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What do the words mean?

Blog entry for April 2014

Someone asked if I could translate the words on the puzzle on the right, so here we are. This is this year's pun: it is the year of the horse (uma)...

Uma-ku-iku

Since this is written vertically (as almost all traditional writing is), read the columns from right to left, numbered 1 to 8.

1大丈夫Dai-jō-buOK!
2萬事banjiEverything
3まあるくma-a-rukuroundly...
4馬九行くuma-ku-iku(nine horses go)
5うまくいく。umaku iku.goes well.
6笑顔満開Egao mankaiBig wide smile...
7しあわせ街道shiawase kaidōhappy road...
8まっしぐら。masshigura.full speed ahead!

Well, no-one said translating poetry is easy! It is very hard to convey the warmth of words, as opposed to their superficial meaning. But anyway, see how lines 3 and 4 repeat the uma-ku-iku pun to make sure no-one misses it: "Horse-nine-go / well (umaku) - go."

We are increasing the range of puzzles like this: collected together on this page: Art with words. I will always try to add some explanation, but I'm afraid it not always possible to provide a neat and complete translation. Remember that you can find out an amazing amount from Wiktionary — just paste Japanese words into the box, and with luck you will get an English explanation.

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