old Testament Studies, the journal of the Society for Old Testament Study in Japan. 

    Old Testament Studies 9 (2012)

    I also happen to have an article in this issue, which is based on a paper that I gave at the SOTSJ annual meeting in 2011. Take a look

  • Randall Short 6:14 am on August 4, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    A Window into New Testament Studies in Japan 

    It’s significant when a nation’s scholars in any given discipline get together. Next month, members of Japan’s small but active Society of New Testament Studies will gather for their two-day annual meeting in Nagoya, a large city in central Japan.

    If you would like to see what Japan’s New Testament scholars will be talking about at this year’s meeting, take a look at my translation of the paper titles. And if you happen to be a student or scholar of the New Testament, see if you recognize any of the names (especially among the moderators, who are mostly senior scholars).

    Nagoya CastleA Japanese painting from Nagoya Castle in Nagoya, Japan

  • Randall Short 10:40 am on July 29, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Online Resources for Research in Japan 

    Japan’s National Institute of Informatics (NII) has a very helpful site for doing research in Japan, about Japan, and about practically anything else. The site is GeNii – NII Scholarly and Academic Information Portal.

    I’m especially interested in using GeNii for research in biblical studies, but GeNii’s resources are essential for any discipline’s students and scholars who wish to benefit from Japanese research.

    GeNii 学術コンテンツ・ポータル

  • Randall Short 9:14 am on July 21, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Japanese Biblical Studies: for the Church, Academy, and World 

    My new blog, Japanese Biblical Studies, is all about biblical studies by and/or for Japanese.

    JapaneseNewInterconfBiblePhoto by Yoshi Canopus

    The first post, Introducing Japanese Biblical Studies, lists my 6 categories:

    • News
    • Publications
    • People
    • Education
    • Pop Culture
    • Nota Bene

    I usually encourage my kids and students to keep in mind a particular audience when they write. I’m still working on that. 

    Who do you think might be interested?

  • Randall Short 12:38 pm on March 10, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Arts and Sciences, Education, , Harvard   

    Making Big Ideas White-hot 

    It’s fairly common to see college professors become hugely popular in Japan. For one reason or another, they’ll suddenly become regular guests on TV variety shows, and their books will start selling like crazy. This happens to foreign professors, too. Like Harvard University’s Michael Sandel.

    NHK, Japan’s widely-viewed public TV station, made Sandel into a star in Japan when it began airing his Justice lectures. NHK’s title for the program is Harvard White-hot Classroom (Habado Hakunetsu Kyoshitsu / ハーバード白熱教室).

    Justice with Michael Sandel

    NHK DVD at Amazon Japan

    A lot of people watched this program. I mean a LOT. So today, you can walk into a small, general bookstore just about anywhere in Japan and find Sandel in translation, books about Sandel’s books, and books about Sandel’s teaching style.

    Professor Sandel was characteristically humble in his reaction to the Japanese public’s swooning over him and his Justice course.

    “I am astonished and delighted by the popularity of ‘Justice’ in Japan. There seems to be a great yearning, in Japan as in the U.S., for public discussion of big ideas, especially about ethics and values.”
    Japan Real Time (WSJ)

    I think he’s right about the “yearning” in Japan to learn and discuss big ideas. But the fact is, it took someone like him, with his engaging teaching style, to make it happen. How does he do it? Certainly not by remaining behind the lectern and delivering a dry talk. What then? At Organizing Creativity, Daniel Wessel explains many of Sandel’s teaching practices:

    • Well-Timed speech
    • Suiting movements
    • Shows everyday relevance of the issues
    • Encourages participation [Daniel explains 9 strategies]
    • Minding the overall course of the discussion, lecture, course
    • Keeps the discussion personally relevant but in a personal distance

    Daniel explains these points in quite a bit of detail, so do take a look.

