Sunday, February 14, 2016

Billie Holiday - 'When You're Smiling'

I enjoy listening to jazz and blues from the old days.
Jazz and blues has had a strong following and influence in Japan as well.

Billie Holiday is one of the best singers in American history and a personal favorite of mine.
February is "Black History Month" in the U.S.A. 
Actually, American History IS Black History, from the very beginning when slaves were brought to the "new world" in chains.

This is a painful side of American history which can be heard in the music of artists like Billie Holiday and the many, many other great Jazz and Blues musicians and singers. 
Songs like 'Gloomy Sunday' and 'Strange Fruit' are good examples of music that really pierces the heart when Billie sings them.

On the positive side we have songs like 'When You're Smiling' 

Music is a great way to practice your English language skills by listening, reading the lyrics, and practicing singing along to get the rhythm and accent.

Click on the image below to hear the song.
Remember, "practice makes perfect." So be sure to listen, read and sing many times!

When You're Smiling

When you're smiling
When you're smiling
The whole world smiles with you
When you're laughing
When you're laughing
The sun comes shining through
But when you're crying
You bring on the rain
So stop your sighing be happy again
Keep on smiling
'Cause when you're smiling
The whole world smiles with you

Goodwin, Joe / Shay, Larry / Fisher, Mark

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Terror or Horror? :What's the difference?

What is the difference between 'Terror' and 'Horror'?


Do you like being scared?

I do. I love it! I truly enjoy horror movies. Well…, good horror movies anyway. And since we are just days away from Halloween it is a perfect time to treat ourselves to some scary entertainment.

There are plenty of movies and books that do their very best to try to scare us. 
Some of them succeed very well, others fail miserably. (At the end of this blog I will provide some recommendations to chill your blood).


We have so many words in English to express various degrees of these types of sentiment:

Fear, Fright, Revulsion, Terror, Horror, Dread etc…

There are also an endless list of adjectives such as Fearful, Scary, Weird, Uncanny, Macabre, Eldritch, Abominable, Loathsome, Diabolical etc…

So, we can have many different feelings to express these emotions of "Fearful dread", "Loathsome revulsion", Uncanny fright", or "Diabolical terror", etc...


Let us distinguish the difference between 'Terror' and 'Horror'.


Many people, including native English speakers, use these words as if they have the same meaning, but there is a subtle difference.

According to Devendra Varma in The Gothic Flame (1966):
The difference between Terror and Horror is the difference between awful apprehension and sickening realization: between the smell of death and stumbling against a corpse.

So, from this definition, we can imagine walking into a darkened room that smells of death.
THIS gives us a feeling of Terror.
When we accidentally touch a corpse, that is - a dead body, in this darkened room, THAT gives us a feeling of Horror.


Another way of putting it would be to hear the screeching tires of a speeding truck as the driver loses control of the vehicle, followed by a loud CRASH outside your home. This causes Terror.
As you rush outside to investigate and discover a deadly accident has happened on your street you feel Horror. Horror and Revulsion comes when you see the mangled and bloody body of the dead driver.

Most Horror movies and books (usually the better ones) spend time building the feeling of Terror through suspense and atmosphere. In literature, Edgar Allen Poe was a master at this. Alfred Hitchcock also accomplished this in his films 'PSYCHO' and 'THE BIRDS'.


Stephen King (the famous horror story writer) defines “terror” as the suspenseful moment in horror before the actual monster is revealed. “Horror,” King writes, is that moment at which one sees the creature/aberration that causes the terror or suspense, a "shock value." King finally compares “revulsion” with the gag-reflex, a bottom-level, cheap gimmick which he admits he often resorts to in his own fiction if necessary, confessing:
“I recognize terror as the finest emotion and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find that I cannot terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify, I'll go for the gross-out. I'm not proud.”

