Names reflect parents’ hope for the future of their children. This is particularly true in Japan where moms and dads have to carefully pick a name whose meaning, reading, and kanji stroke number match well with the family name. Hoping to positively influence their child’s destiny with a harmonious combination of first name and family name, parents in the past would even go as far as to consult Buddhist monks and let them decide their newborn’s name.
When naming went so, so wrong
In the 90s, an increasing number of Japanese parents began to push aside traditional names for more original monikers, thus creating a whole bunch of new names that became prolific enough to be labeled キラキラネーム (kira kira neemu) — literally “shiny names.”
Legally, the Japanese legislation only requires parents to use 人名 and 常用 kanji, without any restriction regarding their reading. Parents can write down whichever kanji they like from those two lists and are free to choose how to read them as well on the birth certificate.
In the kira kira-naming process, parents will pick a name in reference to a movie, animation or manga they love. But some go as far as to create a comic effect, often by using foreign words or very old historical names.
So what does that mean for the name bearers? Well, beyond the mockery they endure during the entirety of their youth, those afflicted also face the struggle of finding employment and not being taken seriously when they enter adulthood.
Suddenly things don’t look so kira kira after all.
For better or for worse, kira kira names are booming
Despite concerns about giving parents the freedom to choose names that can threaten a child’s well-being and future, there seems to be no end to their imagination.
— よぞら (@yozorara_) March 8, 2019
最近のキラキラネームが恐ろしすぎる件www = Recent kira kira names are really too scary lol
On the picture shared by Twitter user @yozorara_, you can spot a list of recently registered kira kira names and the various categories they belong to:
- 当て字: Names whose kanji are chosen for their pronunciation, disregarding the characters’ meaning
- 下ネタ系: Names that have some sort of off-color humor
- 時代 劇系: Names inspired by historical TV dramas
- 英系: Names inspired by English words
- 解読不能系: Names whose reading and meaning can’t be understood
Among the worst listed have got to be:
- びっぐまん = bigguman, big man
- えっくす = ekkusu, ex
- らぶほ = rabuho (a not so subtle reference to love hotels)
Lemme change my name!
But the damage is not irreversible. Last month Twitter user @akaike_hardtype finally obtained the green light to change his name at age 18. After years of resentment against his mother for naming him 王子様 (Prince) he can start anew with 肇 (Hajime), the safe and normal name he picked for himself.
— あかいけ (@akaike_hardtype) March 7, 2019
ハァァーイ！！！！！名前変更の許可が下りましたァー！！！！！！！! = Yeaaaaah, I received permission to change my name!!
We can only imagine his relief after years of carrying the burden of princehood for so long. His story was one of hardship growing up, with people laughing or accusing him of lying whenever he introduced himself, and just all-around awkwardness in social interactions.
Following the buzz caused by his tweet, he jumped on this opportunity to remind teenagers suffering due to the kira kira phenomenon that they can legally change their name without their parents’ consent from age 15.
How to express excess in Japanese
There’s a convenient way to express excess in Japanese and that’s the suffix すぎる. You can add すぎる to a verb or adjective:
- Verb (stem of ます-form) + sugiru
Example: 食べすぎる = to eat too much
- i adjective minus the i + sugiru
Example: 早すぎる = too fast
- na adjective + sugiru
Example: 静かすぎる = too quiet
Japanese culture values moderation and excess is undesirable, so the suffix carries a negative connotation. You feel bad from eating too much, going too fast or being in an excessively quiet place (unless you’re in the library searching for new non-kira kira names that is!)
|キラキラネーム||kira kira neemu||pretentious, affected, flashy or kitschy name|
|www||lol||lol (laugh out loud)|
|名前変更||namae henkou||name change|
|下りる||oriru||to grant (when used with permission), to go down (stairs)|
|時代劇||jidaigeki||historical TV dramas|
|当て字||ateji||a character used as a phonetic symbol rather than for its meaning|
|英||ei||English language, British|
|下ネタ||shimoneta||off-color humor, dirty jokes|
|人名漢字||jinmei kanji||daily use|
|常用漢字||jyouyou kanji||kanji officially used for names|
For more on learning Japanese
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