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April 2, 2009 6:21 AM   Subscribe

Help me translate/verify/understand some Kanji!

some background: When my sister was stationed in Japan, I asked her to find out what the symbol for "Mind" was. She ended up getting me a fancy calligraphy set with a stamp that has "Mind" on it, consisting of three symbols: "Truth", "Congressional House", "Metropolis" I scanned the stamp and and vectorized it in Illustrator (pic).

I want to use it in a shirt design, but I don't want to be one of those doofs who uses Japanese symbols without being sure of what it means, also I know Japanese words/concepts can be very different depending on use or context, so I don't want what says "Mind" on a calligraphy set to say "Brains" or "Umbrella" or something when printed elsewhere (probably a goofy example, but you get what I mean).

Drop some Knowledge, MeFi!
posted by Uther Bentrazor to Writing & Language (23 answers total)
I can't remember the exact translation on those but I'm pretty sure it doesn't mean mind in the sense you are likely thinking.
posted by zennoshinjou at 6:33 AM on April 2, 2009

胸裏 (kyouri) is mind as in what you feel/think
心 (kokoro/shin) is also vaguely related to the concept of "mind"

what exactly is the concept you are trying to express?
posted by zennoshinjou at 6:40 AM on April 2, 2009

KUN reading: ま-, まこと, さな, さね, ただ, ただし, なお, のり, まあ, まこ, まさ, まっ, まど, まな, まゆ, みち
ON reading: シン
meanings: true, reality, Buddhist sect

KUN reading:
ON reading: イン
meanings: Inst., institution, temple, mansion, school

KUN reading: みやこ, くに, づめ, みや
ON reading: ト, ツ
meanings: metropolis, capital

not sure if it's junk or not, but pretty good otherwise.

not in any of my electronic dictionaries though...
posted by zengargoyle at 6:40 AM on April 2, 2009

Here are the three symbols in actual Kanji: 真院都

I've looked that exact string up in and it came up with no result, so I must conclude that it's not actually a Japanese word at all. It could be a Chinese phrase, as Google does return 5 hits when you search for the kanji in quotes.
posted by Meagan at 6:43 AM on April 2, 2009

胸裏 (きょうり) (n) one's heart; one's mind (feelings, bosom);
(on lack of preview)
posted by zengargoyle at 6:43 AM on April 2, 2009

Not a native speaker, but those three things DEFINITELY do not mean mind. I don't think that's even a word. Is it a place name or something?

Question is, mind in what sense? Spirit? Intellect? Psyche? Depending on what you want, you might end up with 心、精神、知性, or even more. Looking at this search might give you an idea of the multiple ways mind can be translated.
posted by Charmian at 6:46 AM on April 2, 2009

Best answer: Those kanji read ma-in-do. They were chosen for sound, not meaning. They are gibberish, meaningwise. Don't make the shirt.
posted by No-sword at 7:18 AM on April 2, 2009 [4 favorites]

Best answer: To expand a little: this is a common technique when writing names, where sound is what matters. 飛優悟 Hi-yu-go for Hugo or whatever. Sounds like maybe the person who made the stamp for your sister thought her name was Mind and chose kanji for her accordingly (since normally when you get a stamp like that made, it's to stamp your name on stuff).
posted by No-sword at 7:24 AM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Not a native speaker either, but 心 (kokoro/shin) is the first way of translating "mind" that came to my, uh, mind.
posted by chez shoes at 7:43 AM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

真院都 fed to Nice Translator gives "Hospitals are really"
posted by emelenjr at 7:50 AM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ditto what No-Sword said. My name is 'Ann' and the most common character for 'translating' the name phonetically is 安 which can mean Peace. But I don't like to use it because it also means Cheap. (I prefer 杏 which means apricot) It's easy to get weird with phonetic 'translations.'

I'd go with 心 (kokoro) which encompasses thoughts and feelings. And it's pretty common to see that in art, and such.

胸裏, (kyouri) as some have suggested doesn't show in either my Kenkyusha New College Dictionary or my EX-word electronic dictionary. I had to go to WWJDIC to see it referenced. It's not wrong, but it's not going to be something many would recognize.
posted by Caravantea at 8:05 AM on April 2, 2009

Not a native speaker either, but 心 (kokoro/shin) is the first way of translating "mind" that came to my, uh, mind.