Ironically, in one of the best (and my favorite) horror movies, ROSEMARY'S BABY gives you horror without ever showing it to you. THAT is good story-telling

Click on this link for brief clips from 10 great horror films

Horror movies I recommend:

PSYCHO (1960)





SUSPIRIA (1977) 

EVIL DEAD (2013 and 1981)



and anything starring VINCENT PRICE

For reading I recommend the tales and poems of Edgar Allen Poe  (Especially 'The Tell-Tale Heart' and 'The Raven') and any horror novel or short story by Stephen King ('Salem's Lot', 'The Shining', 'IT'  and 'Carrie' and the short story collections 'Night Shift' and 'Skeleton Crew').


hor・ror *
((形)horrible, (動)horrify) 
名(複 ~s/-z/)
1U恐怖, うろたえ, ぞっとする思い(→ fear名1

ter・ror *
名(複 ~s /-z/)
1aU(極度の)恐怖, 恐れ(→ fear名1)
▶scream [freeze] in terror
▶a look of sheer [pure] terror on one’s face
▶live in terror of A [doing]
▶strike terror into A [A’s heart]

Monday, October 26, 2015


Halloween is a bizarre holiday that has historical roots extending back 
thousands of years ago in Pagan Europe. This eldritch festival was called Samhain (pronounced "Sow-in"), meaning "Summer's End" in ancient Ireland. This was a turning point in the "wheel of the year" that marked the visible increasing darkness. 

The Pagan Wheel of the Year

The Equinoxes and Solstices divide the year in four quarters.
In-between those times were four more seasonal events that marked the agricultural year.
Many holidays like Christmas and Easter preserve Pagan elements such as decorating trees and painting eggs. 

A season of death; a time when the final crops had been harvested and cattle would be slaughtered in preparation for the long, hard, cold winter season of northern Europe. 

Fires would be lit and the spirits of the ancestors placated, and forms of divination would be practiced. Let us look at this holiday and learn some interesting English vocabulary.

On Halloween night, more than any other time during the year, the veil between our human world and the spiritual world is considered to be thinnest. The spirits of the dead (ghosts), and other supernatural beings (goblins, werewolves, witches, vampires & etc…,) are believed to be permitted to cross over into our human world during this night.

We celebrate this holiday in many ways in the U.S.A. but it is traditionally special for children to go 'trick-or-treating' on Halloween night. 'Trick-or-Treating' comes from old European folk customs which were brought to America by Irish immigrants. The habit of dressing in costumes and going door-to-door begging for sweets is directly connected to the ancient habit of placating the ancestors and other supernatural visitors on this night. This was done in order to avoid misfortune during the long, dark winter months.


bəˈzär/ adjective - very strange or unusual, especially so as to cause interest or amusement.
<行動・外見が>奇妙な, へんてこな, とっぴな(odd, weird).
~・ly副異様に; [文修飾]奇妙にも.

'Pagan' is a word we generally use to refer to those pre-Christian religious traditions as found in the Celtic, Germanic and Mediterranean countries before Christianity took over as the major religious tradition.
pa・gan †
2無宗教の; 不信者の.
1(やや古・しばしば非難して)異教徒, 異端者; 多神教者; 無神論者.
2(おどけて)不信心者, 宗教心の足りない人.

ˈeldriCH/ adjective - weird and sinister or ghostly.

/ékwɪnɑ̀(ː)ks|-nɔ̀ks, ı́ːk-/[音声] 
C昼夜平分時(1年の中で昼夜の時間が同じ時); [天]分点(黄道と天の赤道の交点; その時が昼夜平分時)
▶vernal [spring] equinox
▶autumn(al) equinox

sol・stice †
C[天](太陽の)至(し), 至点(太陽が赤道から北または南に最も遠く離れた時点)
▶the summer [winter] solstice

Cattle would be slaughtered

cat・tle *
[語源は「財産」; 昔家畜(ウシ)が財産であったため]
名[集合的に; 複数扱い](× a cattle, cattlesとしない)
1(家畜の)ウシ, 畜牛(!主にcows, bullsなどをさす)
▶Cattle live on grass.
▶fifty (head [×heads] of) cattle

slaugh・ter *
名(複 ~s /-z/)
1U虐殺, 殺戮(さつりく); (戦争などの)大量殺人, 大虐殺.
2U(食用動物の)屠殺(とさつ), 畜殺.
3C(くだけて)[通例単数形で]完敗, 惨敗.

