Estimated reading time: 6 minute(s)
Over the past couple of years, I have gradually read through the “Higurashi When They Cry” (translates to “When the Evening Cicadas Cry” series of computer games). The subject-matter for the instant article comes from the seventh entry out of eight in the series. Since this article is not about the stories, per se, a brief introduction will suffice. The Higurashi series was written and first released by a circle of hobbyist writers and developers in Japan between 2002 and 2006. The entries tell the story of a series of murders in the fictional Japanese village of Hinamizawa, all taking place in 1983. The “games,” if they can be called that, require no interactivity from the player other than reading – the text is accompanied by sound and still art. The series is officially localized and available in the United States courtesy of Manga Gamer, and it can be purchased on Steam. However, as I noted, this article is not about the story of the series, but about a particular scene – specifically one wherein the Manga Gamer localization team translates one of the main characters as saying the uncommon word, “whyever.”
(For those interested in reading Higurashi, this article contains no story spoilers or discussion of the game at all outside of a brief note about the perspectives through which the player sees events in different entries in the series. Any mild spoiler value that this would have is gone by the fourth entry in the series.)
Whyever Would One Use “Whyever” In a Video Game?
During the first few entries in the Higurashi series, the player almost always views events from the perspective of Keichi Maebara, aged 14 or 15, who is one of the main characters. In the second half of the series, however, the player often views events from the perspective of different members of the cast, giving the player access to different perspectives. For example, in the scene that prompted this article, the player has the perspective of Rika Furude, a 11 or 12-year-old shrine maiden and another one of the main characters. The scene involves Rika, Keichi, and their close friend Satoko Hojo, also 11 or 12, who is known for her tendency to set traps and her unusual manner of speaking.
The subject of discussion between the three characters was what they would do if they came into possession of 50,000 yen. Using a yen inflation calculator followed by a calculator to convert current yen into U.S. dollars, I found that 50,000 yen in 1983 is roughly $600 in U.S. currency today. That brief digression marks The New Leaf Journal’s second and most complex conversion of yen into U.S. dollars.
Rika stated that she would use the yen to buy “a lifetime supply of soy sauce.” Satoko, perplexed, asked Rika “whyever would you buy soy sauce with a prize like that?” My attention was arrested by “whyever,” a quite uncommon word – evinced by the fact that my spellchecking dictionary for Libre Office thinks that I am committing a spelling error by typing it. Let us investigate.
Whyever Have We Not Seen “Whyever” In The New Leaf Journal?
When attempting to learn about a situation or solve a problem, we are taught to ask the following questions: “who, what, where, when, why, and how?” I learned this in elementary school, others may have learned it elsewhere. Considering that Higurashi is a murder mystery game, all readers should keep these questions in mind. But rather than solve a mystery, I note that five of these words form oft-used compound words with -ever: “whoever, whatever, wherever, whenever, and however.” After performing a quick search, I can confirm that each of those six words have appeared in The New Leaf Journal. At the time of this writing, “however” has probably appeared in the vast majority of our articles, “whoever” and “whatever” have made a large number of appearances, and “wherever” and “whenever” have appeared in two articles each. Until now, however, the word “whyever” has made no New Leaf Journal appearances whatsoever. I assure you that this is no literary oversight on the my part or Victor’s – “whyever” is quite uncommon.
Are We Sure That “Whyever” Is Actually a Word?
“Whyever” is a word, albeit seldom used. I did know that “whyever” was a word when I encountered Satoko’s question, and I was struck by how unusual seeing it was, I set out to write a brief article on the most seldom seen of the w-ever words. As I am wont to do, I turned to The Century Dictionary, only to find that it had no entry for “whyever.” I then turned to Webster’s 1913, only to find that it too had no entry for “whyever.” Because I prefer older dictionaries that provide comprehensive definitions and guides to usage rather than contemporary dictionaries that stealthily change commonly understood definitions in response to the political news of the day, I turned to the one slightly more contemporary old dictionary in my possession – my copy of the unabridged Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition, recommended by no less of an authority on the English language than the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. My copy, published in 1950 and numbering 3,214 pages, has been waiting to make its New Leaf Journal debut. I turned the dictionary to page 2,923 and found the definition I was looking for.
Whyever in Webster’s Second
Below, you will find a picture of the definition of “whyever” in Webster’s Second (1950), taken with my BlackBerry Classic through my magnifying glass:
Webster’s Second defines the adverb “whyever” as meaning “For what or whatever reason.” According to Webster’s Second, it was more properly written as “why ever.” In any case, Webster’s Second described “whyever” as being colloquial.
In order to determine why “whyever” is uncommon, one need only ask whyever would one need to use it? It is hard to come up with a case where “whyever” is necessary. For example, consider Satoko’s question to Rika. Satoko asked Rika “whyever would you buy soy sauce with a prize like that?” In context, would anything had been lost had Satoko simply asked “why would you buy soy sauce with a prize like that?” Even assuming one is not strongly opposed to “whyever” in lieu of “why ever,” the simpler “why” is capable of conveying the same questions in all material aspects.
The case for both “whyever” and “why ever” is that they suggest an emphatic form of “why.” Its use is more common in spoken British English than here in the United States. For example, to refer to Collins Dictionary (British English definition), “whyever” is defined as “an emphatic form of ‘why’ used in questions.” Collins offers the quintessential British usage example for “whyever”: “Whyever not?” However, while “whyever” and “why ever” are more common across the pond, Collins indicates that they are both seldom seen in written form.
Whyever do the Cicadas Cry?
To start, since I can neither read nor understand Japanese, I can only assess the official English-language translation of the Higurashi series. Although there was no need for Satoko to begin her question to Rika with “whyever” instead of “why,” it fit with how Manga Gamer chose to translate her throughout the series. Satoko speaks somewhat unusually, with a formal, sometimes pseudo-formal, affect. In the context of how she was written broadly, an unusual word here or there fits right in.
I am curious to know what Satoko said in Japanese, and whether she used a particular word in her question that is best translated as “whyever,” or whether Manga Gamer decided that, based on the tone of the question and her overall manner of speech, “whyever” was the best way to convey what she said to English audiences. Perhaps I will submit an inquiry to get to the bottom of the issue..
I will conclude this article having completed my journey from reading Higurashi on my laptop to finding the definition of “whyever” in my very large dictionary.
While it is not a word that needs to be used often, this study has convinced me that “whyever” should make occasional appearances in The New Leaf Journal – with its cousins whoever, whatever, wherever, whenever, and however (however is its second cousin) – going forward. In future articles, be on the lookout for the occasional emphatic “whyever,” with a link returning you to the article where its New Leaf Journal journey began. Ask not whyever would I use “whyever” in The New Leaf Journal, ask whyever would I not.