On the other hand I would support her if she campaigned to revive the word yamatomoji for kana

It took Timotarou to tell me about KUNISHIGE Tomomi, who has just released a book of her "eekanji"*, a strange but awesome blend of Roman and Chinese characters. I've seen this idea before, but never executed so well.

Her opinions on character set naming are dubious, though:

Though thoroughly modern -- her natural black hair is dyed a brilliant, shining yellow -- the artist is fiercely proud of her Japanese heritage: those same locks are worn up in a traditional style, she wears a colorful dress made out of one of her grandmother's old kimono and cringes when kanji is described in English as "Chinese characters."

"If I'm using them to write Japanese, what does that make them?" she says, throwing her arms into the air.

It makes 'em Chinese characters used to write Japanese, of course. I suppose you could be pedantic and call them something like "the Japanese branch of the Chinese-character tradition", but that's beside the point. It's most unsporting of her to get all huffy about the English term "Chinese characters" when it is more or less a direct translation of 漢字, kanji: "Chinese [specifically Han] characters". I mean, come on.

* Pronounced /e:kanzi/: it's a pun on 英漢字 ("English kanji") and ええ感じ ("Good feeling, lookin' good" in a western Japanese accent.

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If I'm using Latin characters to write American English, does that make me Latin American?

Mark S.:

And then there's the puzzle about how one can use italic when not writing in Italian....


Well, technically maybe we should call them han characters as well. But then, they originated in a much older civilization. What did those people call themselves? I don't know, but we call them the Shang dynasty.


Brian: I think it just makes the characters Latin American.

Mark S.: I seem to remember reading somewhere that they weren't even called "italics" in Italy. Now that's humility!

Clayton: I guess we can compromise on "Han", but I think "Shang" is going too far. Shang:Han::Phœnecian:Roman, surely.


Personally, I'm finding myself drawn to "sinogram" as a (relatively) language-neutral translation of hanzi/kanji/hanja, but no-one else seems to like it.


I really love what she's doing. Brill.

As for her commentary on it, though...

Just goes to prove once again the validity of what I've always said about authors and actors and "artistes" in general:

They should do their thing and keep their mouths shut.

More English speakers understand "Chinese characters" than "Kanji" or "Hanzi" or even probably "ideogram" (or "sinogram"...sorry, Tim). That's how I first learned to call them and how I still refer to them if I think the person I'm talking to won't know the other terms.

And nothing the fair Ms Tomomi Kunishige does or says is going to change that.


Matt, the etyomology of italic is recorded thusly:

1612, from L. italicus "Italian;" so called because it was introduced in 1501 by Aldus Manutius, printer of Venice (who also gave his name to Aldine), and first used in an edition of Virgil dedicated to Italy. Earlier (1571) the word was used for the plain, sloping style of handwriting, as opposed to Gothic. Italicize "to print in italics" (for emphasis, etc.) is from 1795.

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