"Rural Amorous Feelings", part 2

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Bob Sanders writes:

"I was just reading today's online issue of the NZ Herald and came upon the following photo":

The section of the NZ Herald in which this photograph appears is labeled "Sideswipe: January 5: Funghi looking for good times".  Yes, we're talking about mushrooms, specifically "cloud ear" (yún'ěr 云耳 / 雲耳) , as you can see from the round sticker on the package.

For the terminology related to cloud ear fungus (Auricularia polytricha, syn. Hirneola polytricha), an edible jelly fungus, here's the relevant section from the Wikipedia article on this fungal delicacy:

It is known as Mandarin Chinese云耳pinyinyún'ěr, lit. "cloud ear")Chinese毛木耳pinyinmáomù'ěr, lit. "hairy wood ear"), and in Japanese it is called ara-ge-ki-kurage (アラゲキクラゲ, lit. "rough-hair-tree-jellyfish"). It is also known as black fungusblack Chinese fungus (or mushroom)wood ear funguswood fungusear fungus, or tree ear fungus, an allusion to its rubbery ear-shaped growth. In Europe, it is frequently misidentified as "Jew's ear"*, and "Jelly ear", which are very closely related but distinct species.

In Hawaii, it is known as pepeiao which means "ear". In Southeast Asia, it is known as bok née in local English (from the Hokkien 木耳 bo̍k-ní) and is used in the salad kerabu bok nee. In Indonesia and Malaysia, it is called jamur kuping, meaning "the ear mushroom", and in the Philippines, the locals call it tenga ng daga, meaning "rat's ear", due to its appearance. In Chinese cooking, it is often referred to as "Black Treasure".

*[VHM:  We have discussed this term several times on LL, for which please do your own Googling.]

Bob continues:

Personally, I have no idea where the "Rural Amorous Feelings" comes from, but if anyone can tell me it would be you. BTW, my wife tells me that the Japanese 分厚さ does not work there.

The first part is easy, since I had already blogged about the brand name 3 years ago:  "Rural amorous feelings" (5/11/14).  The second part leads us into murky territory.

I'm perplexed by this Japanese:

Chiisai sanson kara no sobokusa to buatsusa
"Rusticity and thickness from a tiny mountain village"

What does "thickness" have to do with good quality of dried mushrooms for eating?

The company that produces these amorous fungi, Shanghai Dashanhe Edible Technology Co., Ltd., is based in China, yet it clearly has pretensions to Japaneseness.

But I wonder whether the line in question was written by Japanese?  Or by Chinese pretending to be Japanese?

First stab from a Japanese colleague who prefers to remain anonymous:

Buatsui 分厚い (VHM:  "thick; bulky; heavy; massive") here probably means substantial in size or meaty.  I guess this type of mushroom is not usually described as meaty.

Nathan Hopson comments:

Grammatically, it's fine, though the native preference here would be the idiomatic conjugation of chiisai (an -i adjective) as chiisana (a -na adjective), and just mura (村) rather than sanson (山村).

And to be truly natural in lexicon, grammar, etc.,

Chiisana mura kara no sobokuna aji (or ajiwai)
小さな村からの素朴な味 (or 味わい)

would likely be best.

Frank Chance remarks:

Yes, it is a little strange. My guess is that they are confusing koi 濃い thick (i.e. dense in texture and/or flavor, as in koicha 濃茶 the thicker, more formal tea used in some tea “ceremonies;” the other kind of less formal tea is of course usucha 薄茶 thin tea) with (bu)atsui (分)厚い thick in physical depth. Google Translate or some other machine translation might be the culprit.

An example sentence for you: For lunch today I had thick miso soup 濃い味噌汁 in a thick bowl 分厚い茶碗. 今日の昼食はぶ厚い茶碗に濃い味噌汁でした。

The whole phrasing suggests an English descriptive phrase centered on nominalized adjectives rather than a Japanese descriptive phrase. Though sobokusa and buatsusa are technically grammatically correct, both of them seem like forced usages in Japanese. Also chiisai sanson is odd—I would expect chiisana sanson 小さな山村 instead. Finally, the phrase just stops—there is no copula or verb.

