Have You Ever Heard of the Sound of Silence?


Japanglish

In 2000, the then Japanese Prime Minister wanted to make greetings in English at the first summit meeting with President Clinton. He tried to cram the following exchange of basic phrases: “How are you, Mr. President?” “I’m fine, thank you, and you?” “Me, too.” Finally and unfortunately, the time had come. The PM made a big mistake right at the beginning and said with a big smile “Who are you, Mr. President?” When the whole world went pale, President Clinton tactfully replied “I’m Hillary’s husband.” The PM, exactly as he had learned it, proudly said “Me, too.” I’m not self-depreciating the poor English skills of Japanese people, but just want to get your attention to today’s subject: wordplay.

Geniuses, Simon and Garfunkel

I will never forget the strong impression I got when I heard the song, or the title of the song, to be more precise: The sound of silence. I hate to admit it, but such witty words never cross my mind. Years later, I learned the phrase in the song “within the sound of” was an idiom, and “sound” was used as a meaning of “range.” To sum up, Simon and Garfunkel sung many people just lived in meaningless voices (except for their songs, to my understanding). The lyric may sound a little arrogant, but they deserve it for such an amazing wordplay. I believe the title would be one of the main factors to make this song a master-piece.

You can hear the sound of silence

Actually, there is one more reason why the title of the song impressed me a lot. I’ve heard the sound of silence a couple of times. I think it’s common for people living in a snowy region. In Hokkaido at mid-night in winter, you can hear the sound of silence. In addition to the fact that the greater area of Hokkaido is deserted (almost no life-noises outside), there’s no rustle because most trees lose their leaves and plants are buried beneath a covering of snow. Among other things, snow thickly covering the ground absorbs all the sounds in the world. It’s too silent even to feel pain in the ears. I think this is not what you can experience easily in your daily lives. Now, let me bring this article to a close with almost the same sentence as the last article. Hokkaido is a good place to visit to hear the sound of silence. I’m looking forward to your visit after the COVID pandemic!


Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.