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Is kanji for "kawaii" ateji character?

Irena

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Konnichiwa mina-san!
I have looked through several texts on "kawaii" (cute!) culture, and I am curious to know- why, when describing the origin of the word, no one mentions the kanji characters it is/can be written with (or maybe you can supply me with a link of a text when one does!). Is it an ateji character, invented long after the word started to be used? Someone told me that literally "kawaii" (in the kanji written form) means "ought to be loved", or "lovable" (kanji for love + kanji for duty, obligation). Is it so?
Thanks for the answer!

Bye, Irena🙂
 

Maciamo

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Here is the kanji for kawaii : 可愛い
It is composed of 可(-able ; possible) and 愛 (love), so "loveable" is the most literal translation indeed.

What is "kawaii" is more often than not "simple and childish", which may explain why the kanji are not used (because kanji are supposed to be difficult and formal, all the opposite of kawaii).
 

Irena

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Thank you for the reply, Maciamo!
I wasn't very clear in my question I guess. I know kanji is rarely used for this word, but still, it exists, so I wonder why social sciencists writing about the phenomemon don't mention the kanji when they explain the roots of the word (and it looks like they explain every single little root). Do you, or anybody else know when the kanji for kawaii "was invented"? (^-^)
 

Elizabeth

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I don't know, but I think it must have been "Kaai" at some point and changed to kawai(i) which is easier to pronounce. It isn't an ateji for sure with the "w" left out and the meaning unambiguous in the two kanji. There are any number of books out there on the origin of Japanese words, though, which should solve the mystery. Good luck!
 

Maciamo

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This is a rule of pronunciation in Japanese that a "w" sound is added between 2 "a", I think. Anyway, spoken words usually came before written ones (in every language). That would be interesting to browse Japanese literature and see when the word is first used. I have absolutely no idea if this "kawaii" concept is new (e.g. after WWII) or if has been used for centuries (e.g. since Heian jidai).

But, I also have no idea about this in English for the word "cute" (but ""cutie" certainly is a modern version). My Oxford dictionary says that "cute" comes from "acute". :confused: (I knew that "sharp" meant "beautiful" is some parts of England. Is it related ?). Interestingly, it is written the definition is "endearingly pretty", but also "sexually attractive" in North American English. I didn't know that difference of meaning in AmE. Should watch out in the US before saying that a little girl is cute, for fear of being seen as a pedophile. 😲
 

thomas

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Interesting thread. Here's what Webster lists under "cute":

Main Entry: cute
Pronunciation: 'kyシt
Function: adjective
Inflected Form(s): cuter; cutest
Etymology: short for acute
Date: circa 1731
1 a : clever or shrewd often in an underhanded manner b : IMPERTINENT, SMART-ALECKY <don't get cute with me>
2 : attractive or pretty especially in a dainty or delicate way
3 : obviously straining for effect
- cutely adverb
- cuteness noun
 

Irena

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Thanks everybody!
Sharon Kinsella in a text "Cuties in Japan" says: "kawaii appears in dictionaries printed in the Taisho to 1945 period as kawayushi. In dictionaries printed after the war until around 1970 kawayushi changed into kawayui but the meaning of the word remained the same. Kawaii is a derivation of a term whose principle meaning was 'shy' or 'embarrassed' and secondary meanings were 'pathetic', 'vulnerable', 'darling', 'loveable' and 'small'. In fact the modern sense of the word kawaii still has some nuances of pitiful whilst the term kawaisテエ derived directly from kawaii means pathetic, poor, and pitiable in a generally negative if not pleasing sense". I have read it at http://www.kinsellaresearch.com/Cuties.html
Anyone knows her "Adult manga" book?
If anyone has a book on the origin of the Japanese I would appreciate very much if you can tell me what's there on kawaii (I don't have fast access to all books here in Poland).
There is an interesting article on the word "cute" at the Fifteen Theses on the Cute | Frances Richard
And, yes, well, spoken words usually come before written ones, but it also happens a word is used by a very inventive writer in a book, or a journalist firstly (it could be so that a specific form of the existing word could be used in writing for the first time, couldn't it be?)
 

Irena

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...and... anyone remembers when those kawaii Tokyo Police koban's mascots (the mouses, I think) first appeared? What's their name? Pi-po-chan? Where do they come from?
🙂
 

Elizabeth

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Originally posted by Irena
Thanks everybody!
And, yes, well, spoken words usually come before written ones, but it also happens a word is used by a very inventive writer in a book, or a journalist firstly (it could be so that a specific form of the existing word could be used in writing for the first time, couldn't it be?)
And this has been the case since at least the 4th C in Japanese, actually, since the importation of numerous kanji for which there were no native concept or vocabulary at the time.
 

Elizabeth

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Originally posted by Maciamo
This is a rule of pronunciation in Japanese that a "w" sound is added between 2 "a", I think.

It's an interesting point. I'd never thought about the lack of long a's before, but someone just sent me the unknown word 'taainai' (in hiragana) as it relates to kawaii. And still don't have the meaning, but did manage to stumble across 'taai' --> altruism in the process (now largely displaced by ritashugi?). Anyway, a fascinating counterexample if there is such a rule.

And sorry about the romaji: (ta --> others; ai --> love). The kanjis were displayed beautifully on my screen but for some reason couldn't submit it that way.

:p
 

renee

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For a reference on cute/kawaii culture, with links to internet articles on biological and socio-cultural aspects and books, check out this

IN-duce: DE-duce

👍
 

Tsurugi

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Can someone explain me are "kisama", "shigoto" and "sanaka" ateji words of native Japanese origin like "kega" or just words of Chinese-Japanese mixed origin like "hitoban"(one night)?
 