I could roughly translate it as “From a smallish mountain village simplicity and thickness.” Indeed, it does not parse well or make a lot of sense.

Please wear a 分厚い coat if you go outside today—it is cold out there. [VHM: It was 0º F / -18º C in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania when Frank wrote that.]

And I very much appreciate these observations of Cecilia Segawa Seigle:

When mushrooms are fresh (before drying), thickness may be treasured, yes.  We like fresh fat mushrooms.

But we don't want thickness in dried mushrooms (they will be only hard).

The picture of the dried mushrooms has nothing to do with "buatsusa." And amorous?

You are right,  I am convinced the whole thing was written by Chinese, and "amorous" is their translation of something.

"Buatsusa" could be the solid rusticity of mountain life and the people who live there.  But what does "amorousness" have to do with it?  Especially with the mushrooms?  When you talk about "amorous", I think of sensuality, sexiness.  It's very, very strange.

The friend who sent you the picture of the dried mushrooms was right.  He was amused and so are we.

We've studied "Japanesey Chinese " (10/9/15) before, and we've also examined "Chinese Japanese " (aka Chapanese) (9/13/15).  I suppose we can refer to the current specimen as "Chinesey Japanese".

[Thanks to Yixue Yang.]


  1. Victor Mair said,

    January 8, 2018 @ 12:41 pm

    These additional remarks from Nathan Hopson came in just after I made this post:

    1. Almost definitely not a Japanese native. The Japanese is "correct" but not idiomatic.

    2. That goes to your question about "thickness:" if this was written by a native Japanese, I might have guessed that it was part of the general Japanese culinary aestheticization of texture and mouthfeel; ask a Japanese what squid tastes like, and you're likely to get the answer, コリコリ (korikori), which is a texture (somewhere between crunchy and meaty) Even assuming it's not authored by a native Japanese, it's likely — but hardly certain — that this has something to do with meatiness and volume, since those tend to be desirable mushroom qualities.

  2. Keith said,

    January 8, 2018 @ 4:00 pm

    Those mushrooms sound positively lovely!

  3. Victor Mair said,

    January 9, 2018 @ 9:02 am

    From Jay Rubin:

    I don't think the Japanese is spurious or erroneous, nor does it seem to have a Chinese accent. Sobokusa is meant to be a good thing–good, old country simplicity, plainness, down-home, that kind of thing. I don't know if thickness is a good thing with regard to those particular mushrooms, which look pretty thin, but I associate it with the enjoyment of eringi, portabella, or other large mushrooms that are satisfying to bite into. Cloud ear mushrooms look to be on the thick side on line. Maybe they do inspire rural amorous feelings.

  4. KevinM said,

    January 9, 2018 @ 2:18 pm

    Country matters?

  5. cameron said,

    January 9, 2018 @ 5:08 pm

    @KevinM: someone made the same connection in the comments to the original Rural Amorous Feelings post from 2014: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=12318#comment-698963

  6. KevinM said,

    January 9, 2018 @ 5:33 pm

    @cameron: Then they were retroactive plagiarists.

  7. dainichi said,

    January 9, 2018 @ 10:31 pm

    > Finally, the phrase just stops—there is no copula or verb.

    Because it's a noun phrase. As lots of other things on the package. Not sure what the problem is.

    > I could roughly translate it as “From a smallish mountain village simplicity and thickness.” Indeed, it does not parse well or make a lot of sense.

    The correct translation (using those words) is: “Simplicity and thickness from a smallish mountain village”. The の shows that the adpositional phrase modifies the noun.

  8. Example said,

    January 10, 2018 @ 1:58 am

    Rural Amorous Feelings is on all the packaging for that brand of dried mushrooms regardless of variety, it’s not specific to the cloud ear.

  9. ohwilleke said,

    January 10, 2018 @ 7:23 pm

    I wonder if "rural amorous feeling" is meant to mean "rustic/natural and made with love" (bringing to mind an incident where the FDA complained about an ingredient label that included "love".

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