Are there any words for which you thought you knew the kanji, but when you learned them properly you found they used different kanji?

One example for me is seifuku/uniform. I always assumed it was 生服, like the sei from student (生徒) and then 服 for clothes. However, apparently it’s actually 制服, “control” and “clothes.”

Anyone else experience this? Where you’re aware of a word that you’ve encountered before, and assumed you knew the kanji, but actually the kanji ended up being different?

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First one that comes to mind is だいなし. For the longest time I assumed it was 大無し but it’s actually 台無し. Honestly, I still feel like the one I originally thought it was makes more sense.

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You didn’t say if you looked up the logic, but it’s apparently from Buddhism. A statue of Buddha with nowhere to place it is not fulfilling its complete potential, so it works as an analogy for other things going wrong.

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So, that’s how that expressions came to be! :eyes: Thanks for sharing!

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I don’t know if I have an amusing story to tell about thinking I knew the kanji but being wrong, but this happens to me many times a day as I study for kanji writing tests >_>

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Every time there’s one with the same reading but slightly different meaning like ()る、()る、()る (to see a patient in my mind). They just surprise me

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I’m more often surprised by a vocab word that looks like it has nothing to do with a word I’ve only heard before, and suddenly I see how it is pronounced the same and is the same. Or the total opposite scenario. :hushed:

  • 弁当: because of course the dialect success is a lunch box
  • I was kind of disappointed that 族 is not related to 海賊, but maybe One Piece has set my expectations for Pirates too high.

Totally. I think, just how lazy can the Japanese Language get with phonetics!

  • 始 and 初 both being はじ
  • 丸い / 円い followed closely 回る / 周り all relating to circles.
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Apparently it’s originally 便当, with convenience being the primary intent of that meaning combo, but association of 便 to bowel movements led Japanese people to just swap in another べん kanji, regardless of the meaning (ateji).

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The only thing that comes to mind is 御の字. Somehow I thought it was 恩の字, because I saw that (erroneous) spelling in a light novel.

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Whaaaat really?? I also figured it would be sea family for sure :’)
Maybe we can make an exception to call the Straw Hats 海族, because that’s what they are!!

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西瓜 (すいか) comes immediately to mind. I would have thought 水瓜, since you know, watermelon. But nope. (Though Jisho does list the latter as a rarely-used kanji form.)

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水瓜 is also valid, apparently.

My most embarassing episode would be mishearing 世間話(せけんばなし). For the longest time I thought it was 石鹸(せっけ)(ばなし) aka “soap story”. I attributed it to people chatting in the onsen while relaxing like you sometimes see in anime :flushed:

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先年 and 去年. Even now I am not fully understand why “last year” is so different from the next/last time period pattern. I even googled the stuff, and 先年 does not really exist. So why not using 去月 or 去日 for consistency? God only knows.
Well, I know, that “sen” means like not one date point, but several, but still.

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That would be a very Japanese thing to do!

On the flip side, I’ve been waiting for 冗談 (joke) ever since I realized 談 (conversation) was probably the character being used for じょうだん when I hear it while watching anime. I was wondering how they would tie it together, and was not disappointed when I came across it today

冗談 is literally a superfluous conversation :joy:

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