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?


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.


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.


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


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 >_>


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


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.

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).


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.


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!!


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.)


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:


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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