Biggest Realizations / Mind Blows You've Experienced Learning Japanese: Emoji means what?!?!

Not really a “mind blow” maybe, but something I was proud of and surprised myself.

I had a native gather a bunch of celebrity names (without pictures) for me to try and read, because I figure that’s as good a way as any to get better at reading names.

I got to 阿部寛 and had no trouble reading 阿部 (あべ) because that’s an extremely common last name.

So my thought process on the given name was

  1. It’s the 寛 in 寛容.
  2. 寛容 means “tolerance” or “generosity”.
  3. In other words 心がひろい.
  4. So maybe his name is related to ひろい.
  5. ひろし is a common name related to ひろい.

And I was right!

Felt really good.

I completely whiffed on plenty of other names, but getting that one right was nice.


Studying 表外読み方 (readings for jouyou kanji that are outside of the approved list) has crystalized something I guess I always kind of knew.

Whenever a kanji has a particular kunyomi reading, it’s because it gets used with that meaning in some kanji compound. This, of course, just makes sense… why else would the Japanese people who first started to apply verb readings to kanji apply them willy-nilly?

足 is used to write たりる because the compounds 不足, 満足, 補足, 充足, etc… where it has the meaning of たりる already existed.

How the character 足 came to get used that way is a story that starts and ends before Japan ever imported kanji.

It may feel obvious when 足 and たりる are such common words, but just know that if you ever see a kunyomi that looks like it makes no sense, there is going to be a compound that uses it that way somewhere. It might be a rare or obsolete word, but it will be out there.

(Excluding things like 当て字 and 慣用的読み方)


What is the example that made you realize?

For instance, the word 許り (ばかり)

The meanings we learn here for that kanji are “permit” and “allow.” All of the compounds that you commonly see with it are things that use those meanings.

But apparently there is a relatively rare compound, 許多 (きょた), meaning 数の多いこと. And that’s where the base meaning for that 表外 reading comes from.

EDIT: Another one I just saw. 垂んとする (なんなんとする, to approach, to get close) and 垂死 (すいし on the verge of death)


Well, some are quite good, though. Bulbasaur is フシギダネ, which can be understood as mysterious plant, but also as “mysterious, isn’t it”.

The absolute worst are the legendary birds, Fire, Freezer and Thunder. Not to confuse with Thunders, which is Jolteon. And Vaporeon is Showers, yeah :smiley:


Have you read book “The Kanji Code” by Natalie Hamilton? I haven’t gotten around to it, but what you said reminded me of it.

I have not, but I’ve seen a few people mention it.

I kinda expected it, but it turns out my favourite Japanese word, 言語道断 is barely known amongst natives. I expected it to be a rare word for sure, but I asked a teacher at my school and he said he hadn’t heard of it before. I’m pretty disappointed to be honest, it has always been such a fun word to me :man_shrugging:


It’s outrageous, isn’t it?

(I had to look this up in Jisho)


At least it’s easy to read :smiley:

I would say “outrageous” is not the most common English word either. I bet not everybody really understands it.

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And there are also other, non-yojijukugo words that mean outrageous in Japanese. とんでもない, 理不尽, etc.


So I knew already that the “gyu” in “wagyu” is 牛. Makes sense. Beef of some kind.

Just now I figured out that the “wa” is 和. “Wagyu” is 和牛. Japanese beef. Never fails to surprise me how many words in Japanese are so wonderfully descriptive.