Confusing 漢語

Do you ever see a 漢語 and just think, “Well that would certainly be mildly confusing if read aloud”?

Please share!!

Mine today was 今秋 (こんしゅう) in

今秋の「iPhone XI」は四角形で囲まれたトリプルカメラを搭載か


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I think in some cases you’d change how you’d say it out loud to avoid the confusion. 今秋 --> 今年の秋 (or something like that). An interesting example is 私立 and 市立, which have basically opposite meanings, but are both しりつ. But in speech, you can say わたくしりつ and いちりつ to avoid the confusion.


Huh, interesting. When I was presented with 私立 in my Kanji in Context book it was in the following example:

国立大学 公立大学 私立大学

That led me to assume 公立 would be the counterpart of 私立. How do 公立 and 市立 differ?

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(Definitions from




You can see the definitions (especially the first two) follow a similar structure. Something is doing the 設立し、管理・維持すること. In the case of 私立, that something is 個人や民間団体 (individuals or non-government agencies). For 市立, that something is 市 (city). 公立’s is more complicated and I’m not capable of breaking it down (without a lot more effort than I feel like putting in right now). Notice though that the end of that definition mentions 国立 and 私立.

If you ask a Japanese for the meanings, they usually tell you that 公立 should mean any public university because of the 公x私, which is a pattern present across all Japanese, in several other words too.

However, Japanese people don’t usually lump together national universities and prefectural or municipal universities, that’s why on regular use 公立 just means (都道府県市町村)立.
When they want to say all public universities, from the national to the city ones, the word is 国公立 (こっこうりつ), to make it explicit that national universities are included, too.

But be aware that “national is not the same as regular public ones” works for universities, specifically. The patterns for hospitals, schools and other facilities may differ, depending on how common (and how different) is each group.

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Any of these 3-column kanji:

I know it should be very obvious, but I somehow still manage to mix them up -_-

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All 市立 things are 公立, but not all 公立 things are 市立. They could be 県立, for instance.


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