Yosumi vs Yosumiru

    Keywords: Go term

Many western Go players use the word Yosumiru (also yosu miru and yosu-miru) referring to the kind of moves known as "probes" in English.

However, the term does not exist in Japanese. What they refer to is actually called yosu-mi (the yo is elongated). The verbal phrase yosu o miru is also widely used, and I suspect this could be the source of the mistake. Things like these have happened before: many people believe that Mt. Fuji is known as Fujiyama in Japan, while the real Japanese expression is Fuji-san (somebody, sometime in the past, misread the character meaning "mountain", which has two readings: yama and san -- only the latter is used after mountain names.)

According to my "research" so far (i.e. posting a query to rgg and getting a single response, from Vesa Laatikainen), the term yosumiru made its first appearance in Ishi Press books, back in the 70's. Any further feedback would be appreciated.

-- Eduardo Lopez H.

John F. No, yousumiru is perfectly acceptable if somewhat informal Japanese. Wo is often dropped in speech. It is true that yousumi is what you usually see, in the same sense that you see hane more than haneru or other forms of the verb, but mi is still a verbal form and there is still ellipsis of wo in yousumi.

However, there is more to it. As it happens, you will find an example in the Shuukan Go of 2003-12-29 page 17, in their proverbs series. They quote the proverb yousu kiku wa koutou shudan - probing is a high class technique. The grammar here is bungo, the old literary grammar, where wo is routinely missed out (the kiku is a rentaikei). It is fairly common to use fossilised expressions from bungo in modern Japanese. The use of yoshi for good is a common one in go books.

As to when you use yousu (wo) kiku/miru/ukagau, that's another topic.

The only sensible course is to forget the Japanese term and use "probe". Apart from anything else, I've never seen yousumi listed in Japanese technical terms lexicons. It's just a normal part of the language.

-- Eduardo Lopez H. Thank you very much for the feedback. I realize now that writing "yosumiru does not exist in Japanese" was a bit of an overplay. However, I still think that giving yousumiru (I will adopt your spelling) as the Japanese for "probe" is definitely not the best choice, one being a verbal phrase and the other a noun. (To the best of my knowledge, Yousumi is a noun in its own right --as much as hanami or tsukimi are-- even though mi derives from a verb. You could say kono te wa yousumi da, but never ... yousumiru da.)

Come to think of it, I would even have doubts about giving yosumiru as the Japanese for "to probe", since it is just a deformation of speech, not the kind of expression you would include in a term list or glossary. As you say, dropping the wo could also be considered bungo style, but that would still not justify giving the ellipsed form instead of the much more common yousu wo miru.

To summarize: Yosumiru is Japanese, but in my opinion it would be more proper and accurate to give yosumi as the equivalent of "probe".

John F. I can agree with all this as a final summary, though see below. But first, on a different topic, let me mention that every time I saw yosumi in this thread, I kept saying to myself "what has four corners got to do with it?" If we are going into Japanese definitions at the level of discussing grammar, we maybe should start spelling Japanese more strictly. The old excuse of no macrons on typewriters doesn't apply any more, anyway. Now back to our muttons: I put it to you that one reason for (using old spellings) yosumiru being popular in English is that the long i and u, or the position of the stress, somehow force the speaker into making the whole word sound reasonably like the Japanese. The form yosumi, however, would be pronounced yo-SOO-mi by most English players, which doesn't sound remotely like the Japanese (but does sound a bit like four corners!). So long as an English speaker insists on using a Japanese word instead of "probe", I think my ear would much prefer him to say yosumiru instead of yosumi.

Eduardo Lopez H. I see your point. In fact, that is why I prefer to write the word a la Kenkyusha's "Green Goddess": yosu-mi.

All things considered, there seems to be no reason at all to give yosumiru as the Japanese for "probe" in such a context as the Probe page, where it appears only as an additional piece of information and not as an alternative name to call the technique in English. (I have already taken the liberty to edit that page accordingly.)

Well, this page is my first contribution to SL. To tell you the truth, I was not very enthusiastic about the whole idea, free access and all that (only yesterday somebody "edited" my "... does not exist in Japanese" to "... is not exist in Japanese"). But if this contraption gives you the chance to discuss a go term with John Fairbairn, it is unconditionally a good thing. :-)

fhayashi: Just to make it clear to non-Japanese speakers, Yousumiru is a phrase that is not specific to Go. Miru means "to see", and Yousu means something like the combination of "mood" and "situation". Yousumiru has a meaning like "check out" or "reconnoiter". It doesn't have the poking or prodding connotation of probe. Of course, it was probably originally used as the translation because it gives the same meaning in the Go context, that is "a move designed to elicit a response in order to gain knowledge of the opponent's strategy". As for Yosumi vs. Yosumiru, to me it sounds like "probe" vs. "to probe"...

Eduardo Lopez H.: "To probe" would normally be "yosu o miru". As John pointed out, the construction "yosu miru wa" does exist in bungo, and the "o" is sometimes dropped in informal speech as well, but I still think that using it in print is a mistake. In particular, in the English go literature it is often used as a noun: "this move is a yosumiru", for which I see no justification.

Somebody: I would translate "yousu wo miru" in general usage as "to wait and see" or "to look how things stand". Like "I'll go to the playing room to see what the situation is" or "Let's just wait and watch for a while before taking any action". Using the word "yousu mi" is correct, but as the noun form is not used as a special term (in exclusion of the other forms) in Japanese I don't see much point in it, especially as "probe" is shorter and well-known in its own right. In this case the proverb usage is not the most common one: in everyday language you'd say "yousu (wo) miru no ha" (with the added "no"), "yousu (wo) mite", etc. So my vote (as if we were voting :-) would go for dropping both "yousu mi" and "yousu miru" - with whatever romanization - as contrived and unwieldy words that have outlived their usefulness since the popularization of "probe".

Eduardo Lopez H.: I completely agree with you. This whole page was inspired by the fact that the word yosumiru was given as the Japanese for "probe" in the Probe page, which is clearly a mistake (see above). Actually, I corrected it but it seems that it has been changed back... Maybe I'll have to insist. :-)

Robert Pauli: Strategic Concepts of Go's chapter 8 is titled Yosu-miru.

Yosumi vs Yosumiru last edited by on June 22, 2008 - 06:57
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