Toritoribe

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Can someone explain me are "kisama", "shigoto" and "sanaka" ateji words of native Japanese origin like "kega" or just words of Chinese-Japanese mixed origin like "hitoban"(one night)?
Your assumption/misunderstanding seems to have the same root cause.

Native japanese counter words | Japan Forum

Not all on-yomi words have Chinese origin. For instance, are you going to say the word 会社(kaisha), which had been created to translate the Western word "company" in early Meiji era Japan, is NOT NATIVE JAPANESE but Chinese origin, just because "kaisha" is on-yomi?
 

Tsurugi

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Your assumption/misunderstanding seems to have the same root cause.
Native japanese counter words | Japan Forum
Not all on-yomi words have Chinese origin. For instance, are you going to say the word 窶ーテッナステ?kaisha), which had been created to translate the Western word "company" in early Meiji era Japan, is NOT NATIVE JAPANESE but Chinese origin, just because "kaisha" is on-yomi?

In fact, I was asking if these words are ATEJI or mixture of ON-KUN reading. I mean, are parts of these three words with ON reading just used to phonetic or semantic value?
 

Glenn

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貴様 -- not 当て字
仕事 -- 仕 is an 当て字
最中 -- not 当て字

当て字 are characters that are there for sound only, and the meanings are ignored. 貴様 seems pretty straightforward -- it was an honorific term that became derogatory, and it's made up of "noble" and an honorific. The 仕 in 仕事 is there to represent the 連用形 of する, and of course 事 is "thing," as in "things to do." 最中 reads "utmost" and "middle" if you just look at the character meanings, so they aren't there just for reading.
 

Mikawa Ossan

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貴様 -- not 当て字
仕事 -- 仕 is an 当て字
最中 -- not 当て字

当て字 are characters that are there for sound only, and the meanings are ignored. 貴様 seems pretty straightforward -- it was an honorific term that became derogatory, and it's made up of "noble" and an honorific. The 仕 in 仕事 is there to represent the 連用形 of する, and of course 事 is "thing," as in "things to do." 最中 reads "utmost" and "middle" if you just look at the character meanings, so they aren't there just for reading.

I ask honestly not knowing. What about the sweet もなか which is also written in kanji as 最中?
 

undrentide

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I ask honestly not knowing. What about the sweet もなか which is also written in kanji as 最中?

Interesting!

I've made a quick check with wiki and goo辞書, it seems that the name of the sweet came from the word 最中(もなか) in a song/poem which means the same as さなか.

Origin of the sweet's name
https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E6%9C%...94.B1.E6.9D.A5

Definition of the word もなか
http://dictionary.goo.ne.jp/search.p...e=0&kwassist=0

Considering 最も is pronounced もっとも, 最中 for もなか is not ateji either.
 

tada

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This is a rule of pronunciation in Japanese that a "w" sound is added between 2 "a", I think.

場合 is read ばあい and not ばわい. So how come かわいい has the "w" and ばあい doesn't?
 
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AJBryant

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場合 is read ばあい and not ばわい. So how come かわいい has the "w" and ばあい doesn't?

A hell of a lot of people in Japan pronounce it as ばわい. As a matter of fact, all my Japanese profs over there did.


Tony
 

Toritoribe

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場合 is read ばあい and not ばわい. So how come かわいい has the "w" and ばあい doesn't?
Here's an interesting explanation from a well-known NHK's program 気になることば; Curious Words.

気になることば

He said there is a kind of fickleness in the pronunciation between あ and わ, not only in case of two "a" in one word, in Japanese through the eras.
e.g.
味(あじ)わう: to taste
a text in Nara era; あじはひ(= あじわいin modern kana usage)
Heian era; 味はひ
End of Kamakura era; あぢあふ(= あじあう)

By the same token, にぎわう-にぎあう, かわいい-かあいい, かわいそう-かあいそう etc. have same fickleness. So 場合 is sometimes pronounced as ばわい, considered as grammatically incorrect, though.
 
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tada

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A hell of a lot of people in Japan pronounce it as ばわい. As a matter of fact, all my Japanese profs over there did.
Tony

それはそうですけど、辞書で発音が「ばあい」が書いて あるんです。そして、「ばあい」を入力しなきゃ。「ば わい」を入力する時「場ワイ」にされています。
 

undrentide

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それはそうですけど、辞書で発音が「ばあい」が書いて あるんです。そして、「ばあい」を入力しなきゃ。「ば わい」を入力する時「場ワイ」にされています。

Toritoribe already stated the reason.

By the same token, にぎわう-にぎあう, かわいい-かあいい, かわいそう-かあいそう etc. have same fickleness. So 場合 is sometimes pronounced as ばわい, considered as grammatically incorrect, though.
 

tada

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It still seems strange that a dictionary would be inconsistent about which words it gives the "w" and which it wouldn't.
 

undrentide

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It still seems strange that a dictionary would be inconsistent about which words it gives the "w" and which it wouldn't.

Inconsistent?
I don't think so.
You'll find the entry only witht he correct ones.
窶ーテね?、 for 窶ーテね?、窶堋「 is ateji, and correct pronounciation is always kawaii.
Kaaii is an error, even though you'll find a lot of them on the net.
ツ湘ェツ坂?。 is always baai, bawai is an error, regardless how many people tend to say "bawai" (or sometimes even "bayai"!)

If you look up the words which has more than two kanji or pronunciation, it is mentioned in the entry. (Not always with Japanese-English/English-Japanese dictionaries, but Japanese dictionaries.)
 
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