    Sandel may be a genius, but I suspect that he has also worked incredibly hard to package and deliver his “big ideas” so effectively. Don’t overlook this point: Sandel is teaching some of the world’s most intelligent young people, and yet, he doesn’t take the “easy” route of using the arcane language of his discipline. Instead, he communicates some of the world’s deepest philosophical and ethical thinking through language, stories, and techniques that can appeal to ordinary people in foreign countries. That’s truly remarkable.

    For the past couple of years, I’ve been working with a friend and colleague to do something similar for English learners (especially for ESL / EFL learners, but also for emerging readers who are native English speakers).


    I meet a lot of people in Japan who have given up on learning English after finishing their formal education. Schools motivated them through tests and entrance exams. “Learning English” was/is often the primary goal of English learning. So, what we’re trying to do at is to help people refocus their language-learning goals on things that really matter, like the big ideas they can learn and the meaningful connections they can make.

    We’re convinced that people’s curiosity about arts and sciences around the world can help to sustain individual and community learning for a lifetime. Okay, maybe that’s a complicated way to put it. What I mean is this. We think that big ideas are white-hot. And we think that, if we tell them right, they’ll light a fire that no one can put out.


    • Kennedy 9:22 pm on March 10, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      He does not give surmountable conclusions at the end of his lectures, but leaves everybody hanging and guessing, while at the same time making one appreciate that the issues discussed are bigger than oneself, and the debates will go on.

    • Randall Short 3:48 pm on March 11, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Good points. Being left guessing . . . being drawn up into stories and ideas bigger than yourself . . . you can’t help but think and talk with others about it. Sort of like what happens with some of the best TV drama series. But we tend to make class sessions like bad sitcoms. There’s never a problem that can’t be solved in 22 minutes.

  • Randall Short 1:49 pm on January 3, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Exporting Entries from Day One to Scrivener 

    I’ve been enjoying Day One (Bloom Built) on my MacBook Pro and iPad from day one of 2012. I’m already using it to record thoughts and ideas on a range of topics, and I tried my first export of journal entries today.


    One problem is that Day One exports all of the entries into a single text file. I like the text file. But I don’t like (a) not being able to choose which entries to export, and (b) having them all in a single file.

    I don’t have a solution for exporting a selection of entries. It appears that Day One is working on that, including some sort of tag feature.

    Enter Scrivener.

    Scrivener. Y'know - for writers.

    Scrivener gives you an easy way to convert Day One’s single text file into separate entries.

    1. In Day One, conclude each entry with any set of characters that you’re unlikely to use in the body of your entries. I use five dashes.
    2. Export your entries from Day One (File -> Export).
    3. In Scrivener, select File -> Import -> Import and Split. A file selection window should open.
    4. At the bottom of the file selection window, you should see a smaller window labeled “Sections are separated by:” Type your character set there (for example, it’s five dashes for me), and click “Import.”

    That should do it. You should now see all of your Day One entries as separate documents in Scrivener’s binder. And if you wish, you can easily export these from Scrivener as separate files in one of several formats.

    I expect that Day One will provide their own solution in the future, but I couldn’t wait.

    • abas 8:34 am on October 10, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      thanks very useful tip!

    • Jose Luis Farina Peters 1:19 am on January 2, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Wonderful, Randall!

      Simple enough, yet hadn’t crossed my mind.

      Thank you!

    • tommy 4:46 pm on January 7, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      I’ve been interested in Day One for a while, but balked because I read a number of reviews indicating they lost all their entries. I have Scrivener so I think this method of backing up will alleviate my fear of losing any work I put into Day One.

      WIll this method bring over any images added to the post, or have you tried that?

      • Randall Short 5:21 pm on January 7, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        I haven’t had any problems with lost entries, but I remember reading something about that awhile back. Let’s hope they’ve fixed that by now.

        I’ve never used images in Day One (or Scrivener, for that matter), but I just gave it a shot. The image didn’t make it through. Day One only supports exports in Text and Markdown formats, and the images get stripped at that point.

        I never really thought about storing images in Day One, but this review makes a good case for it (though, someone there, too, comments on the inability to export photos):

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