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Japanese wordplay

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Japanese double entendres have a rich history in Japanese entertainment, because of the way that Japanese words can be read to have several different meanings and pronunciations (homographs). Also, several different spellings for any pronunciation and wildly differing meanings (homophones). Often replacing one spelling with another (synonyms) can give a new meaning to phrases.

GorowaseEdit

Goroawase is an especially common form of Japanese wordplay whereby homophonous words are associated with a given series of letters, numbers or symbols, in order to associate a new meaning with that series. The new words can be used to express a superstition about certain letters or numbers. More commonly, however, goroawase is used as a mnemonic technique, especially in the memorization of numbers such as dates in history, scientific constants, and phone numbers.

Numeric substitutionEdit

Every digit has a set of possible phonetic values, due to the variety of valid Japanese, Chinese-origin, and English-origin pronunciations for numbers in Japanese. Often readings are created by taking the standard reading and retaining only the first syllable (for example roku becomes ro). Goroawase substitutions are well known as mnemonics, notably in the selection of memorable telephone numbers for commercial services, and in the memorization of numbers such as years in the study of history.

Mnemonics are formed by selecting a fitting reading for a given number from the list below.

Number Japanese readings Chinese readings English readings
0maru, marei, reo, zero, ze
1hitotsu, hito, hiichi, yiwan
2futatsu, fu, futanitsū
3mitsu, misan, sasuri
4yon, yo, yotsushifoa
5itsutsu, itsugo, kofaibu
6mutsu, muroku, rosikkusu
7nana, nanatsu, nashichiseben
8yatsu, yahachi, ha, baeito
9kokonotsu, kokyu, kunain
10ju, jiten

ExamplesEdit

As MneumonicsEdit

1492 (the year of discovery of America) can be memorized as: iyo! kuni ga mieta! (derived as follows: i (1) yo (4)! ku (9) ni (2) (ga mieta)!), meaning: "Wow! I found a country!"


23564 (23 hours, 56 minutes, 4 seconds, the length of a sidereal day) can be read "ni-san-go-ro-shi", which sounds very similar to "nii-san koroshi" (兄さん殺し), or in English killing one's brother.

Other ExamplesEdit

4649 "yoroshiku" (derived as follows: "yo" (4) "ro" (6) "shi" (4) "ku" (9)) means: "Nice to meet you."


18782 can be read "i-ya-na-ya-tsu" (いやなやつ) – meaning unpleasant guy


37564(two times 18782) can be read "mi-na-go-ro-shi" (みなごろし), meaning massacre, or kill them all


893 can be read "ya-ku-za" (やくざ) or Yakuza. It is traditionally a bad omen for a student to receive this candidate number for an examination.

In Keroro Gunso Edit

Wordplay is very much used in the series Keroro Gunso. Here are some examples:

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