Wordplay

Posted on February 10, 2015 | genkijacs

Alrighty! Here we go, your go-to expression for this week! Did you know Japanese also has wordplay? The Japanese love it and call it 言葉遊び (ことばあそび - "kotoba asobi").

Here are a few examples of Japanese words and phrases that, when said out loud, sound like English:

ハマチ : hamachi (Japanese meaning: Yellowtail sushi) – Sounds like: "How much?"
いつ相撲終わる? : itsu sumo owaru? (Japanese meaning: When does the Sumo end?) – Sounds like: "It’s a small world."
ほった芋いじんな : Hotta imo ijinna (Japanese meaning: Leave those potatoes alone) – Sounds like: "What time is it now?"

In Japanese, numbers' pronunciation can also sometimes be adapted to form words. Like...

37564 – みなごろし : Massacre (In this example, 3 - usually pronounced "san" - is pronounced "mi" (as it is in words such as 3日間 - "mikkakan" or "three days". 7 - "nana" - gets shortened to "na". And so on...)

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18782 - いやなやつ : Unpleasant guy (above?) Time to use sneaky number codes around mean guys.

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4649 - よろしく : Nice to meet you, please treat me well!

What kind of Japanese wordplay do you know? Little things make studying Japanese interesting and more fun, don’t you think?