Unacceptable orthography - folk spelling edition

I have argued in the past that kanji should not have eyelashes. I now propose an additional rule: kana should not exhibit anal bleeding.

ぢ means hemorrhoids. The word is Sino-Japanese, and the kanji is 痔, with an official, "dictionary" spelling in kana of じ. Nevertheless, ぢ is far more common. Why?

To backtrack a little bit, what's the difference between じ and ぢ anyway? In terms of pronunciation, nothing: most of the Japanese-speaking community does not distinguish between the two any more. And the standard modern rules of orthography reinforce this by mandating じ instead of ぢ, even when the latter would be more etymologically correct. Same goes for ず instead of づ.*

Now, it turns out that the old, pre-modernization spelling/pronunciation of 痔 was indeed ぢ. So the question is, how did it survive? Answer: with the assistance of hemorrhoid-healing concern Hisaya Daikokudō. (Warning: close-up photography.) They consistently employ the ぢ spelling in advertisements and elsewhere, and since this enables people to disambiguate piles from the many other words that じ might represent, the community embraced the concept. The end result is that ぢ is the the folk-standard spelling, no matter what official policy says.

There is a technical linguistic term for this. It is "sticking it to the Man."

* Exception: some compound words. やま + ち → やまぢ, かな + つかい → かなづかい. (Back)

Popularity factor: 14


There's a vaguely related English-language tale about Bayer Aspirin. They started using a slogan "ADult Asprin," deliberately misplacing the accent on the first syllable, instead of the usual accented second syllable of "adULT." They wanted to see if they could measure penetration of the commercial by seeing if they could shift the accent in common usage. It seemed to work, it's been years since the commercials ran but it is still fairly common to hear people use the wrong accent. This annoys me terribly.


i remember being like 5 years old and asking mom.. what zi is in public. hahah.

language hat:

it is still fairly common to hear people use the wrong accent.

By "wrong" you mean "standard." Just thought you might want to update your thoughts on this. (Note to humanity at large: what you personally prefer is not synonymous with "correct.")


I was gonna say.. I think that makes me wrong. The only time I say aDULT is in phrases like "aDULT videos", and then only sometimes. Bayerrr!

Yuki: Yeah, I actually asked a teacher what it was too, because I couldn't find it in the dictionary under ぢ. Up side: It wasn't in public. Down side: I was in my 20s.


I think adult can be pronounced either way. Americans by and large do not pronounce it ADult.

Look it up in a dictionary; both pronunciations are listed.


Your post made me smile, thinking back to the time I embarrassed a Japanese friend by asking about the large ぢ sign down the street. After reading these comments, I'm starting to think asking about ぢ must be a standard rite of passage that all "old Japan hands" can smile about.

I'm not sure about your take on sticking it to the man. There's a lot of political power being expended to ensure that the old orthographies don't die.


Kanji would have saved you that embarrassment. Damn you, syllabaries!


Amida: Plus, the reason it's confusing is because it's a monosyllabic Chinese word...

Denske: Wait, people are expending political power to make sure that 歴史的仮名遣い doesn't die? Or do you just mean preserving the kanji/kana system of writing in general?


Originally I meant 歴史的仮名遣い, but now that I've sobered up, I've decided I must be hanging around too many curmudgeons who imagine they have political power.


Damn you, non-tonal languages! ;)


What's this with no pronunciation difference between ず and づ? I can think of at least one word that uses づ: ゆづ, a citrus used to make a vinegar that, when mixed with soy sauce, is the most delicious dipping sauce for 水ぎょうざ. It's definitely pronounced "yudzu," not "yuzu" or "yudu."


Heresiarch: I'm sure there are folks who pronounce it that way, but that'd be a regional/generational/whatever variation, not "standard" (i.e. middle-upper-class Tokyo, mid-20th c.) Japanese.

Also it'd be a really interesting regional variation, because AFAIK yuzu wasn't even historically spelt ゆづ! (Unlike, say, "mizu" as in water, which used to be みづ).

Now what interests me is if the speakers you know who distinctly say yudzu also say "dji" for ぢ...


Well, for the record, this all happened in Kyoto, which isn't exactly a haven of standard pronunciation, but I'd swear it said ゆづ on the bottle too. Oh well.

I never noticed any difference between じ and ぢ, but then, without the focusing power of delicious food, maybe I just didn't pay any attention to it.


Oh, right... some bottles might say ゆづ, but they're either being precious or carrying on unique spelling traditions. Think "Olde Tyme Cookies" in English. The pronunciation (in "standard" at least!) is still supposed to be the same as ゆず, the standard spelling.

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