(英・くだけて)[be ~]酔っ払って.

Ancestors placated

an・ces・tor *
/ǽnsestər, -səs-/[音声](!強勢は第1音節)
[ante(先に) cestor(行く人)]
名(複 ~s/-z/)C
1祖先, 先祖(⇔ descendant)
▶Our ancestors were living in groups.
2[生物]原型種, 始祖
▶Humans and apes have a common ancestor.
3(機械などの)原型, 前身.

 pla・cate †
(かたく)<人>をなだめる; <怒り・敵意など>を和らげる, 静める; …を懐柔する.

Divination (fortune-telling)
1占い, 予言.
2直感, 本能的予見.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Sounds of Sirensu by Simon and Gafunkuru: The L and R (Mis)Pronunciation Problem in Japanese language

I've written before about the incredible gymnastics our tongues do while speaking English. By contrast, the Japanese language utilizes an incredibly conservative restraint in tongue and facial muscle movement. Teaching to discriminate and pronounce the difference between the L and R sounds in Japan is the bane of any English teacher's existence.

the bane of A’s life [existence]
A<人>の身を滅ぼす原因, 命取り

In English we clearly distinguish between L and R.
e.g.: Left and right, light and right, flame and frame, etc..

In Japanese pronunciation the L/R sound usually falls somewhere between the English L and R sounds.
In practice it is maybe 80% of the time closer to L than R but the pronunciation is truly ambiguous. People wishing to adopt a Japanese accent usually change all their L's to R's and all their R's to L's.

This can often cause some confusion and frustration, as well as some giggling, for Japanese English students and their teachers. A good example of this would be the topic of America having a big election next year. I leave it to you to find why this is funny.

Another example : The word 'sirens' came up during a lesson.

                 The student asks: "Silence? Like quiet?"

                 The teacher says "No. Not 'silence' (sáɪləns) . A 'siren' (sáɪ(ə)r(ə)n); plural sáɪ(ə)r(ə)nz.

This immediately brought up the idea of Simon and Garfunkel's perennial hit song 'The Sounds of Silence' morphing through a kind of Katakana filter into the 'Sounds of Sirens'.

Here is the Sounds of Silence:

And here are the sounds of sirens:

  1. Through Japanese Katakana pronunciation Silence gets pronounced as "Sirensu", changing the L to R  and adding an extra syllable. That's because Japanese does not have just an 's' sound. It is either a 'sa', 'shi', 'su', 'se' or 'so'. As a matter of fact, all consonants are followed by a vowel in Japanese, which can change bed to 'beddo', 'want' to 'wantu ' and laugh to 'raffu'.

    The word siren comes from Greek mythology. A siren's song was said to be so bewitching that sailors would drive their ships onto the rocks or throw themselves into the sea, killing themselves.

    There are so many references to the Asian (usually Chinese or Japanese) L and R mispronunciation in movies and t.v. There is this scene from 'A Christmas Story' (1983) where Chinese restaurant staff attempt to sing the beloved Christmas carol 'Deck the Halls'; Fa la la la la becomes Fa ra ra ra ra.

    And in 'Lost in Translation' (2003) a woman demands to have her stockings ripped, er, lipped.

    This L/R mispronunciation is usually amusing, even humorous, to many foreign speakers. But if you are studying English, please don't get discouraged! English is spoken around the world in a variety of accents. If you do some travel you are sure to discover this fact. And if you travel by airplane please enjoy your fright!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Please remove your shoes: Japanese shoe etiquette

An English student asked me a very good question: When do Americans remove their shoes?

