Don’t Make Me Lose Hope


kanji: 失望

Kanji: Don’t Make Me Lose Hope

Back in the 1990s I had a boss from sunny California who used to lecture me with the line, “Other people can’t upset you; you control how you react.” I was reminded of this yesterday when I looked up the kanji 失望「しつぼう」(shitsubou)…literally to lose hope but often translated as disappointment or discouragement (to lose heart).

The simple English command, “Don’t disappoint me.” was translated as 「失望をさせないでくれ」roughly, “Do me a favor and doon’t give me cause to be disappointed.” That is, it was translated using the causal tense. Which, when I think of it, makes more sense. In English, the person doing the disappointing becomes the actor (the subject of the sentence). The verb is in active voice. Does that make the “me” the object of the verb? Is disappoint really a transitive verb? it seems more like a state of being to me.

In Japanese, the unspoken “I’ is still the subject, the focus, of the sentence. I am the one experiencing the disappointment. I’m asking you not to be the cause of that.

Breaking down the word

The first kanji means “to lose”, as in to let slip from one’s grasp. It’s the same “shitsu” as in 失礼しました (shitsurei shimashita) which is a set phrase for “Pardon me.” or “Excuse me.” Literally it’s “I’ve lost my (sense) of gratitude”…that is, my graciousness. I’m being ungracious. Think of it as “Where have my manners gone?” or “He seems to have lost his manners.”

The second kanji means “hope” especially in the sense of future expectations (or in plainer English, what one looks forward to). It shows the radicals for king and moon…maybe he has “high hopes; pie-in-the-sky hopes”. And what’s that third part of the character, the corpse radical [亡]. It’s just in there for the sound : BOH