Reduplication is a common pattern for mimetic words in Japanese, like hisohiso for whispering or korokoro for small, hard things rolling. The other day I noticed a rare instance of retriplication (as Tom Mazanec puts it) in a senryū quoted in Hayashi Eriko's Ikiteiru Edo-kotoba 生きている江戸ことば ("Living Edo-ese") (Shūeisha 2000):

mugibatake/ zawazawazawa to/ futari nige
Barley field/ rustle, rustle, rustle:/ a couple flees

Incidentally, I also found out why Nansen/Nanquan was called 王老 — it's because his 俗姓, literally "lay surname," was 王. Huh — the more you 王. (This joke only valid in Japan.)

Popularity factor: 3


Might be rare as a word in syntactical text, but zawaⁿ with n>2 is totally common as manga sound effects – for (as you know) murmurs of a crowd talking, not for rustling barley. A panel's background may be fully painted in zawas to depict the voices visually. I'd even say it's a bit of a meme – here's some blog with "zawazawazawa" in the URL.

Thanks for the followup on the 王老! Where did you find it?




Huh, I didn't realize "zawa" in particular was so prone to this. Of course I'm speaking of senryu, which are distinguishable from mere popular usage by hey look over there.

Re 王老: Well, I saw his 俗姓 on his Japanese Wikipedia page, and then thought to look up 王老 in Iriya's dictionary of Zen words, which confirmed it.

Aime la vérité, mais pardonne à l'erreur

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