Finally, for reasons

« previous post | next post »

Reader JL sent in a pointer to this wonderful picture from the blog The Thought Experiment:

JL observes that

There's much to like, obviously. The sequence

First of all…
After that…

is especially nice.

And E. at Thought Experiment notes that

To be honest, when I drink, it is often “to refuse the future” and “for reasons,” so this sake advertisement actually speaks quite effectively to me.

I can only add that a version of this sign was posted by Mark Schreiber at in February of 2007, identified as a "bar sign found in Tokyo".

[Note that Mark Etherington has identified the source: a famous 17th-century English version of a 16th-century Latin epigram, translated into Japanese and then translated back into English…]


  1. Chris Vosburg said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 4:28 pm

    You know– reasons! [laughing]

  2. Tom said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 4:36 pm

    Don Pedro: Officers, what offense have these men done?
    Dogberry: Marry, sir, they have committed false report; moreover, they have spoken untruths; secondarily, they are slanders; sixth and lastly, they have belied a lady; thirdly, they have verified unjust things; and, to conclude, they are lying knaves.

  3. Janice in GA said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 4:45 pm

    Dammit, Tom beat me to Dogberry's speech! That was exactly the first thing I thought of when I read the poster.


  4. Sid Smith said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 5:30 pm

    > Dogberry's speech

    The slightly crazed list gave me an echo of Kit Smart's hymn to his cat Jeoffrey, "For he can spraggle upon waggle at the word of command":

  5. JS Bangs said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 5:34 pm

    "To refuse the future" is the loveliest reason for drinking sake that I've ever encountered. The next time I feel the need to refuse the future (which is often), I shall think of this advertisement.

  6. notrequired said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 5:36 pm

    I refudiate the future! Kanpai.

  7. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 6:19 pm

    'It fills with the nectar' presumably represents 'good wine'; but why has 'a friend' been replaced by 'the national holiday'?

    [(myl) A good question. Maybe some ambiguity of the kanji in a possible translation for "friend"?]

  8. Mark Etherton said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 5:48 pm

    As Henry Aldrich wrote:

    If on my theme I rightly think,
    There are five reasons why men drink:—
    Good wine; a friend; because I'm dry;
    Or lest I should be by and by;
    Or — any other reason why.

    [(myl) On reflection, the pictured sign must be a (slightly re-ordered) English translation of a Japanese translation of that poem.

    In particular, "Next, to heal the dryness of the place. / After that, to refuse the future." must correspond to

    … because I'm dry;
    Or lest I should be by and by;

    I like the re-translated version much better.

    As long as we're tracing things back, note that Aldrich (?) was translating an earlier Latin version

    Si bene commemini, causae sunt quinque bibendi;
    Hospitis adventus, praesens sitis, atque futura,
    Aut vini bonitas, aut quaelibet altera causa

    (Apparently by Jean Sirmond.) ]

  9. Janne said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 8:41 pm

    A cafe in the neighbourhood (in Osaka) has a long, rambling nonsensical English text in a similar style all over its front shop window. I once sked why they'd have such a thing? Of course they know it's wrong and nearly unintelligible, he answered; it's on purpose. A design accent by the interior designer to make the place feel just a little foreign. Sort of a discordant note in a very smoothly blended harmony of design. What it says doesn't matter, just as long as the visitors don't actually understand it. It should impart a sense that there is a real, deep meaning below the surface drivel. You can see the same design trope fairly frequently in cafes and bars, t-shirts and so on.

    This is corraborated, I think, by another cafe in Umeda in Osaka. It's a Swedish-style cafe, and they have a mural of sorts with a long text – in Swedish – about Swedens cafe culture. The text is in Swedish this time, not mangled English, so it's transparently obvious that the vast majority of customers will not have a clue what it says. Again the idea is to use the surface aspects of language to impart some emotional tone to the place.

    They did get a little ahead of themselves in this case; the name, transcribed from Japanese, is "Nord cafe". The sign, in latin alphabet, would be the Swedish "Nordkaffe", but that wasn't exotic enough, so they replaced "o" with "ö" for a bit of Nordic umlauty goodness. Which unfortunately changes the meaning to "Nerd coffee". Not that it matters, of course, as their customers wouldn't have a clue about it anyhow.

  10. Nathan Myers said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 9:58 pm

    "Ohana" is Hawai'ian for "family" (strictly, "blood relations").

  11. John Cowan said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 10:26 pm

    Until Nathan's clarifying note, I was reading the headline as "Obama" and wondering why he in particular would want to drink sake.

  12. Janne said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 10:31 pm

    Ohana is also honorific form of "flower". Which, considering the drink and the sign are both from Japan, is the more probable origin of the word in the commercial. It's just the kind of name you'd give some brand of sake.

  13. Lane said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 10:55 pm

    "For reasons" reminds me of something I associate with Chris Onstad and the Achewood cartoon. "The dude is from circumstances" is an Achewood-ism, and I know there are more I can't think of right now. "Reasons" and "circumstances" both beg for something to follow (though syntactically they don't need it, semantically they want it), and to say "I'm drinking for *reasons*" is as poetic as "the dude is from *circumstances*."

    "From circumstances"

    "If you got conditions"

  14. Jeff DeMarco said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 12:56 am

    And to think I wasted milliseconds coming up with the exact Dogberry quote myself! My favorite is "for reason" (coming in at 4th place!)

  15. JFM said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 5:18 am

    It seems to me they have managed to formulate the meaning(s) of life.

  16. Sili said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 6:37 am

    Until Nathan's clarifying note, I was reading the headline as "Obama" and wondering why he in particular would want to drink sake.

    You can't have been following the news too closely. I'm pretty sure that's reasons enough to one's full measure of anything – and then some.

    And then consequences will never be the same.

  17. John Cowan said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 8:04 am

    Sili: Quite right; I don't follow the news, closely or otherwise.

  18. Q. Pheevr said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 9:12 am

    I would totally drink at a café called Nerd Coffee. For reasons.

  19. Xmun said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 5:02 pm

    Thanks to Mark Etherton for identifying the source. However, the text given in the New Oxford Book of Seventeenth Century Verse (1991), edited by Alastair Fowler, reads as follows:

    If all be true that I do think,
    There are five reasons we should drink:
    Good wine; a friend; or being dry;
    Or lest we should be, by and by;
    Or any other reason why.

    The title given is "A Catch", and the text is taken from Henry Playford's The Banquet of Music, III (1689).

    How did the garbled version get to Tokyo? These things travel. I once heard the story of Macbeth (I think it was) retold as a Nigerian folk tale.

  20. Kevin said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 2:33 am

    @Janne perhaps it's a Japanese branch of this English chain:

    (yes, I know what it's supposed to say, but I always read it as "nerd" at first glance)

  21. Alcohol, from Oxford to Tokyo | said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 10:09 am

    […] a sign in a Tokyo restaurant, reported by The Thought Experiment (thanks to Language Log for the […]

  22. Michael Zeleny said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 11:36 am

    An earlier and better photo:

  23. Ant said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 6:48 pm

    Further to Xmun's comment, the music to that catch is by Purcell, and for what it's worth may be found at

    – it's quite fun to sing!

  24. jt said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 4:17 am

    Won in translation!

RSS feed for comments on this post