Negative/opposite mnemonics

Starting from level 11, or maybe a bit before that, I noticed many mnemonics have a negative/opposite mnemonic of what we are supposed to learn, which makes it quite more difficult to remember the meaning.

For example, 労 means “labor” and the mnemonic is “A Viking in a position of power does not need to labor in the fields”. When I see the radicals “viking” and “power” I think “Hmm… what would a viking in a position of power do?”. It’s a bit hard to go from that point to “what wouldn’t he do?”

Another one, 成, means “become”. The mnemonic is “A drunkard with a sword will never become a respected swordsman”. So again, thinking about a drunkard with a sword I’ll try to think about him and what with him, not what’s not going to happen to him.

Yet another one, 働, means “work” and the mnemonic is “A leader with a lot of power can move heavy things with hardly any work”. This is similar, I don’t tend to think “he’ll need a lot of work for that” (positive sentence) because it doesn’t make sense (he has power), but the mnemonic is saying that he doesn’t need too much work for it.

Edit: another one, 共, means “together”, the mnemonic is “The only card game fish can be decent at is blackjack because their fins can’t hold their cards together.”

Anyone else found this thing with WaniKani?

This is a small complaint, but also I guess if I talk about it it’ll make it a bit easier for me to remember these negative mnemonics :stuck_out_tongue:


I totally agree, I like to really visualise the mnemonics and it’s much more difficult to visualise someone not doing something than doing something, haha. But in those cases I just tweak the mnemonic to mean that - the leader is hardworking and can move heavy things with his power, the drunkard is desperately trying to become a respected swordsman by practicing with a sword every day, being a viking requires a lot of power for the hard labor etc. It often doesn’t require that much to alter them to something that makes sense to me.

P.s. you typoed labor - it’s supposed to be 労 :wink:


Yes. I’ve never understood why they do this. Especially because a lot of them don’t need to be negative. The logic behind most mnemonics is fuzzy at best, so why not things like fins are great for holding card together, for example?

Always thought it was strange.

Ooh I thought I was the only one who found it difficult with the negative mnemonics, it just doesn’t work with my brain :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

What I usually do is to riff on their mnemonics, never use theirs as is. It’s easier to remember when you create them, instead of someone elses, because at the end of the day it’s like remembering lines from a book, that’s a whole lot of lines.

Yeah, I find if a mnemonic is not doing it for me, if I actually bother to write my own in the space provided for it, I REALLY really remember those kanji particularly well.

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I feel the exact same way, I always have to make negative ones into positive ones or ill never remember. 暗 was the most annoying to me. It would have been so easy to say ann is standing on two suns and making it all dark.

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I agree with 労 having a weak mnemonic. I remember constructing something like:

A Viking searches for Power by joining the British Labour Party. Then I imagined a the most viking dude I could conjure among a bunch of typically british people in a parliament.

Why yes, the proposition concerning recycling of plastic containers looks most satisfactory. You may live for another moon.

As several people have written already: If the mnemonic doesn’t work for you, dont try to force it and instead make your own.


I always remember a very good maths teacher of mine. On one occasion she taught us that the way to learn a particular fact was that it’s the opposite way around to what you expect. It does work sometimes, but it can be dangerous.

However, I find that the wk mnemonics morph quite a bit in my mind. So it doesn’t bother me that the mnemonic is negative as it just gives me the hint to think of a drunkard with a sword. In my case, he keeps saying “what have I become?” in a drunken voice.

bit of thread necro here but i just failed to burn 検 and remembered this post.

i sat there for a few minutes thinking, ok, taking a squid to the butcher is risky, squid ribs can be turned into a sword, and the squid and horse are study buddies for an upcoming test, but what the hell is a squid tree?.. (answers ‘risky’ just in case i was wrong about the butcher)

are  you  kidding  me.

well maybe now that i kvetched about it i’ll remember -_-;


I think I’ll start using the advise given here to change the mnemonic if it’s positive.

Maybe this squid is special and gets bored of being in the water all the time so it gets out once in a while and goes examining trees, looking at their shape, perhaps comparing them with its shape, trying to find one that looks exactly like it :stuck_out_tongue:


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