Many new readers and subscribers have joined Reajer, and you all came just in time for the shiny new corner here on the blog: Japanese News Vocabulary.
These posts will pick up and look into key words in high-profile news stories in the Japanese media, with the aim of giving you practical insight into how current affairs — both in Japan and the rest of the world — are perceived and described in Japanese.
So without further ado, let's start learning our first four news vocab items, which appear in stories on events that range from Japan all the way to the Wild West.
Nothing to do with sun and dew: 日露首脳
The major event in Japanese politics this week was the visit of the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, in Japan for a summit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. These two leaders, as well as any Japanese-Russian duo, are frequently referred to by the handy kanji compound 日露首脳 (にちろしゅのう) — literally "Japan-Russia Leaders".
日 stands for 日本, while 露 stands for Russia (ロシア). An equally common variant is 日ロ, which is read にちろ, just like 日露. By the way, that ロ is the katakana character "ro", not the kanji "mouth". Here they are side by side: ロ口. See how "mouth", on the right, is slightly larger? Another helpful difference is that in "mouth", the vertical lines jut out at the bottom in most fonts, while "ro" is a completely closed square.
If you're asking yourself why the kanji 露, which normally means "dew", represents Russia of all things, you can read all about it in my post about the various ways of writing the country name of Russia in Japanese.
The big mama of the seas: 空母
China has conducted its first ever live-fire drills involving an aircraft carrier (the Liaoning) and its onboard fighter planes. In Japanese, the rather curious word for an aircraft carrier is 空母 (くうぼ) — which, if taken literally, means "Sky Mother". Sounds more like the title of a Miyazaki Hayao animation movie than the most fearsome military hardware on the waves.
But actually, this word isn't as fancy as it looks. It's simply an abbreviated form of the original word for aircraft carrier: 航空母艦 (こうくうぼかん), whose literal meaning is a more understandable "Aviation Mothership". Interestingly, neither the original word nor its abbreviation has any reference to aircraft or carrying.
Leading the last socialist paradise: 平壌
This is a very familiar place name hiding under a very unfamiliar spelling. While it can technically be pronounced へいじょう, it's usually read ピョンヤン. Yes, 平壌 is none other than Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. The name is originally written in kanji and this convention, while abandoned in both Koreas, is still practiced in Japan whenever the city is mentioned in the news.
Pyongyang made the news thanks to the renewed talks on the possibility that the unfinished mammoth Ryugyong Hotel will finally be opened soon. Kanji lovers will be happy to know that Ryugyong itself is yet another name that was originally written in Chinese characters, and still is in Japanese: 柳京ホテル.
Make it or fake it: 偽ニュース
With all the recent panic about "fake news", someone might accidentally start believing we ever had authentic news. But now that "fake news" has suddenly become a thing, the Japanese media isn't far behind its Western counterparts in adopting this new meme.
The Japanese term for "fake news" is 偽ニュース (にせにゅーす). The character 偽, when pronounced にせ, is a very handy prefix that can turn a word into the fake or forged version of itself, as in 偽金, "counterfeit money". In the news, this is often written in katakana instead of the kanji. For example, another recent news story reports on several ニセ警官 — bogus policemen — involved in a robbery.
This preference for katakana may be because in addition to 偽, にせ has another kanji associated with it: 贋. So instead of choosing between these two kanji, it seems that writers often just decide to, well, fake it — and get around the problem by using the sound spelling.
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