Is this right? How to write it most simply?
February 8, 2007 1:02 PM   Subscribe

For engraving purposes: Tell me (a) if this is right (b) what it looks like in one of the Japanese alphabets.

Got a really good friend who has a birthday coming and who, I fervently hope, does not read AskMeFi. He's seriously into bears and is somewhat ursine in appearance himself, and he's living in Japan these days, so in a fit of guesswork, I nicknamed him Kuma-chan for pet bear.

Is that the right way to express that?

I don't know much about Japanese writing systems other than that there's more than one -- I think some symbols are phonic alphabet like Latin and Cyrillic while others are basically a Chinese set of ideograms -- haven't Wikipedia'd to see if that's right. There's...two...?...or five...?...different writing systems?

Anyhow: If Kuma-chan is correct, what's the most engraving-friendly way to represent that in writing? Or if there's a better way to say it, what is it, and how should that look?

Arigato in advance, y'all.
posted by pax digita to Writing & Language (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not sure if it's entirely right, but it would look like....
Teddy bear テディベア
chan ちゃん

So you're looking at テディベア ちゃん. Hopefully someone can confirm or correct.
posted by sephira at 1:23 PM on February 8, 2007

I forgot to mention, kuma is correct for teddy bear.
posted by sephira at 1:32 PM on February 8, 2007

I've only been learning Japanese and hiragana and katakana for a month but what sephira has reads correct to me!
posted by spec80 at 1:49 PM on February 8, 2007

I think -san would be more appropriate. And the "right" way to write it is with a kanji:

posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:57 PM on February 8, 2007

If it's a good male friend and a nickname, i think kuma-kun would be most appropriate. I'd type out kun for you but I can't do Japanese characters from work. I'm sure someone else will.
posted by modernnomad at 2:04 PM on February 8, 2007

Well, kuma in kanji (which is what you'd generally see) is 熊; "chan" would normally be rendered only in hiragana, so 熊ちゃん

However, "kuma-chan" doesn't mean "pet bear." "chan" is simply a diminutive tacked onto a name as an expression of affection, so it's like making "Richard" into "Ricky." The word for a pet whatever is usually "ai-[animal]," so 愛犬 aiken for pet dog, 愛猫 aibyou for pet cat.

"Pet bear" would be 愛熊 aikou. "Where did 'kuma' go?" you may wonder. Therein lies a story. Most kanji can be read with a native Japanese reading—kun-yomi—or a Chinese-derived reading—on-yomi. Kuma is kun-yomi, but in this particular combination of characters, you have to use on-yomi.

There's nothing particularly strange about calling your friend kuma-chan, it's just that that word doesn't mean what you think it means. It's more like "adorable bear whose name I don't know, but would use if I did."
posted by adamrice at 2:08 PM on February 8, 2007

Oops. Not aikou. Aiyuu.
posted by adamrice at 2:09 PM on February 8, 2007

Bigger kuma if you need it. Or (assuming you have the language character sets installed) just copy/paste whatever you decide to use into Word, increase the font size and print it out for the engraver.
posted by CKmtl at 2:12 PM on February 8, 2007

Actually, you are all correct, and all wrong at the same time. 熊kuma means bear, like an actual big hairy bear. テティベア is a stuffed Teddy Bear. Not too many Japanese people have pet bears, so there's not a Japanese word for that specifically. A lot of pets are labeled with "ai-" and the animal name, but it's probably a made-up word when it comes to bears. And since the 愛 actually means "love" it could be misinterpreted by your friend if he doesn't know Japanese.

-san is a fairly respectful suffix and I have never heard anyone under 40 use that with any of their friends. It is occasionally attached to the end of animal names to anthropomorphize them, as in kuma-san, but it strikes me as a little bit weird as a nickname for a human.

-kun is used on little boys, usually by people of higher stature. To some extent it marks you as not quite a real adult in the eyes of whoever is calling you that.

-chan is similarly used for young girls or anything cute. It's fairly affectionate so I wouldn't use it for girls you don't know well unless they are celebrities. Calling a man something like "kuma-chan" is pretty cute, but if you're good friends I think it works better than -san or -kun. But honestly I don't think that any of them will be seen as wrong. You could even call him kuma-sama in a show of mock reverence.
posted by donkeymon at 2:22 PM on February 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

ai means "love, affection" but in this usage is probably better translated as "beloved".

means "bear". It can be pronounced ユウ (yuu) or くま (kuma).

