Monday, 28 March 2011

Post #100: Or, When Is a Q a 9?

And so we reach a milestone: this is the one-hundredth post on Thus Spake the Mighty Wha-keem. That is, with this post I have written one-hundred posts since I started posting back in May of 2009, and I am obviously still at it.

So, how should this milestone be celebrated? Well, seeing as how the second anniversary is less than two months away, I would not want to place the focus on the passing of time per se, or contemplate what has gone by (in terms of topics covered and whatnot). If you would thus instead allow me to contemplate numbers for a brief moment or two of your time, I would be content.

Numbers, you ask? Well, fear not, I am neither turning into a mathematician nor a numerologist, but I have happened to notice a number (and language) related issue with regards to Haruki Murakami's latest novel 1Q84 (in Japanese ichi-kew-hachi-yon). The novel, which will be published in Swedish in three volumes (the first two already released this spring), a single volume in the US, and two volumes (1Q84 and 1Q84 2) in the UK, cleverly references both its own temporal setting and George Orwell's famous novel 1984 with its own Japanese title. The pun, if you will, is that the letter Q is a homophone to the Japanese word kyū, (or sometimes, as in the title, transcribed as kew) meaning "nine".

Now, obviously the pun is untranslatable as the letter Q is not pronounced anything like the number nine (either in English or Swedish), but it seems to me that at least the Swedish publisher has missed an opportunity in their typographical choice of using the capital letter Q in the title 1Q84. Clearly, the homophone is lost but if you place the numeral 9 next to a lower case q, one can note an interesting similarity. Perhaps not enough to strictly generate a homograph either, but at least, I would argue, the lower case q would at least suggest the reference to a reader in any language using the Latin alphabet. Clearly 1q84 reads much closer to 1984 than does 1Q84 (which does not really at all). Alas, as stated, a missed opportunity, I fear.

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