Japanese Language Fun Facts (1)


Whenever I independently “discover” something interesting about the Japanese language that I haven’t read or heard about, I plan to write about it in this series. Realistically, this series is aimed at advanced learners of Japanese, but even beginners who know hiragana can get something out of it. If you haven’t downloaded Rikaikun for Chrome, do it now! If you’re not using Chrome, why?

In addition, this series is going to be in an odd order. I’ll organize it into something concise when I have a few of them written, but for now, they’ll be coming as I think of them. So if this one is a little over your head, don’t worry. The next one might be quite simple!

With that out of the way, let’s get the show on the road!



Whenever you’re presented with a kanji followed by “じる”, you can be pretty sure the pronunciation of the kanji is the most common on’yomi reading (which is to say, the “Chinese” reading).


信じる – to believe
感じる – to feel
演じる – to perform
応じる – to accept / respond
禁じる – to prohibit
転じる – to turn
投じる – to throw
封じる – to seal
論じる – to debate
変じる – to change

In addition to having an easy gateway to the pronunciation, these words often carry the basic meaning of the kanji. While kanji often correspond with their meanings, some combinations stray far from the mark. The above, however, are no different from their meanings.

Of course, all the above happens more often than not. It’s like the rules that govern English. But exceptions exist…

閉じる (とじる not へいじる)
恥じる (はじる not ちじる)
混じる (まじる not こんじる*)

*though こんじる is also a reading, it’s less common

And some of their kanji, while the pronunciation is normal (for the two below, しょうじる and つうじる, respectively), their meanings are slightly off from what you might guess.

生じる (to produce, not to live)
通じる (to lead to, not to commute)  

Regardless, the じる pattern is pretty solid and worth remembering. It’s better than the “I before E rule” anyways…


Is there a reason this vague generalization isn’t often mentioned? Am I just extrapolating out of my buttocks? Let me know what you think!

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