To tell the truth

In some classes this week, we played a conversation-starting game called “True or False” where you have to make three statements about your winter break experiences and we have to guess which of the three is  true.

And speaking of truth-telling, I happened across a video from an old TV game show called “To Tell the Truth” — it was a quiz show from the 1950s and 60s (and still going on today in a different incarnation) where panel members (TV celebrities) have to guess which of the three contestants is the real person.

Most Japanese students know about Rosa Parks, yes? She, along with Mother Teresa, were two historical figures I remember being popular research topics in the Japanese junior high school where I used to teach. Ms. Parks was the African American woman who refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger in the segregated South in 1955.

Here’s Ms. Parks as one of the contestants on “To Tell the Truth”. Can you guess which one she is?

There’s lots to talk about her, including Ms. Parks, the format of the show, the hairstyles and fashions of the time (this episode aired in 1980).

If you’re curious, you can try searching for other famous people appearing on this show. For instance, Frank Abagnale, the man whose life the movie “Catch Me If You Can” (with Leonardo DiCaprio) was based,Or, jumping ahead 5 decades, Sergei Brin, the founder of Google.

This is from a different 1950s quiz show, but here’s a man who witnessed the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Jaw-dropping, yes?

Remember Nasubi?

Most of my current students are probably too young to remember him, but some of you might. Or ask your parents. He was a star of reality television back in the late 90s and early 00s — the show was called “Susunu Denpa Shōnen” and I recall watching a couple of episodes and thinking, either this is staged or it’s incredibly cruel. He was put in an empty apartment, naked, and had to survive only on what he could win for free by sending in postcards to various sweepstakes he found in magazines.

I’d forgotten all about the show and Nasubi, until I heard a segment on This American Life about him. It’s episode 568, and the segment is called “I Am the Eggplant.” It’s about 23 minutes long and you can read along with the transcript.

The interpreter does an excellent job, and there are many, many things you can think, write and talk about after you listen. For instance, why is it he never won any clothing? And, do you see any similarities between his coping strategies and Tom Hanks’ character in Cast Away?


Finally, there’s a post about the show and about Nasubi on Tofugu, too. And if you Google “Nasubi” you’ll be able to find episodes — some with English subtitles — on YouTube and Vimeo.

Variety is the spice of life

I finally finished watching the NHK morning drama “Massan,” which I’d recorded to binge-watch during spring vacation. And now “Mare” has begun. Both stories feature plenty of local dialect (Hiroshima, Osaka and Hokkaido in “Massan” and Noto Peninsula in “Mare”). The Noto Peninsula dialect is much harder for me to understand. I wonder how authentic the actors sound.

And speaking of diversity in language, here’s an article from Yale News about the different kinds of English you can find in the U.S.:

“Project explores the ‘marvelously diverse’ ways we speak English”

YaleNews diversity of language

I’ve always found descriptive studies of language much more exciting than prescriptive ones. What’s the difference?  After all, variety is the spice of life, right?

From the article:

“Why not celebrate that we don’t speak a static language that is in a book, but a fluid thing that is always changing and evolving? It’s part of what it means to be a human who speaks a language. And the next person over is just going to speak it a little bit differently.”