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Matsuhide
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 03, 2009 8:55 am    Post subject: Help with a name? Reply with quote
I'm working on a historical-fiction short story set in Japan's Edo period and am looking for help with a character's nickname.
He's an assassin and I'd like his nickname to translate to something like "Cutter."
I'm wondering if I can simply nominalize a verb such as 切れる (to cut) or 彫る (to carve) into something like "Kire", "Kira" (I know, Deathnote...), or "Hori", etc., or perhaps use only the On reading of the such kanji, possibly in conjunction with the On readings of other kanji that might imply an interesting meaning for the nickname.
Can anybody help me out?
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 03, 2009 11:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
The name Kiri exists, as does Kirio. Those names are normally written with kanji 霧 (fog, mist) or 桐 (paulownia tree), and 桐男 or 霧男 for Kirio ("paulownia-man" (might it be a kind of ent ? Wink ), "fog-man"). You can tell that your character's name is normally written this way, but as a surname, he writes it 切 Kiri, 切男 Kirio ("cutting man").

According to DBkanji, it seems that Kiri or Kirio, written with kanji 斬, 斬男, do exist. 斬る kiru too means "to cut", but also means "to kill".
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Matsuhide
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 03, 2009 12:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Nice, that's progress and I may just use one of those, but again it's a sort of nickname that "the people" have given him based on what he does and how he does it and there later develops a kind of folklore about him. So it wouldn't have to be an actual given or surname, but it certainly could be rooted in one as you mention.
You know, messing around with BDkanji (never heard of it before, great resource!) brought me to "彫刻師" and I think that might work quite well.
Any other ideas couldn't hurt.
This request is kind of two tiered. It's directed at this specific case, but I'd also like to come to a better understanding on how to create "clever" Japanese character names with multiple (ACTUAL) meanings.
Thanks!
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 03, 2009 7:06 pm    Post subject: Re: Help with a name? Reply with quote
Matsuhide wrote:
I'm working on a historical-fiction short story set in Japan's Edo period and am looking for help with a character's nickname.
He's an assassin and I'd like his nickname to translate to something like "Cutter."
I'm wondering if I can simply nominalize a verb such as 切れる (to cut) or 彫る (to carve) into something like "Kire", "Kira" (I know, Deathnote...), or "Hori", etc., or perhaps use only the On reading of the such kanji, possibly in conjunction with the On readings of other kanji that might imply an interesting meaning for the nickname.
Can anybody help me out?

Well, there's always the famous 人斬り epithet that was applied to some of the Bakumatsu era assassins, such as 人斬り半次郎 (Hitokiri Hanjirō), 人斬り彦斎 (Hitokiri Gensai), 人斬り以蔵 (Hitokiri Izō) and 人斬り鍬次郎 (Hitokiri Kuwajirō), which, as you can see from the examples, is appended to the given name.

In fiction, I've seen 千人斬り (Sennin-giri), and Google reveals one movie that reverses the 人斬り kanji to give 斬人, read Kirihito. I also came across longer titles where those same kanji are read either Zannin (はぐれ柳生斬人剣 -- Hagure Yagyū Zanninken) or Zanjin (鬼麿斬人剣 -- Onimaro Zanjinken), which suggests you could use 斬人 as a starting point as well.

Other options would include using either 刺客 (shikaku) or 殺人剣 (satsujinken) as starting points for your nickname.

How blatant or subtle do you want the nickname to be anyway?
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 03, 2009 8:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Well, speaking of subtleties, I was hoping be just that and not reveal too much until it's all written, but oh well, how can I ask for help without revealing what I need help with?...
The character ends up being an assassin, but started out as a woodblock carver.
He uses that as his cover, as well as posing as a general "artist" so to speak, to get closer to and scout the area around his mark before striking. He uses the tools of his original medium (if you've seen any and the wide variety of these you'd see how I got the idea) to kill his targets, and hence becomes knows as "Cutter" or "The Carver."
So far, I think 彫刻師 seems the best.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 12:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Woodblock carver is called 彫師(Horishi).
But Horishi also means tatoo artist.

