Docstoc

Japanese writing and Chinese characters

Document Sample
Japanese writing and Chinese characters Powered By Docstoc
					I was looking forward to having a nice quiet drink after a long day. As soon I opened
the door, I heard Fred's voice booming and all hope for a nice quiet drink was gone.
Fred had apparently heard yet another reference to Japanese people writing Chinese
characters and he was going off like the 4th of July.

"When I write English," he asked, "What alphabet do I use?"

Somebody foolishly tried to answer, not understanding that all Fred's questions were
rhetorical unless Fred wanted information about a train schedule or what time some
place opened. Ignoring the poor fool who tried to answer, Fred continue, "I use the
modern English alphabet. It may be Latin-based, but it is not what the Romans used.
You can call it the Roman alphabet or the Latin alphabet, but it has changed."

I was not sure exactly where Fred was going with this, but I thought I knew where he
was going. "The Japanese characters are the same. Although the characters, named
after the Han dynasty, were once Chinese, they are not any more. In the years since
Japanese writing embraced characters and added two Japanese syllaburies, times have
changed. The Japanese government instituted character reform after World War II.
And let's not forget China. Chinese writing has certainly not stood still in the
hundreds of years since Japan first started to borrow Chinese characters. This is
Japanese writing now and they are Japanese characters. They may have originated in
China and they may have been Chinese in the past, but they are not any more. They
are Japanese characters!"

Fred tended to repeat himself when he got worked up. I wonder if it was time to ask
Fred if he had any problems with the word Chinese. After Fred slammed his glass
down on the bar, I knew he had finished. So, I asked him if he had any problems with
the word Chinese. He responded immediately with a loud "No!" He then continued,
"Chinese is a perfectly good word, but it does not apply to things Japanese. Take a
look at ramen. The Japanese call ramen Chinese noodles. They may have been
Chinese once, but they are very Japanese now. I don't know why Japanese love to
preface things with Chinese when they are no longer Chinese. It just doesn't make
sense."

And as usual, Fred was right. What once were Chinese characters are now Japanese
characters.

				
DOCUMENT INFO