TL;DR: Word explanation wrong. Add infobox explaining grammar?
Recently, I got the word 思わず among my vocabulary items, which was great because it seems like a useful word and I didn’t already know it.
However, the mnemonic for the meaning took me aback a bit:
Reflexively, Spontaneously, Involuntarily, Instinctively
This is the adverb version of the kanji think. You can’t help but think, you do it unintentionally. So put this in front of things to say that you did them involuntarily.
I know that WaniKani mnemonics are just memory devices, and don’t often reflect the real etymology of a word; we see it all the time with words that are passive or causative forms of other words.
However, this one was striking to me because it is pretty much the exact opposite of how this word is derived: 思わず is the -ず form of 思う, and thus means something like “without thinking”.
Furthermore, the -ず form is used without explanation in a later word, 恥知らず, saying that “If you 知らず then you don’t know something”. It’s a Level 37 word, though, so I guess most people have picked up a fair amount of grammar by that point.
I don’t think that the mnemonic should be changed, because I know WaniKani is meant to be accessible even for people who don’t know much grammar. However, I do think it’s a bit of a miss opportunity to expose people to a useful grammatical concept.
Some words have text boxes with hints in them. I’m wondering if maybe something similar can be done here; see the mock-up below.
What do you think? Would something like this be helpful, or would it just create confusion for the sake of mollifying etymological extremists?
If it is useful, one could consider making similar changes to 相変わらず and 取り敢えず, although the explanations are a bit more complicated.
必ず is also derived from a ず-form verb (仮なざる), but since it’s no longer pronounced or spelled that way, that might not be very useful.
[I realize that suggestions for mnemonics normally go to firstname.lastname@example.org, but I figured it was worth seeing what other people thought about this, first.]