絵師 Eshi draws picture
彫師 Horishi carves
摺師 Surishi prints
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Matsuhide
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 4:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
So can you help me with the difference between 彫刻師 and 彫師?
Is 彫刻師 a broader term including wood-carvers in other forms such as maybe netsuke and, say, furniture etc.? Whereas 彫師 is specifically wood-block carvers for the process of printmaking? Are 彫師 included within the category of 彫刻師, or are they something else altogether?
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 5:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
彫刻師 is a little less general than 彫師. Horishi (彫師) refers to all sorts of carvers (including--like shiki mentioned--tattooing, which is kind of like carving when examined in a certain light), while choukokushi (彫刻師) has somewhat more of a sculpting connotation. Or at least that's my interpretation.
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 09, 2009 4:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
So would it be safe to say that: as a raven is a type of bird, but not all birds are necessarily ravens; 彫師 are a type of 彫刻師, but not all 彫刻師 are necessarily 彫師?

If so, I think 彫刻師 could still work as the nickname for the character's "darker art," as his medium in that respect is of the more three-dimensional variety. Or does it just sound wrong in principal?
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 09, 2009 4:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I think the word 彫刻 was made after Meiji to describe Western style sculpture.
Though sculptor is generally called 彫刻家 Choukokuka.
(Buddhism sculptor is called 仏師 Busshi.)
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 21, 2009 1:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I'm finding it quite amazing how little seems to be know about the artisans involved in the process of creating the famous ukiyo-e prints.
I knew the "artists" often get all the credit, but that there seems to be so little known about the others at all, to the point that it's difficult of find what they were even called at the time, is surprising.

Works as a double-edged to (forgive the pun...) though for me.
On the negative side, it's really heard to research.
On the plus, I'm researching for fiction, so it gives me a lot of leeway.
Still, I'd prefer the factual-based elements to be as close to reality as possible...
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 21, 2009 4:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Ukiyo-e were largely mass-market commercial pieces, not fine art. Some artists amassed a following, but few cared about the laborers involved.

It's not all that different from modern times, is it? Few TV commercials, magazine ads (and a lot of ukiyo-e were basically promotional material for popular courtesans and actors), mass-market posters, etc., come with detailed staff credits.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 22, 2009 4:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Absolutely true!

And my wife and I have certainly enjoyed Mad Men! Very Happy
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 07, 2009 7:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
So I've been getting my hands dirty doing some more thorough library research and have been making some progress.

One nice book I found is "The History of Japanese Printing and Book Illustration" by David Chibbett.
In it he mentions chou (彫), choukou (彫工), choushi (彫師), and choushu (彫手); but these are pre-Edo terms for Buddhist monk woodblock cutters, not the secular, commercial ones I'm looking for.

Also of note is the book "Edo Culture: Daily Life and Diversions in Urban Japan, 1600-1868" by Nishiyama Matsunosuke. There's lots of interesting information across the whole subject, but chapter 4 deals specifically with publishing and ukiyo-e. I was going to complain that the author made many allusions to period books on the subject of chounin and the artisans involved with the process, but never refers to them by their Japanese names. However, as I was writing this and rereading a specific paragraph, I found that the author does indeed mention "block cutters" as hangiya (版木屋?), so I need to shut up...
Anyway, I was coming to the point of inquiring about this period print of a "block cutter" which is included in the chapter:

My question was if anyone can read the characters in the print? I still can't make much out if the characters have the slightest hint of calligraphy... though I know (think...) it doesn't say hangiya.

Thanks all!
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 07, 2009 10:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Matsuhide wrote:
I still can't make much out if the characters have the slightest hint of calligraphy... though I know (think...) it doesn't say hangiya.

And though, it does ! 板木屋 hangiya Very Happy
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 07, 2009 2:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Thanks Akaguma! So that's roughly "woodblocker"?
Finally getting somewhere!
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2009 2:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Back to the larger tier of my earlier question. I'm wondering about the mechanics of combining kanji for different sounds and different meanings to create names. Not necessarily real Japanese names, but fictional "nicknames."

For instance: Musashi's name was changed from Takezō to the former but the characters used for either pronunciation are 武蔵.
I'm wondering if the inverse can be applied, i.e. using different kanji combinations to produce the same sounds, but with different implied meanings?
For instance, using "Musashi": 務早死 (serve, fast, kill) for an assassin, 霧詐姿 (fog, lie, appearance) for a ninja or shapeshifter, or 夢唆雌 (dream, seduce, female) for a kind of succubus.

