Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Tanabata & zebra swarms

An amusing conversation was had today when I questioned the brightly-decorated pots of jelly served at lunchtime. According to my schools art teacher, today is Tanabata (七夕), a star festival related to the Chinese star festival, Qixi.

The Tanabata story celebrates the coming together of the two stars Orihime (Vega) and Hikoboshi (Altair). The story says that these two lovers are separated by a great river (the Milky Way) and are allowed to meet once every year, on the 7th day of the 7th month.

The art teacher and a student were trying to describe something about stars in the sky, and then offered me a Jap-Eng dictionary which they hoped would explain things. I've never heard the term 'meteoric swarm', and on reading it found it rather amusing. I explained that it is common to call it a meteor shower, which itself amused several students given that the first translated it to them as 'meteor bath.' I said it is unusual to call a shower of meteors a 'swarm', offering them the example of 'a swarm of insects.'

The art teacher then offered the wonderfully amusing example of 'a swarm of zebra.' The thought of a huge, airbourne, black and white -striped flying menace amused me greatly, as it did the other students. I explained the collective term 'herd' to her, then regretted it immediately as I was routinely tested on my knowledge of animal collectives for every one they could think of...

1 comment:

  1. What a sweet story! Something to compensate the bad story of the London bombings anniversary :(