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Why are the days of the week in Japanese named after classical elements?

A random thought stumbled into my mind the other day when I realized that Sunday matched the Japanese word for Sunday is “日曜日”. The “日” part means “sun”. At first I thought it was just a coincidence, then I realized that Monday represented the moon, and in Japanese that’s “月曜日” and the “月” part means moon. Something is clearly going on here. Since the idea of seven days in a week doesn’t originate from Asia, the Japanese days of the week probably just followed western convention, which makes sense. Now when it comes to the English days of the week, the names were originally named by the Romans with the names of the sun, the moon, and the five known planets at the time [1].

Day of the week Latin word (English word)
Sunday Solis (sun)
Monday Lunae (moon)
Tuesday Martis (Mars)
Wednesday Mercurii (Mercury)
Thursday Jovis (Jupiter)
Friday Veneris (Venus)
Saturday Saturni (Saturn)

Now on the other side of the world, the Chinese and the Japanese gave names to these planets using their classical elements (the Chinese and Japanese names are the same). They gave the celestial bodies these names:

Celestial body Chinese/Japanese name Corresponding element
The sun
The moon
Mars 火星 Fire
Mercury 水星 Water
Jupiter 木星 Wood
Venus 金星 Gold
Saturn 土星 Earth/soil

So now, when the Japanese went to adopt the western calendar, they took the base meanings of the days of the weeks by their planets, and used their planet names in their place. So Sunday (from the sun) became “日曜日”, Monday (from the moon) became “月曜日” and so forth. Like this:

Celestial body English day of the week Japanese day of the week
Sun Sunday 日曜日
Moon Monday 月曜日
Mars Tuesday 火曜日
Mercury Wednesday 水曜日
Jupiter Thursday 木曜日
Venus Friday 金曜日
Saturn Saturday 土曜日

Cool, huh?

An Engineer’s Method of Buying Pants that Fit

The Problem

At every store, there is no consistency in the different kind of fits that exist in different stores.  Some stores have “straight fit”, “slim fit”, some even have somewhere in between.  Also, the “straight fit” in one store isn’t necessarily the same as another.    Generally speaking, using only the waist and length dimensions do not tell the whole story, and the dimensions in various parts of the pair of pants (e.g. the waist, length, around the knee, around the foot, etc.) are all different depending on the store.  There has to be a more efficient way find a pair that fits well.  My method minimizes the amount of pants that have to be tried on.

The Solution

My solution basically involves measuring out an existing pair of pants that already fit in different places and measuring the same locations on pants that I am considering to buy.  So the caveat here is that, there has to be an existing reference to compare to (e.g. an existing pair of pants that fit well).

I typically measure out the circumference of the pants at these spots and compare them with the pants that I already own

  • Around the knee
  • Around the foot

I don’t bother using a tape measure, and instead I just stretch out my thumb and pinky as a measuring tool to get a rough estimate.

For me, the waist and length have always worked well for me consistently even between stores, so I just use the same waist and length numbers everywhere.

When I find a pair that works well after this comparison, then I try on the pants.  This helps eliminate pants that don’t fit quickly and doesn’t require knowing the difference between “slim”, “straight” etc.  In a way, I’ve essentially added another two numbers to look at before trying on a pair of pants.

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 80,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 3 days for that many people to see it.

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 81,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Pronunciation of the Word “The”

Day 189

During a conversation with one of my German friends, the topic of the use of articles in languages came up and my friend told me that in his English class, he learned two different pronunciations of the word “the”.  One way, the way that most people should be familiar to, is pronounced like “thUH”, while the other had a “thEE” sound.  He also mentioned that he learned that these two ways of saying the word had a “rule” associated with it.  He said that the “thUH” pronunciation was used for words that had an opening sound of a consonant while the “thEE” pronunciation was used for words with an opening sound of a vowel.  For example, he would say “thUH” car, and “thEE” others.  There’s also “thUH” time, or “thEE” hour.  I learned no such rule in any of my English classes as far as I was concerned.  It didn’t matter to me which pronunciation people used.

I too noticed that some people say “the” differently, but I had no idea there was a pattern.  I tried it for myself, but I couldn’t really test it while thinking about it.  Eventually, as we kept talking, I found myself following this same pattern.  I followed this pattern without even knowing it.  I probably did this since I learned how to speak English.  I didn’t do it just once, but on multiple occasions.  I wondered how it could be that I followed the pattern so implicitly.

I sought to find out why this was.  Eventually, I learned that this was a difference between British English and American English.  Many Americans would simply say “thUH” for everything (maybe except for some who have a more Northern accent for English).  The distinction in the pronunciation lie in British English.  Me being from Canada, similarly follow this aspect of British English.  Now whenever I use the word “the”, I often find myself thinking about which way I said it.

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