The most fucked up kanji

Kanji can be difficult to read (i.e. 藍, 講, 蟹). Or filled with arbitrary radicals that have nothing to do with the meaning of the kanji (i.e. everything). But there are certain kanji that are so full of exceptions, kanji that break all the 'rules' of Japanese grammar, so counter-intuitive... that it seems they were designed specifically to frustrate gaijin.

Some of you might privately call these annoying kanji, bad kanji, obnoxious kanji, or even fucked kanji.

In Kanji Damage, we call them cocks. Because we are sexist like that.

Every time you encounter a kanji that breaks the usual grammatical rules of Japanese, it will be tagged with cock, and I'll describe specifically what you have to watch out for. When I first started studying, if I got frustrated by an exceptionally illogical kanji, I didn't even know why I kept mis-reading it (let alone guess that there were other kanji with the same exact problem). All I knew was that that it was out to get me.

Kanji Damage was designed to prevent you from having that problem.

The good news: not all random, terrible cocks are as random as they seem. They generally break down into a few sub-groups. Which - in a rare fit of common-sense - I decided not to make individual tags for.

Anyway, here are examples of all the types of cock kanji - the worst of the worst - with the most frequently occurring types at the top.

Since I happened to choose the thirteen examples, let's call this list...

The Thirteen Most Unlucky Kanji!

Kanji where the single most common word featuring the kanji has a fucked-up, exceptional pronunciation... and the other ten words that use the 'right' pronunciation ... are words you'll almost never encounter.

1. (pair)!

This one's a CLASSIC cock because there's a lot of jukugo which use the そう reading:

(双方: (both sides)、 双ロール鋳造 (twin roll casting), 双一次Z変換 (bilinear Z-transform), and so on)... but the only word using 双 is 双子 (twins), where 双 is pronounced FUTA, not SOU. To make matters even worse, FUTA derives from 二つ...the word for TWO. But they don't use the 二 kanji, they fucking use 双.

2. (yesterday)

昨 has the onyomi SAKU, and is used in many many jukugo such as 昨月(さくげつ) (last month), 昨朝(さくちょう) (last morning, 昨年(さくねん) (last year), 昨晩(さくばん) (last evening), 昨夏(さっか) (last summer), and 昨夕(さくゆう) (last evening). But no one ever says those words. Instead, 昨 is commonly only used in the context of 昨日(きのう) (yesterday) which both kanji are pronounced totally differently (ki instead of saku, nou instead of jitsu)! What a dick! Just like 双, there's a gratuitous, additional punchline: There actually is a different word for yesterday, with the same kanji ( 昨日) pronounced logically, using the correct onyomi of both kanji: さくじつ. But さくじつ is considered... get ready... too difficult, so no one uses that pronunciation. WTF.

3. (neglect/egotistic)

90% of the words using this kanji mean egotistical, neglectful OR even chronic (for example, 怠慢,meaning negligence, dereliction). But of course since this is Japanese, the one exception - 我慢 (a very positive word which means patience) is used 90% of the time!! Not only is it an exception, but the only common use of the word is actually the opposite meaning from all other uses.

4. (day)

One of the most basic common kanji... is also one of the most difficult! It doesn't look difficult, but consider this: every single one of the four most common jukugo are NOT ONLY fucked up, exceptional pronunciations, but also those pronunciations are different from each other. And all four are totally basic words that you can't get out of learning. 昨日 (kiNOU), 今日 (kYOU), 明日 (ashiTA), and 曜日 (youBI). The last one ( meaning 'day of the week') actually uses a standard pronunciation: HI. But, even when it uses a standard sound, it's the KUNyomi, not the ONyomi. Even when it tries to be normal, it fails!!! Remind you of anyone?

Kanji that almost always use their KUNyomi in jukugo (jukugo are compound words, which normally use the ONyomi).

5. (place)

or, even worse. . .

6. (to live)

By itself, when you'd normally use kunyomi, 居る is almost always written with hiragana: いる. And in a jukugo, when you'd normally use onyomi, 居る ususally uses kunyomi. It's enough to make you hate living... except you can't even write "I hate life!" in Japanese anymore.

or, worst of all...

7. (dragon)

In theory, the kunyomi of dragon is TATSU - but oddly it's never used about dragons themselves. For example, if you see a dragon, you have to use the ON yomi - 'Hey! It's a ryuu!' However - confusingly - some jukugo - such as 'seahorse' and 'tornado' use this kunyomi (TATSU)... It's basically the reverse of how kun and on are usually used.

...and kanji that use kunyomi in jukugo AND what I call nokuri. (nokuri is a contraction of 'NO OKURIGANA' : basically invisible okurigana that used to be written down but are no longer written - but are still pronounced!)

8. (to suit)

The #1 offender for NOKURI AND the #1 offender for KUN ON. Put another way: not only does it use the KUNyomi in the jukugo, but it doesn't even use the KUNyomi properly! It's usually pronounced 'あい', but the 'い' is not even written down. For example: 場合(ばあい) (in the case of), 試合(しあい) (game), 組合(くみあい) (union), and so on.

9. (to divide)

The #2 offender for NOKURI and KUNKUN. Most jukugo that look like they should be pronounced KATSU will not only wind up being pronounced WARI, but the RI won't be even written down. For example: 割引(わりびき) (discount). Not only is this kunkun, but BOTH kanji have NOKURI!!! Other examples: 一割(いちわり) (ten percent), and, inevetably: 割合(わりあい) (ratio), the two biggest NOKURI offenders together in one word. As in, "The ratio of abnormal jukugo using 割り or 合い to all words using 割り or 合い is almost 1:1."

kanji with too many damn kunyomi

10. (afterwards)

It has 3 totally different KUN-yomi - 2 of which have NO OKURIGANA to help you tell them apart! あと (after), のち (a more literary version of 'after'), and 後ろ (behind).

In a pinch, you can guess the pronunciation by checking the particles: あと goes with で but のち goes with に。 Usually.

Even worse :

11. (to go)

Again, this is one of the most common, basic kanji so it is totally unforgiveable that it is so difficult - 行. It has two kunyomi, like this: 行く(いく) to go / 行く(ゆく) to die, or to march ever onward. Not only do they mean similar things, but also they have the same okurigana, so there is no way to tell them apart. Well, context.

Kanji that just have a whole bunch of unrelated problems!!!


One of the worst of the bunch! When it's used with the ON-yomi, it means 'professional': 芸者(げいしゃ) (artistic professional) or 記者(きしゃ) (professional reporter)... but when it's used with the KUN-yomi, it just means 'person.' 若者(わかもの) (young person), or バカ者(ばかもの) (idiotic person).

What makes it even more fucked: there's no way to guess which is which. Because they're grammatically identical! (both are suffixes with no okurigana to give you a hint)

Even more fucked: the pronunciation of the 'person' meaning of 者 is the same as the word for 'thing' (物). This kanji is just incredibly retarded.

And that's not even all!!! Although 者 is prnounced SHA, almost all larger kanji (not jukugo) which incorporate this radical are pronounced SHO (諸, 署, 暑, and so on).

Just keeps getting worse, don't it?!?

13. (against)

By itself, it means 'pair' as in 'a pair of tennis rackets'... but in a jukugo it means "against" - the opposite of being a pair with. And of course, the 'opposite' meaning is the one that is most commonly used! (see also #3 above).

OK, that's it for the list. Before you give up Japanese altogether: remember, there's only around 24 cocks in our dictionary, and (unlike other dictionaries) we actually explain what to look out for!

Now all you have to do is worry about look-alikes, dupes, jerks, and ill pairs.