Here in Japan there is an area within the entryway of every home for the sole purpose (excuse the pun) of removing and storing one's shoes.

This is also the case in schools where students remove their street shoes, and put on their indoor shoes, when they enter school each day.

There are also some restaurants here where shoes are removed before entering the dining area. This is standard in places where you dine sitting on the raised floors covered in tatami mats and seat cushions.

If there is one aspect of traditional Japanese culture which I think is practical, sensible and should be widely adopted by the the whole world in general, it is this: the removing of one's shoes upon entering a house, (or perhaps even a school, or temple) or other dwelling place, or designated area, for the purpose of cleanliness. At the very least this should be standard in every home. It is hygienic and serves a very good practical purpose for families with little ones who play on the floor.

It feels dirty, almost sinful, to drag the dust and grime of my footwear into someones house, as was the case when I last visited the U.S.A., especially in a house with carpeting! The very idea of people wearing the same shoes they wear outside in the street into a house, into a carpeted house in particular, thoroughly creeps me out! The image of multitudes of accumulated bacteria seeping into the matted plush weave amongst the deposited dirt and grime stands out in my mind, and in the mind of every Japanese person, as an uncomfortable pollution of one's home environment. This may derive from the traditional Japanese tradition of sitting and sleeping upon the floor rather than always relying on raised seats or beds.

Dining on the raised floor covered in tatami mats.

Sleeping on the tatami mat floor.

Even if you live in a relatively "clean" environment there are sure to be all kinds of germs on your shoes. If you happen to live in a densely populated urban area then you really have to take into account that sidewalks have been spit, vomited and pissed upon... at the very least.

In Japan, when work or repairmen visit your home (please don't think me misogynistic, dear reader, when I specify the male gender, but the chances of a Japanese repairwoman visiting your home are comparable to the chances of me finding hummus in my local supermarket here, or to a Japanese businessman telling a funny joke), they always remove their shoes and open a fresh pair of house socks to wear while working in your home.

Usually in Japan there is a step up from the shoe removing area into the dwelling place. Slippers are also often provided (though I have yet to find any pair to accommodate my size 12 feet here in Japan. so these slippers act, more often than not, as toe covers... barely).

Moreover, within almost every Japanese home, the restroom, or water closet (the tiny room that houses the toilet -- being separate from the bathroom, or "o-furo" where one showers and bathes) usually comes equipped with it's own pair of "toilet slippers" to be used exclusively when one is taking care of their toilet business.

One should switch slippers when stepping from the home proper and into the restroom (the house slippers never enter the restroom, toilet slippers never leave the restroom), and again repeat the process in reverse when they exit the restroom. This slipper -dance -game can take some practice to master as the slippers are, again, often more like toe-covers (barely) for those of us with larger than average feet.

Furthermore, if you forget to change slippers upon exiting the restroom (as many foreigners new to Japan will often do by accident) you will likely be met with embarrassed  looks, whispers and some kind of explanation from your offended host about this sensitive cultural faux pas as they hurry you back to retrieve your designated house slippers.

The idea behind all this shoe game is cleanliness.

By the way, if you ever have to use an old fashioned Asian squat toilet… you have my deepest sympathy. But that's a story for another time…

So, when do you remove your shoes?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Japanese English Language Differences & Pronunciation Problems

Don't make me say "I love you."
There are so many things to learn when studying a foreign language.

Although I have lived in Osaka, Japan and worked as an English tutor here for more than 5 years, I have not seriously tried to study the language for about the last 2 years.

I could give you some pretty reasonable excuses for why I haven't been serious about making time for studying the Japanese language, such as English being our primary language at home, becoming a father and spending as much time with our child as possible, and the fact that most of my time spent outside our home is used in helping Japanese students work on their English language skills (something I myself often need refreshing on after living in a non-English speaking country for so long).


