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Crazy in Love: Part 4

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When an actor wins an award for a film, one rarely hears a profound acceptance speech. But that’s what happened in January. At the Golden Globes, Colin Farrell won “Best Actor in a Motion Picture—Musical Or Comedy” for In Bruges, a movie I adored. And when he accepted the honor, he equated curiosity to love.

“Aha!” I thought. “That’s exactly right!” When you’re passionately in love with someone or something, you want to know everything you can about that love object. Which is how I feel about kanji. Which is why “Kanji Curiosity” could just as easily be called “Kanji Love” (though the alliteration would disappear).

And as it turns out, you can use the kanji for “love” to indicate that you have a fanatical interest in something. I recently made the following business card to hand out in kanji-related situations:


For the first line, 漢字愛好家 (kanji aikōka: kanji lover), I could also have written 漢字愛好者 (kanji aikōsha: kanji lover). They’re essentially the same, except for a slight difference in nuance, as the suffix – (ka) means “expert.” It’s highly presumptuous of me to have chosen –, but I preferred it to –, which simply means “person” and struck me as terribly bland.

Here’s how all the characters break down:

漢字 (kanji)     China + characters
愛好家 (aikōka: lover)     to love + to be fond of + expert

Although one might expect the “love” kanji, , to factor into many other words about obsessive love, (KŌ, su(ki): to be fond of) plays that role instead, particularly in words about being “girl crazy” or “boy crazy.”

Girl Crazy, Boy Crazy

The suffix -好き (-zuki) means “-lover” or “-phile,” as in 車好き (kuruma-zuki: car enthusiast, car + to be fond of).

Unrequited Love …

That suffix pops up in the following whale-fish word:

女好き (onna-zuki: Casanova, Don Juan)   woman + to be fond of

With a slight change in spacing, this might look like two women () and a child (), all involved in a different kind of love story. Instead, 女好き tells a very old story indeed—that of a man in heat, chasing women in all directions and presumably catching up with them.

In the next case, I’m not sure if the men are successful or whether they’re pathetic rejects:

女狂い (onnagurui: girl crazy)     women + to be crazy about

Here we see a character that has become very familiar over the past few weeks:

(KYŌ, kuru(u): lunatic, mad; suffix meaning “enthusiast” or someone with a certain mental abnormality)

That kanji also shows up in the opposite word:

男狂い (otokogurui: boy crazy; wantonness)
men + to be crazy about

Wantonness?! In ye olde double standard, the connotations become very negative when lust and love flow in the opposite direction.

Well, here’s a word without a double standard, as it applies equally to men and women … but the downside is that it happens to be a bit vulgar!

度すけべ (dosukebe: crazy about members of the opposite sex; being obsessed with sex or erotic matters)

Here, serves an emphatic function, strengthening what follows. Meanwhile, one can also write this word entirely in kanji as 度助平 (dosukebei), where 助平 means “lewdness” or “lecher” (and breaks down as to help + flat, in what must be an instance of ateji). People use 度助平 lightly to tease their sex-crazed friends.

If you need a few more kanji-based words about fanatical love, check the link.

Kanji-Based Words About Fanatical Love …

And if you prefer katakana formations, you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog. But as long as you are, see the next link.

Katakana Terms for Craziness …

Festival of Kanji

As you may know, this four-week investigation into words about craziness started because my book Crazy for Kanji finally came out. To celebrate that, I held the world’s first (?) Festival of Kanji last weekend. I’d been fantasizing about this event for two years, and it felt incredibly gratifying to see my imaginings come to life, with more than a hundred guests in attendance.

Though the event was two years in the making (or two years in the fantasizing), everything always ends up having last-minute preparations, doesn’t it? And in the adrenaline rush of the final hours, as I made sign after sign, I had the humbling realization that I was no longer sure how to draw , the first character in 漢字 (kanji)! I couldn’t remember if the box under the grass radical () had a stroke bisecting it. (It does.) How embarrassing!

I also realized that, despite blogging about “craziness” for several weeks, I didn’t really know how a native speaker would translate “Crazy for Kanji,” and I felt positive that a guest would ask me. No one did, but here’s one possible answer:

漢字に夢中 (kanji ni mutchū: in a kanji trance)

As you may remember from the past, 夢中 (mutchū: trance) breaks down as dream + middle, thereby qualifying as the coolest of compounds!

Despite these small glitches, the festival was an incredible experience. I’m not sure people entirely grasped the ins and outs of kanji or why it appeals to me so, but they kept saying they were having a wonderful time, and that certainly looked to be the case. As for me, I rejoiced at the chance to live in a kanji-centric world for one evening, a place where all my kanji dreams could come true! I was full of love and happiness, just as nearly everyone else seemed to be. How can you not be happy when you’re around kanji?! (Well, maybe the delicious food and particularly the cupcakes had a lot to do with everyone’s good mood!)

Many people remarked on the great diversity of guests, and it’s true. Ages ranged from 2 to 88. Two people in attendance had visual impairments (which is why there’s a very sweet guide dog, Yuki, in one photo). And some guests had immigrated from Japan, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Guam, Pakistan, India, Australia, Eritrea, Iran, Greece, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Norway, Peru, and Canada. Amazing to think that all those people had kanji on their minds for one evening! We also had a few illustrious guests, including Michael Rowley, whose book Kanji Pict-o-graphix first got me hooked on kanji. What an honor for me to meet him at last!

Even though the party is over, it’s still possible for you to attend it digitally. Photographer Treve Johnson captured the event with bountiful pictures. Actually, he captured the early part of the evening, before the party became crowded. Most of the people I hung out with came later and didn’t find their way into the pictures. Even my husband (who left for a time to feed the dogs) didn’t make the cut! For that reason, the pictures don’t quite reflect what I experienced. But they do give a taste of the festivities.

Writer Anneli Rufus, who attended the event, blogged about it for a local paper. Thanks, Anneli! I’m glad you won a kanji T-shirt in the raffle! (By the way, her first name appears on page 35 of Crazy for Kanji as an example of something that’s as difficult to read as some characters.) And then an anime blogger picked up Anneli’s blog posting and ran with that in her own blog!

The restaurant, Kasuga, provided a steady flow of scrumptious food. Signs on the sushi bar told guests about the kanji for whatever they were eating. Even though you missed the sushi and robata, you can still feast on the kanji compounds.

The Menu and Its Meaning …

Finally, in lieu of a Verbal Logic Quiz, you’ll find a digital version of “Fortune Cupcakes.” In real life, each one had a kanji on top and a fortune attached to the bottom. Pick a kanji and see what your choice reveals about you! Lucky you—you can sample all 12 of these electronic edibles without having them go to your waistline!

Fortune Cupcakes …