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In a famous book of Richard Feynman there is a story about him struggling with the Japanese language when it comes to keigo.

Take a look at the excerpt from “Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!“, part 5:

I was learning Japanese mainly for technical things, so I decided to check if this same problem existed among the scientists.
At the institute the next day, I said to the guys in the office, “How would I say in Japanese, ‘I solve the Dirac Equation’?”
They said such­-and­-so.
“OK. Now I want to say, ‘Would you solve the Dirac Equation?’ — how do I say that?“  “Well, you have to use a different word for ‘solve,’” they say.
“Why?” I protested. “When I solve it, I do the same damn thing as when you solve it!”
“Well, yes, but it’s a different word­­ it’s more polite.”
I gave up. I decided that wasn’t the language for me, and stopped learning Japanese.

What would be those Japanese phrases like? Is there a keigo version even for a verb like “solve” that has a rather abstract meaning to me?

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  • 3
    Surely the difference would only be 解きました vs 解いていただけますか
    – Angelos
    Sep 17 at 3:11
  • 4
    「解く」の尊敬語・・・ (。´・ω・)?
    – Chocolate
    Sep 17 at 3:33
  • 2
    Yeah, it's a weird story. He changed the grammar from one sentence to the next, so it's not outrageous to think the Japanese sentence would change too. But yeah, I don't think such a pair exists for solve. Maybe he knew pairs like that exist and created a scenario after the fact to express his surprise at it.
    – Leebo
    Sep 17 at 3:35
  • 2
    lucylou.tumblr.com/post/966986488/… Would you like to glance at my lousy garden? May I observe your gorgeous garden? May I hang my eyes on your most exquisite gardens? 「ご覧になる」「拝見する」ですかね?3つ目は何でしょう、「拝観する」とか? これホントの話なんですかね~?? (o¬ω¬o)
    – Chocolate
    Sep 17 at 3:52
  • 2
    He could’ve hired a better teacher…
    – aguijonazo
    Sep 17 at 8:22

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