That's not to say it's impossible to learn it, if one regularly devotes their time and efforts to it, and I admire those who have. I can get around and am pretty good at comprehension. My ability to manage speaking fluently in Japanese however... not so good. Also, Osaka has it's own dialect and it's own colorful vocabulary and manners of speaking. Quite distinct from the Japanese spoken in Tokyo or Kyushu or Tohoku etc...

So, there are three alphabets in Japanese to start with, not including Romaji (Roman characters which you are reading right now; yes, those are used too), and one of those "alphabets" is actually an ocean of beautifully complex ideograms called "Kanji," or Chinese characters, of which there are thousands.

Hiragana: ひらがな

Katakana: カタカナ

Kanji: 漢字

Here is a small example of the complexity of kanji:

Osaka = 大阪 The prefecture in which I live. The first kanji in Osaka (It kind of looks like a little man with arms and legs spread out) is pronounced "O" here (though it can sometimes be pronounced "Dai", depending on the character next to it. The second character is pronounced "SAKA" here (though it can sometimes be pronounced "HAN," again, depending on the kanji character it falls next to). So, we have OSAKA, the name of a large metropolis in Japan (NOT pronounced "Daihan" or "Daisaka", nor "Ohan"!).

Hankyu = 阪急 The name of a big company in the Osaka region that operates train lines and department stores.

Notice that the kanji character for "SAKA" in OSAKA is now pronounced "HAN" when used as the first character in "HANKYU", because of the placement of the character to the next one.

Are you still following me?

阪急の "Han" = 大阪の "Saka" ???

So, may I please be forgiven if I look at a book written in kanji and say "Yeah, never reading THAT!"? The crazy part is that all three alphabets are used simultaneously in Japanese books, literature, media, signs, newspapers etc...

Here is an example taken from a Japanese news site about an orchestra playing Star Wars music:

"公開された動画で、ライトセーバーをノリノリで振るトヴェイ氏。その色がシスの暗黒卿が用いるとされる「赤色」だったのが少々、気になるところだが、最新作『STAR WARS:THE FORCE AWAKENS(原題)』の特報映像が11月29日、初公開されるなど、ファンにとってはうれしいニュースに名演奏が華を添えてくれている。"

You notice the blend of 4 alphabets used simultaneously?

Hiragana is not so bad. I promise to attempt baby steps in my Japanese skills by reading children's picture books using hiragana.

I have major issues with Katakana however.

That is mainly because it is used for writing foreign names and words that have been adapted into the Japanese language. But the kana phonics end up mispronouncing these words so that foreigners cannot recognize them; e.g., McDonald's becomes "Macdonarudo". Global becomes "guroburu".  Market becomes "maketto". Catharsis becomes "katarushisu".


However, the language difficulties also apply for Japanese English students.

English is so simple with our 26 Roman letters (52 counting uppercase and lowercase), yet so complex with our methods of pronunciation and our intricately ruled grammar that leaves plenty of exceptions to the grammar rules!

Look at the ways we pronounce "low" and "how",
"daughter" and "laughter",
"tomb", "bomb" and "comb," as just a few examples.

But perhaps the biggest stumbling point for Japanese English students is the pronunciation. Native English speakers take for granted the acrobatics with which their tongues are perpetually engaged in. Especially our fluidity with the "R" and "L" sounds. In Japanese these two sounds are kind of made into one sound; whereas English distinctly divides their pronunciation.


region     legion
ram     lamb
ramp     lamp
grass     glass
arrive     alive
rip     lip
frame     flame
regal     legal
raw     law     low
crown     clown

and try this phrase:
"I really like rice."

and this:
"The green grass grows."

If your tongue and jaws hurt then you are practicing correctly!
Because you are using mouth muscles not used when speaking Japanese!

And then there is the B vs. V problem. Japanese language does not have a "V" sound and so it compensates by using "B" instead. Vampire becomes "Bam-pie-ya", and "I love you" can transform into "I rub you."

