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Tweet of the Week

Learn Japanese with what's going viral in the Twitterverse.

By 4 min read

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 じんめい and 常用 じょうよう 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.

最近 さいきんのキラキラネームが おそろしすぎるけん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:

  • : Names whose kanji are chosen for their pronunciation, disregarding the characters’ meaning
  • しもネタ けい: Names that have some sort of off-color humor
  • 時代 劇系 じだいげきけい: Names inspired by historical TV dramas
  • 英系 えいけい: Names inspired by English words
  • 解読不能系 かいどくふのう: 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)

Wow…

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 おうじさま (Prince) he can start anew with はじめ  (Hajime), the safe and normal name he picked for himself.

ハァァーイ!!!!!名前変更 なまえへんこう許可 きょかりましたァー!!!!!!!! =  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: べすぎる = to eat too much

  • i adjective minus the i + sugiru

Example: はやすぎる = too fast

  • na adjective + sugiru

Example: しずかすぎる = 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!)

Vocabulary

Japanese Romaji English
最近さいきん saikin recently
キラキラネーム kira kira neemu pretentious, affected, flashy or kitschy name
おそろしすぎる osoroshisugiru too scary
けん ken matter, case
www lol lol (laugh out loud)
名前変更なまえへんこう namae henkou name change
許可きょか kyoka permission
りる oriru to grant (when used with permission), to go down (stairs)
べる taberu to eat
はや
hayai fast
しず shizuka quiet
けい kei series, pattern
時代じだい jidai era
時代劇じだいげき jidaigeki historical TV dramas
ateji a character used as a phonetic symbol rather than for its meaning
えい ei English language, British
解読不能かいどくふのう kaidokufunou indecipherable
しもネタ shimoneta off-color humor, dirty jokes 
人名漢字じんめいかんじ jinmei kanji daily use 
常用漢字じょうようかんじ jyouyou kanji kanji officially used for names

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