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July 29, 2018 3:31 PM   Subscribe

In 1978 Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry established the encoding that would later be known as JIS X 0208, which still serves as an important reference for all Japanese encodings. However, after the JIS standard was released people noticed something strange - several of the added characters had no obvious sources, and nobody could tell what they meant or how they should be pronounced. Nobody was sure where they came from. These are what came to be known as the ghost characters (幽霊文字). posted by zamboni (30 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
 


Neat! Unicode is fascinating.
posted by lalunamel at 4:06 PM on July 29


When they are finally arranged in the correct order, then…
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:45 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


Huh, I thought I had read all of William Gibson's novels.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 4:56 PM on July 29 [7 favorites]




posted by sammyo at 5:54 PM on July 29


Perhaps they are the Japanese translation for irregardless, inflammable, etc.
posted by TedW at 6:47 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


As a gaijin, if I was ever to get a naff tattoo of a Japanese character, this would be it.
posted by Damienmce at 6:48 PM on July 29 [15 favorites]


They seem perfectly cromulent to me. You may also enjoy this tool for generating fake kanji.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 6:54 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


Real kanji is already hard enough!

But learned that emoji was an actual japanese word the other day. 絵文字 which, unsurprisingly litterally means picture writing.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:03 PM on July 29 [2 favorites]


Yeah, more or less. The 絵 means "picture" and the 文字 means "text characters" (i.e. letters/glyphs).
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:39 PM on July 29


Two thoughts:

Firstly, these are ripe for having pronunciations and meanings assigned to them, Meaning-of-Liff-style.

Secondly, I fully expect these to become real words soon enough as web fora users start using them. Meaning will just kind of accrete with use.
posted by suetanvil at 8:04 PM on July 29 [3 favorites]


For some reason I got super amused by this ghost character: . It's just hilarious.

The left-radical 月 derives from a merger of the pictograms for "the moon" and "meat". When serving as the semantic-radical in a compound character, it typically signifies the latter -- meat, body parts, tissues, internal organs, etc.

To the Chinese eye, it's super hilarious to see it come with 雪, the character for snow -- or maybe it's just me? That's like... meat snow? Snow-like tissues? It's snowing livers and kidneys? Or a mysterious body organ, undetected by centuries of medical practises, and somehow we end up assigning the homophone value of "snow" to it?
posted by runcifex at 8:23 PM on July 29 [27 favorites]


Seven days.
posted by cj_ at 8:26 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


if I was ever to get a naff tattoo of a Japanese character

So much mental cringing whenever I see one of these
posted by JamesBay at 8:44 PM on July 29


That's like... meat snow? Snow-like tissues? It's snowing livers and kidneys?

So... this should be the Japanese-language title for Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs?
posted by Big Al 8000 at 10:19 PM on July 29 [9 favorites]


Maybe meat snow means white person...
posted by Cranberry at 12:37 AM on July 30


You know nothing, Meat Snow!
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:41 AM on July 30 [11 favorites]


I thought 彁 was pretty delightful: it may just be an erroneous reading of 彊 (a variant form of 強, "strong"), as the article says, but then again the graphically related 疆 ("territory; border dominion") arose from a series of character mutations along similar lines. It was originally just 畺 (田 "fields" divided by lines), but of course that wasn't complicated enough so it was later expanded with 弓 ("bow") and 土 ("earth"). And now it's collapsed under the weight of its own stroke count into 彁!
posted by bokane at 1:47 AM on July 30 [6 favorites]


Google Translate recognizes 妛挧暃椦槞蟐袮閠駲墸壥彁 as Chinese, providing "Chī yǔ fēi quan lóng chang mí rùn zhōu zhù chán gē" as pronunciation. But when clicking on the icon for text to speech it seems to summon a demon.
posted by emelenjr at 4:21 AM on July 30 [3 favorites]


Interesting, emelenjr - my pop-up Mandarin dict considers 袮 as a variant of 你 with the same reading of nǐ, compared to Google's guess of mí. It can't match any of the other ghost characters.

Truly fascinating post.
posted by Gordafarin at 5:47 AM on July 30


I have eaten
The meat snow
That was in
The character spec
posted by Quindar Beep at 7:12 AM on July 30 [1 favorite]


In the end only one character had neither a clear source nor any historical precedent: 彁. The most likely explanation is that it was created as a misreading of the 彊 character, but no specific incident was uncovered.
posted by lostburner at 8:11 AM on July 30


To the Chinese eye, it's super hilarious to see it come with 雪, the character for snow -- or maybe it's just me? That's like... meat snow? Snow-like tissues? It's snowing livers and kidneys? Or a mysterious body organ, undetected by centuries of medical practises, and somehow we end up assigning the homophone value of "snow" to it?

Not to poop on your party, but if 膤 were a Chinese character, it would probably just be a random organ with the pronunciation of 'xue.'
posted by alidarbac at 8:16 AM on July 30 [1 favorite]


That's really interesting, I'm kinda surprised there aren't more given the scale of the task.

> clicking on the icon for text to speech it seems to summon a demon

If you leave one out, google translate gives up entirely and just hisses at you. 妛挧暃椦槞蟐袮駲墸壥彁
posted by lucidium at 8:43 AM on July 30 [1 favorite]


Firstly, these are ripe for having pronunciations and meanings assigned to them, Meaning-of-Liff-style.

I don't know enough to suggest pronunciations, but here you go:
妛: late 1980s shoulder pad
挧: pluck a chicken
暃: solar felony
椦: pull down a tree with bare hands
槞: wooden dragon
蟐: routine insects
袮: what you're wearing
駲: Horselvania
墸: golem
壥: really good potting soil
彁: hitting a high note
posted by kurumi at 8:50 AM on July 30 [8 favorites]


Or we could go:

妛: Those that belong to the emperor
挧: Embalmed ones
暃: Those that are trained
椦: Suckling pigs

...etc. But alas there are only eleven of them and we need fourteen.
posted by Quindar Beep at 9:50 AM on July 30 [3 favorites]


Some top-tier ersatz-asian nerd-reference tattoo material here though.
posted by mhoye at 10:12 AM on July 30


This page claims that '妛' appears in the Kangxi Dictionary, which was compiled during the Qing dynasty, and it's indeed there. The scant note on this character says it's another version of another pretty obscure Chinese character, only used in some ancient names (as far as I know.)

Didn't get lucky with other characters in this list, though "墸" is made up from two characters that form the word meaning 'natives'.
posted by em at 9:21 PM on July 30


I want these characters on a Metafilter T-shirt!
posted by RedOrGreen at 7:50 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


I just noticed that the original post is by Mefi’s own 23.
posted by zamboni at 2:41 PM on July 31


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