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More on Payments and the Lack Thereof

Here’s some vocabulary that you may need if you hope to pay someone in Japan—or conversely if you’re planning to bounce a check:

払い渡す (haraiwatasu: to pay, to pay out)
     to pay + to transfer
不渡り (fuwatari: nonpayment; bouncing check)
     not + to go across

I think we can understand this as a payment that doesn’t cross over from one side to the other.

この小切手は不渡りになりました。
Kono kogitte wa fuwatari ni narimashita.
This check was not honored.

小切手 (kogitte: check)
     small + to cut + hand

Quick quiz: If 小切手 (kogitte: small + to cut + hand) means “check,” what is a regular-sized 切手? Answer at the link.

On 小切手

The word 不渡り refers only to the act of bouncing a check, not to the check itself. For that, you need this term:

不渡り小切手 (fuwatari kogitte: dishonored check)
     not + to go across + small + to cut + hand

This synonym will do the trick, too:

不渡り手形 (fuwatari tegata: dishonored bill)
     not + to go across + hand + pledge

By itself, 手形 means “promissory note, hand print,” says Halpern. Breen indicates that the “hand print” part of that definition is exclusive to sumo. I asked a native speaker about the etymology of 手形, and although he couldn’t find anything in his dictionaries, he offered a hypothesis: “I imagine that in olden days, they required a hand print from anyone who issued a payment.”

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