Japanese topsy-turvy words



Topsy-turvy… Yeah. Sounds dumb. IDK maybe there’s proper term for this. What I
mean is a pair of words consisting of the same 2 kanji (with the same
readings, mostly), only in a different order, like this:

日本 「にほん」 Japan
本日 「ほんじつ」 today

花火 「はなび」 fireworks
火花 「ひばな」 spark 

一万 「いちまん」 ten thousands
万一 「まんいち」 unlikely event, one in 10.000 chance 

会社 「かいしゃ」 company
社会 「しゃかい」 society

女子 「じょし」 girl
子女 「しじょ」 sons and daughters

父親 「ちちおや」 father
親父 「おやじ」 one’s father, old man

途中 「とちゅう」 on the way, midway
中途 「ちゅうと」 in the middle, half-way

階段 「かいだん」 stairs
段階 「だんかい」 level, phase

会議 「かいぎ」 conference, meeting
議会 「ぎかい」 congress, parliament

現実 「げんじつ」 reality, true fact
実現 「じつげん」 realization, materialization

海上 「かいじょう」 marine, by/at/on sea
上海 「しゃんはい」 Shanghai

苦痛 「くつう」 pain, agony
痛苦「つうく」 anguish

関連 「かんれん」 relation,

連関 「れんかん」 relation,


形象 「けいしょう」 shape, figure
象形 「しょうけい」 hieroglyphics

I really, really love this post concept, so I thought I’d add a few entries.

日中「にっちゅう or ひなか」 sino-japanaese (only 1st reading), middle of the day

中日 「ちゅうにち」China and Japan

温室「おんしつ」 greenhouse

室温「しつおん」room temperature


室内「しつない」one’s wife

奥山「おくやま」remote mountain, mountain recesses

山奥「やまおく」deep in the mountains, mountain recesses (these two are pretty similar, actually)

土塊「どかい」clump of soil/earth, clod

塊土「かいど」lump of earth

保安「ほあん」peace preservation, security (if read ほうあん can refer to the Houan era)

安保「あんぽ」US-Japan Security Treaty

白黒「しろくろ」monochrome, black-and-white

黒白「くろしろ」black and white, right and wrong

画面「がめん」screen, scene







my favorite thing i’ve learned in college is that way back in ancient china there was this poet/philosopher guy who wrote this whole pretentious poem about how enlightened he was that was like “the eight winds cannot move me” blahblahblah and he was really proud of it so he sent it to his friend who lived across the lake and then his friend sends it back and just writes “FART” (or the ancient Chinese equivalent) on it and he was SO MAD he travels across the lake to chew his friend out and when he gets there his friend says “wow. the eight winds cannot move you, but one fart sends you across the lake”

i googled this bc i desperately wanted this to be real, and guess what…it is.

the dude’s name was su dongpo (also known as su shi). his original poem went like this:





(Humbly bowed my head below all skies
Minutest lights shine through my deepest bounds
Immovable by strong winds from eight sides
Upon purplish gold lotus I seated straightly by the low mound) (x)

on which his friend wrote “放屁” (fart, literally), and you know the rest.

(here’s a chinese source for the skeptics)

can you imagine having your brutal murder described in detail to future generations

this is my new favourite story from history

Just an addition: “fart” also is slang for “bullshit” in Chinese, so his friend was basically writing “BS” on the dude’s ego poem