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Location: Penang, Malaysia

January 04, 2005

Tsunami... つなみ... 津浪...

On Boxing Day 2004, tsunami hit countries around the Indian Ocean and the worst hit area was the north-western part of the Sumatera Island, Indonesia. The death toll for Indonesia alone has reached 94,000 per the figure release by the Indonesian government as of today. Tsunami is the Japanese term or tidal wave set off by earthquake. Malaysia is indeed lucky although it is quite near to the epicenter of the earthquake. The official death toll reported by the Malaysian government is at 66. The worst hit area in Malaysia was Penang Island, the Pearl of the Orient. The current total death toll worldwide has surpassed 140,000 and is set to rise further. My deepest condolence to those who lost their life and their love ones in this natural disaster.

While the mass media is "obsessed" with the latest news on tsunami, I noticed one trivial matter. The whole world, except the Japanese pronounce the Japanese word tsunami as "soo-nah-mee". Please listen to the Japanese first. "Tsu" is pronounced something like "jer" in English. Using the Chinese hanyu pinyin, it sounds like "zhi", while the Taiwanese Wade-Giles romanization will sound like "tze". Well, this is not the only word being read incorrectly by non-Japanese. Other words like, mitsubishi, daihatsu, satsuma, etc were pronounced wrongly in the same way.

I once spoke to an American and we talked about drinking and karaoke as one of the favourite activities among colleagues at night in Malaysia. As usual, I pronounced karaoke as "car-ruh-oh-kay" and from his body language, I knew that he didn't understand what I was talking about. I paused and thought for a while, and yeah, "care-rer-oh-key"!!! Very interesting... it seems to me that the American guy still thinks that he pronounced it correctly!

Anyway, "tsu" in Hiragana is "つ”, and is "津" when written in Kanji. "Tsu" means seaside, estuary, or small port. "Nami" in Hiragana is "なみ", and could be "波" or "浪" when written in Kanji. "Nami" means wave. Therefore, tsunami is translated literally as seaside wave. OK, that's all about tsunami for now. Appreciate what you have and enjoy life to the fullest!

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