I admit that I’ve gotten mixed reactions to the name of this book. It’s not a familiar Japanese word, and frankly not the easiest to pronounce. I’m certain many will call the book “Tamma-ee-she” or something like that.
But I’m definitely not changing it.
Originally, since the book was about a little pebble, I thought it would be called just that. Pebble. And that worked well enough. From the start the idea involved a little tiny pebble and a big boulder. But somewhere in 2016 I started doing more research into Japanese names and came across Tamaishi — a word that had multiple levels of meaning.
Literally, the word is Tama（玉), ball/sphere and ishi (石) stone. The word is irrespective of size and can mean a pebble or a boulder. At that point, I was already sold. But it goes deeper than that. Tamaishi (not to be confused with “Tamashii” or “soul”) is a sacred stone in Japanese culture, a “round granite rock that has obsidian within it” (1) that grows in a perfect sphere. These rocks embody the idea of a “diamond in the rough” or “hidden potential”. I was even happier when I showed the characters to a Chinese friend who verified the characters’ meaning.
The title definitely helped shape the arc of the story — it wasn’t just about a relationship between the pebble and the boulder, but hidden change and potential is both of them and the path to that realization. It’s about self-realization, perception of self and the world, and how we can all find that hidden potential within ourselves.
For the record — it’s tah-mah-ee-she. With Japanese there is no distinct emphasis, but run it through google translate and you can hear it.