Yes, 心 (kokoro) is the word Japanese people most associate with mind... It's the most common and direct translation.

Unlike the West, where one's soul and personality are contained in the brain, in Japan one's soul and personality and everything else are rooted in (actual, physical) heart. That's where ones mind actually resides.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:10 AM on April 2, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for your help no-sword! And to everyone for answering!

Considering my shirt company is called "MINDJACKET", so the phoenetic might work since it's part of my "name".

of course, "Hospitals Are Really" has a nice ring to it as well :)
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:10 AM on April 2, 2009

Oh, yeah, and what No-Sword said.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:11 AM on April 2, 2009

Tried the Chinese phrase too, as Meagan did, but in the instances Google throws up the "" appears in its adverbial sense of "all" (as opposed to the noun) following some compound containing the other two characters "真院." Does seem to be a nonsense phrase.
However, just to muddy the waters further, one of those phrases was 修真院 which does appear to have had a historical meaning vaguely linked to mental pursuits, in that it was apparently some kind of scholarly academy similar to the Hanlin, a name used for the kungfu training halls of various different competing martial arts schools (appearing in pulp fiction, at least) and also the name of a hermitage retreat of some Daoist mystic (修 often used to refer to personal cultivation in all the major Chinese traditions Confucian, Daoist and Buddhist; 真 ("true, truth, real" etc) tends to the Daoist where its not Islamic I think).
Lastly, here's a nice late Qing calligraphy name plaque for a 修真院.
posted by Abiezer at 8:20 AM on April 2, 2009

Err, should add not making any claims that the stuff in the second and third paras there is relevant to your question (well answered with 心 above), just the sort of interesting crap a search like this throws up. Well, I enjoy it at least.
posted by Abiezer at 8:22 AM on April 2, 2009

The actual pronunciation of my name (Nevin) in Japanese is Ne-Ben", which means "sound of study" but also "to shit your bed". So, I pronounce my name as "Ne-Bin", which means (if you're creative) "sleeping bottle": 寝瓶
posted by KokuRyu at 8:24 AM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Considering my shirt company is called "MINDJACKET", so the phoenetic might work since it's part of my "name".

Foreign words are often translated by sound in katakana rather than kanji which would probably be a better call as it wouldn't have the meaning attached to the kanji.
posted by juv3nal at 10:02 AM on April 2, 2009

Whatever you do don't use those characters as-is. The last one is whack.

Note the left part of 都 -- 者 -- has a smooth diagonal stroke not a bent one.

First one not too hot either 真, the top is too big and the bottom too small.
posted by mrt at 10:18 AM on April 2, 2009

Like juv3nal said- I was under the impression than katakana was used for non-Japanese phoenetics and that only Chinese use actual characters for sounds.
posted by wongcorgi at 10:20 AM on April 2, 2009

I was under the impression than katakana was used for non-Japanese phoenetics and that only Chinese use actual characters for sounds.

While you're right, there is also the fact that in modern Japanese, ateji (当て字, 宛字 or あてじ) sometimes used phonetically to represent native or borrowed words.

It's kind of a fun exercise. Man'yogana is also pretty interesting.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:46 AM on April 2, 2009

FWIW, I disagree with mrt, pitied fool though that makes me. The kanji are a little stylized but well within normal bounds for a logo/stamp/etc. Aesthetic wackness is in the eye of the beholder, of course.

Ateji were really more popular before the war, so they feel a little old-fashioned--not necessarily a bad thing. The issue for me is that now that katakana are the norm, using ateji is the marked choice, so it's kind of weird that they don't mean anything--why use 'em if you've got nothing to say with 'em?
posted by No-sword at 4:30 PM on April 2, 2009

So to summarize I would probably recommend using katakana for a brand name, maybe backed up with 心 as a visual element. But if you were a paying client I would insist on a meeting to discuss your goals, what you mean by "mind," etc. first, and after that my recommendation might be different.

Whatever you do, though, if it involves kanji in any way someone somewhere will find fault with it... steel yourself.
posted by No-sword at 4:35 PM on April 2, 2009

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