Let's distinguish our pronunciation between:

variable     valuable     volley ball
available   &  valuable

Counting the syllables will also greatly improve your pronunciation!!!

variable x4
valuable x4 
volley ball x3
available x4

NOTE: Some people pronounce valuable with 3 syllables. (Sorry! Always exceptions to every rule!).

Thursday, November 20, 2014


Next week is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S.A.

Thanksgiving is a National holiday celebrated by most Americans as a way of showing gratitude and thankfulness for what we have. 

gratitude : express [show] gratitude

thankful : 感謝して   (full of thanks = thank-full)

grateful thanks : 心からの感謝

Usually it is celebrated by families gathering for a delicious meal that usually consists of turkey, sweet potatoes, green beans, cranberries, pumpkin pie and other traditional foods.

The origins of the holiday has it's roots in traditional harvest festivals that had been celebrated in Europe for hundreds of years. It was a way for families and communities to give thanks to God for a good harvest. A day to remember to give thanks, especially for plenty of food.

Other common ways we express such a feeling in everyday English:  

count one's blessings



Count your blessings

(! 愚痴をこぼす人に言う).

I am thankful for my family, my wife and my son, and for good health. 

What are you grateful or thankful for?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

'Be not Defeated by the Rain'

While watching t.v. with our 14 month old son here in Osaka, Japan; I was introduced to a remarkable piece of popular poetry. We often watch 'Nihongo de asobo' (にほんごであそぼ) , a lovely children's program, the title of which translates as 'Let's play with Japanese language'.

Today's program featured a group of children reciting a famous poem which is very popular  here in Japan.

'Ame ni mo makezu' or, 'Be not Defeated by the Rain' or, 'Not losing to the Rain' is a famous poem written by Kenji Miyazawa, a poet from the northern prefecture of Iwate in Japan who lived from 1896 to 1933. The poem was found posthumously in a small black notebook in one of the poet's trunks.

Here is some of the true "Wisdom of the East" many hunger for.
It is so simple and so common that we often overlook it.

Also, when we are surrounded by avaricious greed and materialism in all our politics and big business corporations - our so-called leaders leading us in the wrong direction - where all are working for selfish ends, directed by ignorance.

I would like to share this here and hope that reading this, especially at this special holiday season, will remind us all that what is important, what is most essential, is often invisible to the eye. Contentment in the simplicity of things is traditionally a Japanese virtue. The spirit of this poem is also seen in how civilly the Japanese reacted after the disastrous earthquake and tsunami of 2011.

"Greed is the undoing and ruin of (Dharma) Truth and righteousness."
                                                                                                       - The Mahabharata

ame ni mo makezu
“Not losing to the Rain”

miyazawa kenji
by Miyazawa Kenji
ame ni mo makezu
not losing to the rain

kaze ni mo makezu
not losing to the wind

yuki ni mo natsu no atsusa ni mo makenu
not losing to the snow nor to summer's heat

joubu na karada wo mochi
with a strong body

yoku wa naku
unfettered by desire

kesshite ikarazu
never losing temper

itsu mo shizuka ni waratte iru
cultivating a quiet joy

ichi nichi ni genmai yon gou to
every day four bowls of brown rice

miso to sukoshi no yasai wo tabe
miso and some vegetables to eat

arayuru koto wo
in everything

jibun wo kanjou ni irezu ni
count yourself last and put others before you

yoku mikiki shi wakari
watching and listening, and understanding

soshite wasurezu
and never forgetting

nohara no matsu no hayashi no kage no
in the shade of the woods of the pines of the fields

chiisa na kayabuki no koya ni ite
being in a little thatched hut

higashi ni byouki no kodomo areba
if there is a sick child to the east

itte kanbyou shite yari
going and nursing over them

nishi ni tsukareta haha areba
if there is a tired mother to the west

itte sono ine no taba wo oi
going and shouldering her sheaf of rice

minami ni shinisō na hito areba
if there is someone near death to the south

itte kowagaranakute mo ii to ii
going and saying there's no need to be afraid

kita ni kenka ya soshou ga areba
if there is a quarrel or a suit to the north

tsumaranai kara yamero to ii
telling them to leave off with such waste

hideri no toki wa namida wo nagashi
when there's drought, shedding tears of sympathy

