Friday, February 01, 2008


Today I learned a new word, or at least a new use for an old word. I was reading some photography sites, and discovered that everybody was talking about bokeh. Boke, in Japanese, is often used as an insult (at least around here it is). It means 'senile.' I was fairly sure the photographers were not talking about senile photographs, though, and wondered what it meant in English.

After reading for a while, I discovered I was not understanding what it meant, even when there were examples shown and people were getting very excited about it. I could not work it out from context. So I looked it up, and discovered to my amazement that it comes from the Japanese word, and while the most common meaning is 'senile,' another meaning, which photographers use and which I had been unfamiliar with, is 'blur,' and it refers to the out-of-focus parts of a photo.

(It's kind of the same, when you think about it.)

I asked The Man about it, and he gave me a little vocabulary lesson. He also told me about how the photographic meaning of boke changed when it became a verb rather than a noun.

"Boke is the noun. But when you say it verbly . . . "

"I don't think 'verb' a word you can adverbify," I interrupted him.

It occurs to me that my talent for being easily distracted means that I will never be a professional photographer, or a fluent Japanese speaker. Every time I start to learn anything I go off on a tangent.

(I never did get the whole verbly thing. Things became adjectivish, and my vocabulary lesson ended.)


Keera Ann Fox said...

Typical language. But now I want to learn how to make senile photographs. I looked up some images in Google while I was looking at your link and got inspired.

Colin [] said...

The source of the 'h':