Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Transposing the two Japanese/Chinese characters for "Japan"

 In the picture above (apparently taken in Japan), I found it interesting to see the two characters for "Japan", 日本, transposed (to 本日), and consequently conveying a wholly different meaning. It is a little bit like seeing "States United" instead of "United States", and that caught my eye.  The meaning of those two characters in the transposed order is, I'm confident, the same in Japanese as in Chinese.

(1) 本 is often used in official (or at least "semi-formal") Chinese (and, I suspect, Japanese) print to mean "This", although to my knowledge it is never used in Chinese speech that way.  日 is a character commonly used for "day", so here 本日 means "today".
(2) The Japanese possessive character (like apostrophe s in English, e.g., in Grant's Tomb).
(3) 動 is a character meaning "move" in Chinese, and seemingly in Japanese as well.
(4) き is a Japanese hiragana, about which I am not qualified to say much. However, for (3) and (4) together (動き), Google Translate gives movement (or:  move, trend, activity, development, change).

So the characters I've pointed out with the arrows labeled 1-2-3-4 almost certainly mean "Today's change", particularly given the financial display for which they are a heading. For the whole phrase (本日の動き), Google Translate gives "Today's movement". That English phrasing is a little stilted, which is no surprise, coming from an automated translation source as it does.

Sometimes Chinese language background can shed some perspective on Japanese writing, and vice versa.

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