samusa no natsu wa oro-oro aruki
when the summer's cold, wandering upset

minna ni deku-no-bō to yobare
called worthless by everyone

homerare mo sezu
without being praised

ku ni mo sarezu
without being blamed

sou iu mono ni
such a person

watashi wa naritai
I want to become


Saturday, September 14, 2013

When I say 'PSYCHO' / "SAIKO"... I mean something else...

Poster for the 1960 film that changed cinematic horror forever.
When most people hear the word 'psycho' we immediately picture a shower curtain hissing as it's ripped back to reveal a stark menacing silhouette to the piercing shriek of violins and a helpless woman screaming !

We're never more vulnerable than when we're naked.


This is due to the influence in pop culture of the art and craft of the great movie director Alfred Hitchcock who understood how to keep us in suspense and terrify us. The visuals and music from this less than 1 minute segment of cinema history has influenced and inspired many, many parodies and imitations for decades.

Because of this one very popular movie, we now have the word "psycho" as a commonly used word in the English language. It means a crazy person. A mentally deranged person who is seriously dangerous.
The proper English word for this condition is "insane".

"Allow me to introduce myself: my name is Alfred Hitchcock."

IN JAPAN HOWEVER when people say "saiko" 最高 , which sounds exactly the same as our English 'psycho', people mean "the best", "highest", or "supreme"!!!

I've heard it used several times while living in Japan. People say it when declaring something to be really great or "Awesome!"... but, I can't help thinking of Norman Bates,  his "Mother", and the spooky, old, dark house on the hill overlooking the desolate Bates Motel.... and smiling to myself.

He wouldn't even harm a fly. But what about his Mother?

"VACANCY".... always room for one more.

Check-in. Relax. Take a shower.
The English term "psycho" is taken directly from the word:
 "psychopath" 精神病質者
 or "psychotic" 精神病 患者 - seishinbyo kanja
These Japanese words are technical medical jargon.

"Psycho" also relates (directly or indirectly) to words like:

psychology 心理学 - shinrigaku (mind-science)
psychiatrist 精神科医 - seishinkai
psychiatry 精神医学 - seishin igaku

Which all come from the root-word "psyche" - 精神 - seishin
Psyche is the totality of the human mind, conscious, and unconscious.
Psychology is the scientific or objective study of the psyche.

The word "Psyche" means the mind but is also actually a name.
Psyche is a female character from Greek and Roman mythology 神話学.
Psyche (the Mind, or human Soul 魂 - tamashi) fell in love with Cupid (Love).

Cupid & Psyche: In love with Love.

Alfred Hitchcock created a masterpiece of suspense cinema with 'Psycho', but he didn't write it.
The book Psycho by Robert Bloch was published in 1959. Old Hitch was "on that like white on rice!"

This directly inspired the novel American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, published in 1991 and made into a graphically violent horror film starring Christian Bale in 2000.

Christian Bale: American Psycho

NOTE: I'm told the Japanese words for "insane" {Not the technical terms mentioned above; check your Japanese dictionary} are considered very highly offensive in Japan! They are not even used on radio or T.V. in the same way network T.V. in the U.S. doesn't use the "F" or "S" words; but they are more akin in offensiveness to the "N" word when used as curse words in Japan. Yes, that offensive! Just don't use them. I note it here only because foreigners using a dictionary may not be aware of this sensitivity in Japan. In America we often say things like "You're so crazy!" or "That's insane!" to friends in a humorous way; NOT so in Japan.

So, it is better just to say "PSYCHO!" / "SAIKO!" just to be safely polite... or, politely safe!

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