すみません vs. すいません

So, I’m not crazy.

I was re-watching きみはペット (incidentally, one of my favorite Japanese dramas) and I confirmed a long-standing suspicion. A lot of Japanese people pronounce すません as すません.

For years I’ve thought my brain was somehow not computing the み sound correctly until I actually saw it spelled with い in a manga I was reading.

The general consensus from all the language forums I’ve combed through seems to be that すません is a colloquial and more casual way of pronouncing すません. The latter is always used when you’re being exceptionally apologetic (as opposed to simply trying to catch someone’s attention) and/or speaking formally to superior.

Probably because I don’t know the language that intimately, I’ve always assumed Japanese to be a really rigid language compared to Korean. There aren’t any complex pronunciation rules like in Korean, hiragana/katakana spelling is pretty much 100% phonetic, and verb conjugations are shockingly regular…. I guess that’s why this ‘mispronunciation’ surprised me so much.

I am getting to the point in Japanese where I’m finally starting to pick up on colloquialisms and slang, which is kind of cool. (The first bit of Japanese slang I picked up was the word 「ちょう」). At some point I should graduate from reading manga to actual novels so I don’t sound like a middle schooler the next time I’m in Japan.

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On a related note, anime has been holding my attention far better than Korean dramas these days. (I couldn’t even make it past episode four of 마녀보감, the last drama I attempted to watch. Sigh.)

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ReLIFE has been my favorite this season (definitely one of my favorites in the last couple years too). The story hits home–a 27-year old man, recently unemployed, gets the chance to participate in an experiment that lets him redo his senior year of high school. The webcomic is also available to read for free on comico! I know I’ve written a ton about webcomics/shows that I never actually finish (heh), but this one I can recommend wholeheartedly.

青春

I rewatched a couple episodes of my favorite Japanese drama (野ブタ。をプロデュース) with Korean subtitles recently.  That was quite the experience.  My brain felt like it was doing gymnastics at the Olympics.  The awesome thing is that I understood maybe 85-90% of the Korean subtitles I read, while my ears also understood maybe 10-15% of the Japanese.  My brain kept trying to connect the two, but the synapses just didn’t seem to be forming.  Haha.  Well, I’ll keep watching and see if it gets easier.

I won’t write about how much I adore this drama but it is, hands down, out of all the Asian dramas I’ve ever watched, my absolute favorite.  It is the perfect story of youthful earnestness, camaraderie, and life in general.  And it never ever fails to makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.  After rewatching it though, this part from episode 1 really stuck out.

彰:青春ってさ、いまいちよくわかんないんだよね。
修二:まあ、俺が思うに、誰もやったことのないようなことをしてみるとか。あと、挫折するまで、自分の能力を出し切って見るとか。まあ、そういうことなんじゃ。
彰:で。何やりますか?
修二:それは自分で考えろよ。

AKIRA:  Youth – I’m not really sure what that means, you know.
SHUUJI:  Well, to me, it’s kind of like trying to do something no one else has ever done before.  Or giving it your all until you collapse.  Something like that.
AKIRA:  Hm.  What should I do?
SHUUJI:  That’s something you have to figure out for yourself!  

The word that really got to me was 青春「せいしゅん」 (청춘 in Korean), which means youth or (rather floridly) “the bloom of youth.”  It made me sit back and reexamine my life.  In high school, my dream was to become a published writer before I graduated college.  That was the big thing I desperately wanted to have accomplished while I was still in my 青春.

For better or worse, that didn’t work out and here I am.

Ever since I started graduate school, I’ve been wondering if I’ve just doomed myself to wasting away my 青春 at the lab bench, in the tissue culture hood, or in front of the microscope (though microscopy is fun), in a futile attempt to “do something no one else has ever done before” (which is the essence of a scientific discovery).  The doubts are making me realize that I’m still at the “figuring out” stage in my life and, meanwhile, my youth is flying past me.  

And I don’t think I’m the only one feeling like this.  Several of my friends have hit a “Quarter-Life Crisis,” if you will, where they feel like they need to be doing something great but just don’t know what.  Is society to blame for this in some way?  Have young people just been conditioned to feel like they need to have changed the world before the hit 35?  Or is youth really about attempting the impossible?  I’m not even sure anymore.  In any case, when I was feeling my lowest, I saw this comic –

– and it made me feel better.  It’s time to get over this existential crisis and move on before I worry my 青春 away.