Letters to the Editor SpecGram Vol CLXI, No 3 Contents Linguistics Nerd Camp—Bethany Carlson

Further Discoveries Pertinent to The Public Humiliation of Si

SpecGram Wire Services
Tom Stinnett reporting

Since their discovery by archaeologists from the Basil Randolph Anderson Center for Lexico-Archeological Sartorial Poetry Studies (BRA-CLASPS) in early 2011 at a pre-Nara archeological dig at an undisclosed location in Japan, the fragments of Old Japanese poetry unearthed that describe the ordeal of a woman chastised by her community for wearing unacceptable garments have created a worldwide sensation. But what was the ultimate fate of Si? The two fragments already published are the only source of information, since she is not mentioned in any of the standard, well-documented annals of the period in question; they are incomplete and do not indicate what happened to her, possibly due to the massive lacunae in the time-worn manuscripts, scratched on bamboo leaves and buried in hidden caves.

But the latest fragment may reveal a clue. She was not ritually sacrificed after all, it seems: instead, she spent her waning days as a commercial preparer of fermented fish buried in subterranean pots (the ancestor of today’s “sushi”). This sad fate is at last revealed in the latest fragment to be unearthed, again, like the previous fragments, in traditional Old Japanese verse forms. Here is a reconstructed transliteration into modern hiragana:

Lament of the Sushi Maker   A rough attempt at translation:
すしらSushiand others...
ぃか あぃの すしThe sushi of squid love.
ふけ た ぐ─It is aging: immediately!

[Translator’s notes: Apparently sushi in the pre-Nara period was prepared in leather containers formed in a shape not unlike the sacks used to carry money about one’s person in that period. This is the first known reference to the use of milk in the preparation of fermented fish.]

Letters to the Editor
Linguistics Nerd CampBethany Carlson
SpecGram Vol CLXI, No 3 Contents