One of the things that never fail to amaze me about Japanese is how, in practically every text I read, I come across new words that I have never seen before. When this keeps happening to you after more than ten years of extensive exposure to a language, you know you're dealing with something so vast and rich that any attempt to "master" it can only end with the would-be master himself getting mastered, owned, and thoroughly humbled.
That's actually a good thing, because it means that any Japanese text can be a good place to learn something new and useful, whether it's grammar, vocabulary, or kanji usage. Instead of following some predefined path that gets increasingly more challenging, you meet challenges at every turn — and learn from them without ever getting bored. And this kind of learning is exactly what we'll do in the Randomly Useful posts here on the Reajer blog.
Using Wikipedia's random article feature (called おまかせ表示 in the Japanese edition), I'll go to randomly selected entries and discuss useful stuff that I find there. You can click on each title below to go to the original Wikipedia entry. The entries themselves will often be about completely esoteric topics, so there's no need to read them in their entirety; we'll only be using them as an opportunity to take a look at things that will be of general use to you as a learner.
Now that we know the rules of the game, let's get started with today's batch of randomly useful Japanese stuff.
On the first line of the article you'll see a sentence ending with 1年足らずであった. The word 足らず is used as a suffix that attaches to numerical expressions (number + counter word) and means "being under [the number]", "not reaching [the number]", usually suggesting that the amount is smaller than expected. In this case, 1年足らず is "a little less than one year".
足らず is originally the negative form of the verb 足る, "to be sufficient", but as a noun suffix it is itself treated as a noun — as you can see here from how it's followed directly by であった.
This yet another word that had somehow managed to elude me for years despite standing for a very common concept. 拡張子 means "filename extension" — the usually three-letter string that follows the names of files, such as .exe, .txt, .doc, and so on. While 拡張 is literally "extension", 子 is thrown in to provide the abstract idea of "thing", "something small", "piece".
In the same article you'll see a sentence that begins with 高圧縮ゆえ圧縮に. Don't be tempted to read this as a single block: ゆえ, when it comes directly after a noun, means "due to being [the noun]", "owing to [the noun]", etc. This combination is given as a reason to what follows. The meaning of 高圧縮ゆえ is thus "due to being highly compressed", "owing to its high level of compression".
This written word means "each individual". It's used in distributive contexts — where one thing equally applies to each person individually. In this example, 能力が個々人に求められる means "the ability is required of each and every person".
This one is for history buffs and admirers of weird kanji usage (but I repeat myself). The compound 普仏戦争 stands for the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1. By now you probably know that 仏 represents France in such compounds, but the fact that 普 stands for Prussia isn't exactly common knowledge these days.
Like it did with many other foreign countries, early modern Japanese spelled the name of Prussia using kanji characters for their approximate sounds, and wrote it as 普魯西. The first character, 普, therefore represents Prussia in compounds, just as 仏 does for the full kanji spelling of France — 仏蘭西. Nowadays, Prussia is called, and written, プロシア or プロイセン (the latter version transliterates the original German name, Preußen).
Being an ateji spelling, this "Prussian" 普 technically has nothing to do with the original meaning of the character. But given that the kanji actually means "going far and wide", "omnipresent", "all over the place", the Japanese sure showed some uncanny foresight when they decided to use it for this particular name.
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