So I was translating a song (full lyrics here: 反芻の印象) and there is an onomatopoeia in the middle which I don't understand. It's らん. It repeats multiple times (you can hear it in the song on Youtube, 【初音ミク】反芻の印象【オリジナル曲】, at 1:00) and I don't know what it's trying to mimic. I can't find what it could mean anywhere, and I don't know what it could be besides that. The song is about trains, so I'm assuming the sound effect is related to that, but really I have no idea what it's supposed to sound like, even after listening to it over and over.

Additionally, the line after that in the song is:

裂けて 避けた

(I tore it up and avoided it?) which I'm quite sure is a pun, which is why I'm hesitant to translate it as written, especially since it doesn't really make contextual sense. (As the next lyric is 鈍行列車 点いて 消える きまぐれ信号, the slow train lights up (the night) and then vanishes, a whimsical signal - that makes sense together, but not with 裂けて 避けた.) Is this just a weird line, or is there some meaning to these words, especially put together, that I'm not seeing?

Thank you for your help!

  • Are you sure it is an onomatopoeia (擬{ぎ}[音{おん}・声{せい}・態{たい}]語{ご}) and not simply 乱{らん} or ラン = "run"? – archaephyrryx May 24 '17 at 21:45
  • Based on the way it sounds in the song, it appears to be mimicking something. – Smoothie May 30 '17 at 20:14

The somewhat monotonous tone of this らん reminds me of the sound of Japanese 踏切 (railway crossing) since this is a song about trains, but its sound is usually カンカン. I'm not sure if it's really related. らんらん, ラララ, ルルル and so on are often used as a meaningless phrase in songs, so it can be simply meaningless. (遠い日々 from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is a famous song which only says らんらん.)

As for the "裂けて 避けた" line, I think it's a relative clause that modifies 鈍行列車. Please notice nouns come after the corresponding verbs on each line of that stanza. 鈍行列車 is a local train as opposed to express ones. So the literal translation would be "A local train which was torn and avoided". I'm not 100% sure, but my best guess is that this refers to a passing loop (or 待避線 in Japanese), where a railroad is "torn" (branched) and express trains "avoid" local trains. The following three lines seem to be also about a passing loop or a siding (signal light, railway switch, curved and aligned railroads). 使い捨て is "single-use" or "disposable", but here it seems to refer to an old siding which is rarely used.

  • Thank you for your answer! Based on the sound file of the railroad crossing, it does seem to sound like that - the way the volume of the sound changes seems like it's trying to mimic something, so I don't think it's meaningless. 裂けて 避けた in the context of a passing loop also makes much more sense. – Smoothie May 30 '17 at 19:59

Based on my judgement alone, I would say

  • らん=ラン "run"
  • 裂けて 避けて is not a pun, merely a lyrical/rhythmic device
  • 「鈍行列車 / 点いて 消えて きまぐれ信号」= "normal train / a capricious light/signal that lights up and goes out" (the bold is for emphasis since 鈍行 and 列車 both mean "normal/slow train")

I have no real basis for this, just instinct (not a native speaker so that isn't much to go on).

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