Interesting and Uninteresting / Discussion

This page collects the original contents of the various pages before the wiki master edit that started on 2009 April 27.

Table of contents

Page: Omoshiroi

Omoshiroi (面白い) is a useful Japanese go term denoting a modestly positive outcome from a tactical exchange (or joseki), usually early in the game. The simplest meaning is "good (for Black/White)"; other possibilities are "slightly better", or perhaps "promising". This is distinct from its use in everyday Japanese, where it means "amusing", "fun", "entertaining".

Omoshiroi is almost never used as is in English. Because some dictionaries list "interesting" as a translation for omoshiroi, many go translators have adopted that word, often not even realizing that the word has a technical meaning in go. When you encounter the word "interesting" in translated go materials, then, you should take it as "good for" or "(slightly) better for", not in the common English senses of "thought-provoking" or "noteworthy".

The opposite of omoshiroi is tsumaranai--"bad" or "unpromising".

Omoshiroi can also be used in go contexts in its everyday sense. For example, omoshiroku utsu is to play interestingly, i.e. as one fancies, not plainly.

See also /Discussion, which has now to some extent been incorporated into this article.

Page: Omoshiroi / Discussion

Omoshiroi (面白い) means interesting, amusing, joyful.

Bill: In Japanese go commentary, omoshiroi is a term of praise.

John F. In go it is usually a technical term (listed as such by e.g. Hayashi) and means "slightly better" (or more interesting for one side than the other), or said of a move than can be played with confidence. It's the most commonly mistranslated word in go.

Part of the problem is that the word can be used also in its normal sense, which is rather different from what most people imagine, and it also appears in go usages. E.g. omoshiroku naru is said of a game that was difficult so far but has now turned good for one side, and omoshiroku utsu is to play interestingly, i.e. as one fancies, not plainly). In the normal language it doesn't mean "interesting" in our normal sense of curious, stimulating the intellect. It means entertaining, fun, amusing.

I'm sure all Japanese are familiar with the (possibly cod) etymology of the word - Amaterasu's dance outside the cave to bring the sun back.

Bill: John, I'm curious about how omoshiroi has been translated. Is it usually translated as interesting? Has interesting become something of a go term in English? Sebastian's comment on the interesting page suggests not, or at least it is used in quite a different sense from omoshiroi. Or perhaps Sebastian misunderstood.

(Sebastian:) Sorry about any confusion. I wasn't referring to book translations. The entry in the interesting page was meant to tease you sensei(s) - hence Keyword=Humour.

Bill: I thought you were talking about your experience. Sorry I missed the humour connection. Oops! ;-)

John F. I've no statistics on this, just an impression, but "interesting" seems to score 9 out of 10. Sometimes it's OK, of course, but a common misuse is, say, a judgement on a joseki line where translators say this is "interesting for White". No real harm done, but "slightly better for White" would be more idiomatic, and in any case - as you know - "more interesting for White" would be better if you want to stick with that word. The only time any harm is done, I'd say, is with omoshiroku naru, but even there it's probably marginal.

I've no sense that anyone is using "interesting" as an English technical term. I don't believe many people realised there was a problem. But I'd personally prefer people to develop a term because it's an evaluative term, and I believe that we are weak in the west both with and on evaluation, which is what advanced go is all about. We need to move on beyond concrete terms such as hane and learn to talk to each other lucidly about how to evaluate a position. That means, in part, being able to rely on a shared sub-text. With omoshiroi, I'd suggest that the shared sub-text would be that, if you said to me "Shiro wa omoshiroi", I'd know: that you were almost certainly talking about the early part of the game, probably about a joseki but, at least, almost certainly about a tactical exchange; that we are likely to be talking about honte rather than a speculative moves (one reason why "interesting" can be a trap); and of course that it's better for White but not by much.

Bill: Thanks, John. :-)

SteveB: How about "promising" - something like "the situation is promising for White?" The implication being that there is still a contest to be waged, no single clear continuation, but that as the fight develops White will have the better chances.

iopq: I would say that it means "interesting." BUT, the cultural interpretation of the word "interesting" in Japanese is different. When in Japanese something is "interesting" it might not be "interesting" in English. Thus, I conclude that the translation is fine, but the interpretation of the term in the Go world should be different than in common-day English.

Page: Interesting

WME (2009 April 27) note: this page was tagged as Humour.

An expression often used by senseis in teaching games for a beginner's move that no book ever considered worth mentioning. -- (Sebastian)

victim: I thought that interesting means doesn't work. A would be more interesting than this means, A wouldn't work either, but it's not as obvious.

mdh I see a lot of "uninteresting" which in my mind means it would be more "interesting" to play somewhere else. But if interesting is also bad...

Alex Weldon: I used to play chess against a program called Kasparov's Gambit. It featured little video clips of Kasparov making comments on your moves. My favorite was whenever you played something weird, he'd say, raising his eyebrows, "I hadn't considered this move!"

The way I interpret the use of interesting, at least on this site, is kind of the opposite of what you're saying... that the move has potential, but the person writing hasn't read it all out. "It might be interesting for White to play this way..." Conversely, "uninteresting" means something that clearly doesn't work, or is much too small at the current stage of the game.

(Seriously, though: In translations, interesting is usually the translation of omoshiroi.)

Page: Uninteresting

In go jargon, uninteresting is mild condemnation.

Page: Uninteresting / Interesting

Tamsin: Isn't 'interesting' also mild criticism, too? As you know, omoshiroi does not only mean interesting, but also amusing.

Warfreak2: I think what is meant is, "the top is uninteresting for Black" is a way of saying that Black should not develop the top side. Referring to an area as "interesting" is the opposite. I don't know how a position can be amusing though, in my experience it is the moves themselves that can be funny :D

Bill: Interesting is mild approbation.

Page: Uninteresting / Technical meaning

xela: From the way it is used in commentaries, I think that uninteresting, or whatever Japanese word it is translated from, must have some sort of specific technical meaning, although I'm not quite sure what that meaning is. Can anyone else explain more?

Bill: The Japanese term is tsumaranai, which is normally translated as uninteresting. It is not taken literally. After all, some bad plays can be quite interesting. I do not know of any technical definition. Maybe unpromising captures a lot of the meaning.

Page: Interesting And Uninteresting

Bob McGuigan: Omoshiroi has several meanings in normal usage: interesting, entertaining, pleasant, enjoyable, satisfactory. Referring to Black, say, and calling a position omoshiroi, gives a positive evaluation. I'm not sure that tsumaranai is exactly the opposite of omoshiroi. Tsumaranai means trifling, boring, petty, worthless, useless, dull, and uninteresting. I would rather use omoshiroku nai.

Interesting and Uninteresting / Discussion last edited by on January 27, 2015 - 05:42
RecentChanges · StartingPoints · About
Edit page ·Search · Related · Page info · Latest diff
[Welcome to Sensei's Library!]
Search position
Page history
Latest page diff
Partner sites:
Go Teaching Ladder
Login / Prefs
Sensei's Library