Chinese characters as penile substitues

Posted: September 18, 2009 in japanese, languages, sociolinguistics, writing system
Tags: , , , ,

Recently, I’ve been reading this book (oh, it’s famous! There’s even an English translation. I didn’t know that, huh). It’s pure escapism, I know. But Chiaki told me to read it, and it’s actually fun.

(Very very snotty, pretentious fun)

(It’s not even pretentious. It’s just that—)

— It’s just that Natsuhiko Kyougoku uses Chinese characters as penile substitutes.

Some people have cars. Some people build phallic monuments, like stelae. Some people actually have penises.

Natsuhiko Kyougoku*, however, uses Chinese characters to reaffirm his masculinity**.

(There’s this whole issue, where Chinese characters are statistically more likely to be used in media whose target are men. According to Smith& Schmidt, “Variability in written Japanese: Towards a sociolinguistics of a script choice”, Visible Language 30, mystery and business novels for adult men have the highest proportion of Chinese characters, and romance novels aimed at women have the highest proportion of hiragana; the highest proportion of katakana is to be found in books aimed at a younger audience. However, why would be mystery novels aimed at men and not both genders is something that’s completely beyond me. LOL, romance, whut.)

But I digress.

Anyway, what he does is (and I’ve only just started the book, so there must be more awesome examples in the next 500 pages or so):

a) to write 摑まる*** instead of 捕まる (meaning: catch, arrest). Not only is it the rarer form of the character, it’s also the pre-writing reform form (摑まる vs 掴まる). Of course, I know that, because I’m brilliant, but, for real, it might have been the first time I’ve seen it used in modern literature.

b) to evilly use the word ubame instead of uba (nursing mother) or something, and furthermore, write it with ateji (??? I don’t even know, really, and personally, I wouldn’t think that 故 is an ateji for “u”. I might just not know though: ateji are not exactly my area of expertise), like that 故獲馬 (as opposed to the typical 乳母、乳母女 — uba, ubame). This is a part of the title though, so there is a possibility that those characters are supposed a profound and, for me, still secret, meaning.

c) to evilly write  検討 with 検闘 (it means to examine), because, obviously, the bigger the better.

d) to evilly write  ごまかす (trick, cheat) with Chinese characters thus 誤魔化す; which is evil and terrible, if you don’t know how to read them****, as this spelling appears not to be present in my Koujien actually (le gasp).

e) to evilly write iwayuru (so-called) with Chinese characters 所謂, which simple and pure evil, and for which there is no excuse.

f) to evilly write 切っ掛け like this 契機 (cue). At least he had the decency to actually use furigana for that one, though.

And it’s only a little bit of the stuff from the first 30 pages or so. Awesome.

(I could of course, just say that he uses the Chinese characters to make the entire text feel old and/or archaic, but where would be fun in that? I prefer penile subsitutes.  As his bizarre Wikipedia page explains:

Kyogoku can use DTP software perfectly, so he freely writes old-fashioned characters and ateji characters with the purpose of capturing old Japanese atmosphere in his novels. However, such characters are difficult even for Japanese people to read.

So, predictably, I’ve no idea about his proficiency with the software, but the thing about the characters? It’s true.)

* Whoa, his Wikipedia page is absolutely bizarre. It just screams NPOV  NPOV NPOV NPOV issues, and also reads like an ad. Great work! ( / sarcasm )

** It would be awesome if it turned out he’s actually a woman. I for one would be ecstatic.

*** This character killed my Anthy. CURSE YOU UBUNTU CURSE YOU.

**** I did, of course.

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