Thesis and antithesis

So I was reading this article at Livedoor about with magazine's proclamation of the Age of Deretsun. Deretsun, being the opposite of tsundere, is apparently a word which describes a woman who generally acts supportive and starry-eyed but isn't afraid to get tough when... yeah, exactly, it's balls.

(Credit where due: I found it via Itai News, where after everyone had gotten the "[three-dimensional] women suck" out of their system, they raise the real issue: On what grounds are with claiming Maison Ikkoku's OTONASHI Kyōko, a legendary figure from the Silver Age of tsundere, as the Platonic Ideal of their deretsun concept?

(Hey, check out the Maison Ikkoku FAQ's old-school, no-images approach to showing Japanese characters.))

Anyway, the article uses the word merihari which means "pleasantly modulated" or "appealingly varied". (Update: see comments for correction.) I've known and liked this word for a while but I realized that I had no idea why it meant what it meant, so I looked it up.


  • The /meri/ is from meru, a verb meaning "decrease", "weaken", or—and this is the relevant meaning to merihari—"become lower in pitch". meru itself has basically become extinct, although it survives in the not uncommon compound verb merikomu, "sink into [something]".
  • The /hari/ used to be /kari/, from the verb karu meaning "become higher in pitch". I don't remember hearing the word before, but I bet it's still in use among traditional Japanese musicians. (Since it's usually written 上る, I have the feeling that I may have read it before and assumed it was a pre-modernization-okurigana version of agaru, "rise".)

So together, the original phrase was merikari, literally "lows and highs", applied only to music. According to SUGIMOTO Tsutomu's Gogenkai, usage then spread through acting (specifically, delivery of lines) and finally exploded into the rest of the world.

Popularity factor: 7


Because it intriqued me, I've just looked it up in the Iwanami kogo jiten. It was written as 減張, which is, as literally, in singing or acting, Yurumeru koto and Hariageru koto.
As the meaning, pleasantly modulated or appealingly varied may be correct but today it's usually used as having good contrasting aspects, opposite to monotonous. E.g. Aitsuno hanashi ha merihari ga atte ii. Ano uta ha merihari ga nakute tsumaranai.

Sorry, I cant generate Japanese with my PC.


I am glad you picked this one up. I kept seeing it in the Japanese blog media for the last few days, wondering if I should act.


Thanks, Naoki, you're right-"not monotonous" is exactly what I was trying to say. Your usage examples also show that it's not an adjective but a noun (I was really thinking of "merihari ga aru" when I wrote about the meaning)

Marxy: yeah, I considered writing a MnT post about it but ultimately decided the word/concept weren't nearly innovative enough to justify it (and couldn't be arsed painting the whole picture of women's magazines sifting desperately through the zeitgeist to find new names for aspirational personas to recommend to their readers).

language hat:

I'm not seeing the difference between "appealingly varied" and "not monotonous," but doubtless if I just took the trouble to learn Japanese I'd understand these subtleties.


I suppose functionally they are arguably equivalent, but "not monotonous" seems clearer to me. I also like the symmetry of using a musical metaphor to translate a musical metaphor.

language hat:

It's funny, for me "monotonous" is so far removed from its origins it takes a minute to realize it is in fact a musical metaphor.


I would be interested to know how this would be perceived as a surname in Japan, for a foreigner that is. My surname is Merikari. Could the characters be used to represent a family name?

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