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Help "Saturday is good" ...am I missing something???


27 Apr 2018

Hello, friends:

I'm trying to get the punch line (if there is one) to a little story in a Minna text book.

Here's the synopsis (as I understand it):

Miguel, (a non-Japanese), is teaching his Japanese friend Spanish. The friend said he needs more lessons, as he's going to Spain next month. Miguel says: "Sure, shall I come Saturday?". The friend says Saturday is good. Miguel shows up on Saturday as promised but there's no friend. The next day Miguel phones his friend and says, "I was at your place yesterday you know...". The friend says: "Didn't we say Saturdays were nice?"

Here are the pertinent bits of the original Japanese:

[I'll skip the bit about Miguel going to his friend's on Saturday, but no friend...]
What I am thinking is that their misunderstanding turns on one's understanding of what is meant by いい; either that it means good as in "convenient", or good as in "nice/pleasant". Miguel and his friend are apparently each taking いい to mean something different. So, is that all there is to this??? I feel like I"m over thinking it, but given the context of the discussion, (arranging extra Spanish lessons), the misunderstanding seems unlikely. So what am I missing?

If anyone would like to help me undertstand this that would be great! Thank you! ;)
土曜日はいいです can be interpreted both as an affirmative or a negative answer.
Miguel interpreted it as an affirmative answer (e.g. "Yes, Saturday is good"), while his friend was actually declining the offer for Saturday (e.g. "No thanks, I'm good on Saturday").
aaaaaaahhhh...that is so subtle. Or at least it was far too subtle for my poor brain!

So to paraphrase I (along with Miguel) understood the topic "Saturday" to be the subject of いいです in his friend's reply, whereas the friend intended himself to the subject, notwithstanding Saturday remaining the topic .

That's actually kind of a brilliant nuance. I can imagine high-powered business negotiations exploiting that sort of vagueness. "Waitaminit, are you saying...?" :unsure:

Incidentally, the short paragraph was one of three in a reading exercise whose theme was faux-pas that foreigners can make in Japan; (taking an express train that blows past a desired station, and washing oneself in a bathtub then draining the water were the other two stories). I can see myself making Miguel's mistake for sure! :oops:

Thank you, Raikado; much appreciated!
Hi there...thought I'd write again to save anyone the trouble of correcting my earlier post.

I see now that I was wrong when I replied earlier to Raikado. The answer, as correctly offered by Raikado, is much simpler than I made it out to be.

いい can mean "good", but it can also be used to decline an offer, similar to the way "fine" can be used to say no. "Would you like something to drink?" "I'm fine, thank you."

Nothing else needs to be said to explain the misunderstanding of Miguel and his friend. Sorry for my confusion :confused:, and thanks again! I guess I've learned the hard way that いい could potentially mean either yes or no, but let's hope not both at the same time!
In spoken language, the intonation of いい differs depending on the meaning "yes or no", but actually it's sometimes confusing even for natives,so it's sometimes necessary to ask again いいってどっちの意味? "Which do you mean by いい, yes or no?".

That's a very useful phrase to know...I'm adding it to my notes right now!! :geek:
Reading this brought back some great memories of Japan life.
The good thing is when you are in person there is body language to make it clear.😁
Also this is when folks use a follow up confirmation statement , in this case , " So I'll see you Saturday then?"
At work we have meetings where it can feel like topics are being run into the ground just to ensure that everyone is crystal clear. Luckily I learned this in Japan and don't mind but it drives some of my fellow American coworkers crazy.😂
Hi, Akmatsu:

Thanks for sharing your most interesting insight and experience. I'm so glad my difficulty understanding the Minna story triggered such pleasant memories from Japan.

You've confirmed perfectly what the Minna writers had in mind when they described the faux-pas of Miguel, knowing that a 日本人 would have done just what you said: "So I'll see you Saturday then?", whereas a foreigner like Miguel would have felt, as your American co-workers did, that additional confirmations were unnecessary.

For me, also, this a small but beautiful example of cultural nuances being expressed linguistically. Or would that be linguistic nuances being represented culturally? Ha, in any event, I am so grateful I have people here to explain these things for me!

Thank you!
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