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The minutiae of life take up a tremendous amount of time. Minutiae? Is that a new vocabulary word? Minutiae mean small details. What are the small details of life? Completing forms, cleaning off your desk, getting a haircut, washing your car, filling up the tank with gas. The minutiae of life take time and effort. Minutiae are the small tasks we all have to do each day.



Minutiae: small details
Tremendous: huge, large
Completing: finishing
Tank: the place in your car where gasoline is stored
Effort: attempt, try
Have to do: must



Words and phrases that you just heard
This is Jenna
A coffee shop
Sips coffee
What human beings do
The question for you
Just part of

Summer activities

So what do you do on a sunny summery Sunday afternoon in San Francisco? You take your catamaran on the bay for the afternoon. You can sail out to Angel Island, which is at the top left of the photo or to Alcatraz, which is at the top right. You can go hiking on Angel Island, or you can see Alcatraz Prison, which is now a state park.





Summery: summer in adjective form
Catamaran: a boat with more than one hull



Words and phrases that you just heard
California cuisine
Locally grown fruits
And fusion
Kind of cuisine
California style pizza
Artichokes and spinach

Good fences


American poet Robert Frost wrote this: Good fences make good neighbors. He probably meant that fences give people some privacy. Neighbors do not usually walk into your garden if you have a fence. Good neighbors are people who understand the difference between where they are welcome and where they are not welcome. Good neighbors avoid barging in.






Probably: most likely
Meant: past tense of mean, intend
Privacy: space to yourself
Neighbors: people living near you
Avoid: keep away from
Barging in: entering without permission



Words and phrases that you just heard
We humans
Separate traffic
Although no one
Mark our territories










This is not how we eat every day, but this lunch was unusual. We had a Halloween party and fifty or so people came for lunch. These were giant subs, which were being cut into smaller sizes. Some of the giant subs were filled with turkey and cheese. Some were tuna with celery and lettuce. Another had lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and pickles. They are all gone now. We served punch, a pasta salad and apple pie a la mode.


Unusual: not usual
Giant: big, huge
Subs: Submarine sandwiches
Punch: fruit drink
Apple pie a la mode: apple pie with ice cream on top



Imagine the size
Grocery stores have
Large packages of cookies
Wrapped in cellophane
Two dozen-cartons
Large bottles of catsup

My lunch




This is what I had for lunch, a hummus sandwich. I know you do not see the sandwich. That’s because this is an open faced sandwich. The bottom piece of bread is there but the top is not. Hence, the sandwich is called open faced. At the bottom is a piece of brown bread. On top of the bread is a layer of hummus. On top of the hummus are cucumbers, avocadoes and tomatoes. On the side is quinoa with greenery.



Hummus: a spread made from chickpeas, olive oil and garlic
Open faced sandwich: a sandwich with the bottom slice of bread but without a top slice
Brown: in this context, whole grain
Quinoa: a grain similar to rice
Greenery: in this context, raw green vegetables such as lettuce, arugula and parley



Words and phrases that you just heard
Quinoa is a relatively
Colombia and Peru
Essential amino acids
A complete protein source
U.S. space agency

At the optometrist

I went to see my optometrist recently. Can you tell from this picture what an optometrist does? I don’t find optometry that interesting, but something in this photo caught my eye: do you see the pirate and the mouse? Is that a mouse? Such pictures are common in the United States. People put their children’s artwork in their offices for everyone to see. I don’t remember seeing children’s artwork or photos displayed in Japan in the same way.



Optometrist: a person who examines the eyes for problems seeing and prescribes lenses


We have listed some of the words here in case you hear them, can’t catch them, and want to know how they are spelled. You may want to look some of these up in the dictionary too.





This couple was waiting to get their car. It had just been serviced. I talked with the woman when her partner went to get the car. She told me how shy she was. She had a slight accent. I didn’t have the time to listen carefully as our conversation was short. Between her accent and her mannerisms, combined with the cigarette, I think she was French. I love this picture. Were it not for the cigarette, the picture would be perfect.



Serviced: Taken care of. The car has had a tune-up. It has been taken care of.
Partner: Your romantic interest who you normally live with. Partner is gender free and does not contain any marital information. Still, if someone says, this is my partner, I assume they are not married.


We have listed some of the words here in case you hear them, can’t catch them, and want to know how they are spelled. You may want to look some of these up in the dictionary too.




New words
Are these new words? We think they are relatively new. You can see how they were made below. Adding prefixes is one way we make new words.


Unlearning: un + learning (the opposite of learning)
Doable: do + able (able to do)





This store will be closed until next Monday.










状態A until 状態あるいは行為B






This store will be closed until next Monday.をネイティブが見れば、月曜日にはお店が開くと理解することがあります。「ことがある」とはネイティブでも開いているのか閉まっているのか不確かなのです。




私なら、  This store will open next Monday. と訳すでしょう。













と ころが、日本の社会では英検1級などの資格を持っていればなんでもすらすれ英語に訳せるだろうと勝手に理解し、ホームページの英訳を依頼するといった無謀 なことを行う会社が多くあります。そのため、日本企業の英語ホームページには奇妙な表現のページが多々あります。丁度、東南アジアの国を訪れると奇妙な日 本語に出くわすのと似ています。



Can you Eat Natto? 納豆を「食べられる」これは正しい英語表現でしょうか


食べ物の話になると、多くの日本人は、判で押したように納豆を「食べられる」かどうか質問します。しかし、納豆はノーマルな体に大変よい食品で、「食べられる」かどうかの対象ではありません。相手が納豆を「食べる」かどうか質問すべきです。いずれの場合も、納豆は、何度か食べているうちにだんだん好きになる食べ物(acquired taste)なので、納豆に馴染みのない人にいきなり「納豆をたべますか?」または、「(ノーマルな食品でない)納豆を食べられますか?」と聞くのは、お勧めできません。





Only Japanese People Can Eat Natto


First, we would like to start with a grammar point. The title of this chapter, “Only Japanese People Can Eat Natto,” is a grammatical mistake. If it were true, the correct title would be “Only Japanese People Eat Natto.”

Continuing with more grammar, if you meet someone from overseas and want to ask if they eat natto, the correct question would be as follows:


Do you eat natto?


Can would not be used, because it implies that some people can and some people can’t. We don’t talk about food like that, whether it is natto, vegemite, or chitlins.



Chitlins: cooked pork intestines. The proper name is chitterlings.

Vegemite: an Australian spread made from yeast products.


Can is used with some eating questions like the following:


Can you eat 10 hotdogs in 10 minutes?

Can you eat glass?


Both of these questions ask things that are not normal. Therefore, we use the word can.


Returning to the natto question, probably very few Westerners spend more than a week in Japan without being asked if they can eat natto. In English, many people say natto. If that is not understood, natto can always be explained as fermented soy beans.  

Some people eat natto and some do not. Natto is a very healthy food and Westerners interested in good health are probably more likely to eat it. Like many other foods with strong tastes, natto is an acquired taste. Some people acquire it and some do not.

If you would like to ask a Westerner living in Japan a question that they are often asked, and probably tired of hearing, asking them if they eat natto is an excellent question.

Please note the sarcasm in the above sentences.


Sarcasm: Saying something when you don’t mean it.


Is this great interest in natto another part of believing in the uniqueness of Japan?

What is it that makes Japanese believe in uniqueness? Or looking at the other side of the coin, why do Americans believe that everyone who immigrates to America can learn English and how things are done in America?