I was watching Hokuto no Ken and suddenly Sunday’s already over. Why are vacations always like this?
I said I’d write something once a week, not matter how trivial, so here are two 2ch vocabulary items I enjoy in a “painful groan” kind of way:
ki gasu 希ガス: “Noble gas”. Took a moment the first time I met it. Wordplay for 気がする ki ga suru “to feel that, to have a hunch that”. Notice the final -u can be devoiced, so it’s more or less natural to abbreviate away the last syllable.
wara（藁）: “Straw”. It stands for “smile”. The rationale for this is:
- A widespread Internet abbreviation for “smile” is （笑）, roughly equivalent to “lol” or “:)”.
- (笑) came from the word for smile, warai. But Japanese ortography has it that this word must be written with an extra okurinaga character for the -i, as 笑い (because it’s the nominal conjugation of a verb).
- So, when reading a text with the sequence (笑), one is faced with a conundrum: how to read it mentally? One alternative (& I’ve seen people recommending it) would be to think of it in Sino-Japanese as shô; but a standalone morpheme like this is rarely read as SJ, and besides shô is homophonous with too many other SJ morphemes.
- The alternative is to read it as warai; but, as pointed above, it’s missing the -i okurigana, so it feels like it should be just wara-. However, the root for “smile”, wara-, is not a free morpheme.
- On the other hand, the homophonous word for “straw”, wara, is.
- Therefore, smile = （藁）.
There are plenty more; the Japanese Internet is self-documenting, just search for glossaries and Yahoo questions.
Bonus: Here’s that kanji again:
The original character for “straw” was 稿、 combining “grain” 禾 with “tall” 高—the second as a phonetic hint that still works in SJ (kô). In time, the character came to be used ever more commonly for “sketch, draft” (a common connotation of “straw” or “grass” in Chinese culture), so 藁 was devised by adding an extra, redundant semantic hint for “grass” 艸 at the top (there’s also a variant without “grass” but keeping the “grain” intact, 稾). This process of “kanji rehabilition” was fairly common; what was unusual here is the rearranging of the three elements in a vertical pileup, resulting in a character dense enough to be hard to parse at usual computer resolutions.