Akaguma used similar combinations for his Japanese versions of Marvel characters posted here:http://forums.samurai-archives.com/viewtopic.php?t=1878&highlight=

Running with my initial incorrect guess for the kanji for hangiya, what if the character were called 版義矢 (arrow of justice version) for a blockcutter who is a vigilante of some sort, or 伴毅輻 (strong friendship spoke, or "reliable") for a sidekick?

Do these kind of combinations really work functionally or grammatically? I understand that there were certain kanji used for names at certain periods, but could one stray from those for nicknames? It would seem so to some degree as new Japanese terms were invented, right? It's fun but I don't want to be just making up BS! Laughing

Any help would be greatly appreciated!
Thanks!
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2009 3:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Your examples are a little far-fetched and giggle-provoking, but it isn't uncommon for substitute characters (ateji 当て字) to be used to give names a bit of flair. In modern times manga characters and entertainers (Visual-kei musicians especially go for ateji) often have names incorporating ateji.

Not sure how you'd convey this in an English language story, though.
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2009 5:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I don't mind if the examples are silly sounding to those in the know. Mr. Green
They were just quick examples to illustrate my question, though actual ones I might use would not necessarily be much more "sophisticated." Though would you mind explaining why they'd be far fetched?

The names would be written in romanji and just Japanese-sounding to the typical reader, with foot(or other)notes indicating the kanji for those willing to look into it and get some additional insight into the character(s). Sort of like the names of characters etc in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books (http://www.theninemuses.net/hp/list.html), only involving a bit more work on the part of the reader.
American comic characters are a good example as well. Obviously no one would name their son "Spider Man," "Bat Man," or "Punisher" etc., but in a world where such characters existed the public would likely latch onto a descriptive nickname for them rather than simply blurting out "Hey, there goes Peter Parker!" (assuming they even knew his identity even) as a guy in red and blue pajamas swung by overhead. (Yeah, I know I'm getting you to take me MUCH more seriously now!)

Anyway...

Aren't ateji characters used only for their sound and not intended to have meaning, or can certain characters be chosen to add "flair" as you mentioned? Are there only specific characters that can be used as ateji, or are they all up for grabs?
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2009 11:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
As Ashigaru said, this kind of nickname is not uncommon. Playing with different pronunciations of kanji for names is quite a usual game.
Shikisoku once wrote an interesting thread about recent child's names

Ateji are usually used to transcribe a name or a word.
In my Marvel Jidaigeki serie, I rather tried to translate the character's names.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2009 4:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Akaguma wrote:
In my Marvel Jidaigeki serie, I rather tried to translate the character's names.

You mean the meaning of their names, right?

Yeah, I got that. I was just wondering if the names can be approached from other angles as well, i.e. of you have the sounds in mind and are looking for characters that match those and have interesting meanings that emphasize the persona behind it. I was going to ask about using that approach, going for meaning first, as well.

Also, with your Marvel characters I assume you could have used the same kanji but pronounced the names differently but chose the pronunciations that sounded best to you, right?
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2009 6:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Matsuhide wrote:
You mean the meaning of their names, right?
Yes !

Quote:
Yeah, I got that. I was just wondering if the names can be approached from other angles as well, i.e. of you have the sounds in mind and are looking for characters that match those and have interesting meanings that emphasize the persona behind it. I was going to ask about using that approach, going for meaning first, as well.

For Ghost Rider, instead of translating it Riding-Ghost Kiryô 騎霊 (which is more impressive than kirei Wink), I could have called him Gosuto Raita 護守徒 雷太 (Protector - Thunder-eldest son). OK, I know... "Gosuto Raita" sounds more like "Ghost Writer"... Confused But as 太 happens to be read "da" as well, it can be said Raida.
And if I wanted to keep a spectral touch, I could call him Reida 霊太 : "Spirit-eldest son".(and now, you'd tell me it sounds like raider Confused
(It makes me think of French TV advertisements of Tomb Raider where they keep pronouncing it "Tomb Rider" Mad)

Quote:
Also, with your Marvel characters I assume you could have used the same kanji but pronounced the names differently but chose the pronunciations that sounded best to you, right?

Indeed. Especially with 狼貛 Rôgan which is both a transcription for Logan, and an (approximative) translation of wolverine. (Whereas 狼貛 langguan is actual Mandarin for wolverine, the animal, not the character) I could as well have decided to pronounce 狼貛 with kunyomi ôkami-anaguma... but it wouldn't have been as fun as onyomi rô-gan ! Very Happy Even formal translation of wolverine, kuzuri (屈狸、貂熊), isn't this fun !
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2009 2:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Akaguma wrote:
Especially with 狼貛 Rôgan which is both a transcription for Logan, and an (approximative) translation of wolverine. (Whereas 狼貛 langguan is actual Mandarin for wolverine, the animal, not the character) I could as well have decided to pronounce 狼貛 with kunyomi ôkami-anaguma... but it wouldn't have been as fun as onyomi rô-gan ! Very Happy Even formal translation of wolverine, kuzuri (屈狸、貂熊), isn't this fun !

I didn't catch that you got Wolvie's to be pronounced Rôgan as well!! That's, I think, the ideal combination; getting the ideal sound you want AND the ideal meaning! Good stuff!

I'm still unsure though just how realistic these names are within the real Japanese language. I want to make sure we're not taking too large liberties and that's why I'd really appreciate it if Ashigaru would explain why the earlier listed names seemed "far fetched"?

I want to make sure we're not bastardizing the language and ending with results similar to a New Yorker yelling out "Hey, there goes Spider-bitten-radioactive-hero!"

I think things also can get even more dangerous when in a historical setting as you'd obviously want to avoid kanji that may not yet have developed. Is that a legitimate concern? If so does anyone know of dictionaries etc. that also list characters' origin periods?
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2009 11:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Matsuhide wrote:
I didn't catch that you got Wolvie's to be pronounced Rôgan as well!! That's, I think, the ideal combination; getting the ideal sound you want AND the ideal meaning! Good stuff!
Luck made most of the work !Smile

Quote:
I'm still unsure though just how realistic these names are within the real Japanese language. I want to make sure we're not taking too large liberties and that's why I'd really appreciate it if Ashigaru would explain why the earlier listed names seemed "far fetched"?

I want to make sure we're not bastardizing the language and ending with results similar to a New Yorker yelling out "Hey, there goes Spider-bitten-radioactive-hero!"

There is a lot of names with puns in them. there 's a lot of them in manga, but also in historical piece.
For example, in the famous Hakkenden (litteraly "Legend of the Eight Dogs") the eight principal characters are heroic samurai whose family names include inu (dog) word, and whose given name include one of the eight of the fundamental virtues of Confucianism.

As far as maga are concerned, famous Lone Wolf and Cub character Ogami Ittô has been named "wolf" because his family name sound like ôkami.
Still in Lone Wolf and Cub, the three shinobi Hidari brothers -弁馬 Benma,天馬 Tenma, 來馬 Kuruma, play with their name by assembling their first kanji to make 弁天来 Bentenrai : "Benten cometh"... since they are so dreadful that when you meet them you can only wish Benten (one of the seven gods of luck) were here to save you.
Those puns doesn't look this far-fetched.

Quote:
I think things also can get even more dangerous when in a historical setting as you'd obviously want to avoid kanji that may not yet have developed. Is that a legitimate concern? If so does anyone know of dictionaries etc. that also list characters' origin periods?
I don't think there is this many kanji that have been created since Edo jidai, besides maybe their simplified form that have been standardized since WW2.
There are some kanji that have been created ou derived more or less recently to translate Western concepts, such as metric system (粍 millimetre, 糎 centimetre, 粉 decimetre, 米, metre, 籵 decametre, 粨 hectometre, 粁 kilometre, and so on with 瓦 gramme, and 立 litre)
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2009 11:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Matsuhide wrote:

For instance: Musashi's name was changed from Takezō to the former but the characters used for either pronunciation are 武蔵.


Just to be pedant (although this actually goes right to the heart of your post, I think) "Takezo" is an invention of Yoshikawa Eiji. The name "Musashi" comes from the style "Musashi-no-kami". Like you suggest, when it comes to fiction, authors are free to play all sorts of games. Smile
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