So 愛熊 "aiyuu" literally means "beloved bear". As Adam Rice mentioned, that construction is used for 愛犬 aiken which means "pet dog".
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:31 PM on February 8, 2007

What do I have to change in Firefox to see these characters?
posted by Marky at 2:53 PM on February 8, 2007

It's not a Firefox issue, it's an OS issue. If you've got the right fonts installed, it should Just Work. If you don't have those fonts, it Just Won't.
posted by adamrice at 3:21 PM on February 8, 2007

You could even call him kuma-sama in a show of mock reverence.

This is true. As with everything in Japanese, it all depends on your relationship with him. -kun, -chan, -sama are all okay.
posted by dydecker at 3:22 PM on February 8, 2007

Adam Rice, what you need to do is to enable Japanese Language support. In my version of Firefox you bring up the options box, select "Advanced", select the "General" tab, and press the "Edit Languages" button. Then add "Japanese [ja]" to the list.

If you don't have the right fonts installed (e.g. MS Mincho or MingLiU), you might need the Windows install disk for this.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 3:35 PM on February 8, 2007

What do I have to change in Firefox to see these characters?

For XP, go to Control Panel --> Regional and Language Options. In the Languages tab, check "Install East Asian Languages". Click Apply, then follow the instructions from there. You'll need your install disk handy. FireFox should fall in line afterwards.
posted by CKmtl at 4:02 PM on February 8, 2007

Oh, and if you want to take the Google Knows All approach to deciding between aiyuu and kuma-san/chan/kun...

Google Image Search shows many instances of these being used as filenames of images of teddybears or cartoony bears hosted in .jp. So, should be safe to assume that it would be understandable as such. Assuming all those files were named by native japanese speakers, of course

The first four characters under the cartoony bear in this image is kuma-kun in hiragana, if you want to go with that.
posted by CKmtl at 4:54 PM on February 8, 2007

saying '愛熊' would be really... odd. It sounds like a stretch, and worst case it could be mistaken as a play on words from 愛人 (ai-jin) -- a word used to refer to a person's lover (more specifically, a partner in someone's affair). Or 愛撫... er, nevermind.

In any case, for naming purposes what you've done works just fine. if you're not bound by business formalities or anything it might as well sound however the way you like it, right?

Another thing you could do is add common name suffixes to 'Kuma' to make any sort of variant you wish. Kuma-tarou, Kumazou, Kumanosuke, Kumacchi, etc etc. If your buddy's Japanese then all the better, jack part of his name.
posted by Muu at 5:10 PM on February 8, 2007

On the Japanese drama "Gokusen," there was a chubby, bear-like character named Teruo Kumai whose nickname was simply "Kuma."
posted by xo at 6:26 PM on February 8, 2007

LOL. I love AskMe.

One vote from this Japanese for Kuma-chan. And I would write that either like this: くまちゃん or like this クマちゃん. Kawaii!

No 愛熊. I can see how 愛犬 (ai-ken=pet dog) could lead to such a conclusion, but like Muu said, it's odd. There are similar examples like 愛猫 (ai-byou=pet cat) or 愛鳥 (ai-chou=pet bird), but I've never heard it used for bears! Though I guess if someone had a pet bear and wanted to refer to it that way, it wouldn't exactly be wrong... but it would definitely be tongue-in-cheek.
posted by misozaki at 7:04 PM on February 8, 2007

My vote goes to クマちゃん!

posted by gomichild at 11:03 PM on February 8, 2007

Interesting responses so far.

Clarifying relnship somewhat: He's basically been my "brotha from anotha motha" for ten years as of last summer, and probably he saved my @$$ getting me out of a really dead-end sort of bad, sad living/working situation. (Cue violins...)

So...I'm leaning toward -chan despite cutesy overtones, but -sama would be more appropriate if it didn't imply subordinate-superior relnship.

Buddy has been in-country for about 4 months, has not meaningfully attempted to learn Japanese yet. Concerned that I express this properly for when he does, though.
posted by pax digita at 4:52 AM on February 9, 2007

Now that we've had a native informant chime in, you should definitely go with misozaki's suggestion.

I admit that 愛熊 is a neologism I pulled out of my ass. We don't generally have pet bears in English-speaking countries either. Just out of curiosity, how would you try to express that in Japanese, misozaki?
posted by adamrice at 9:02 AM on February 9, 2007

Just realized this, but...

If you really wanted to say "pet bear" you could also call it a 飼い熊 (kai-guma). A 飼い犬(Kai-inu) 飼い猫(Kai-neko) 飼い豚(Kai-buta), 飼いハムスター(kai-hamster) can mean a 'pet (insert name of animal here).' For anything other than a dog/cat/other generic pet animal though, it'll probably be more often be attributed to an animal you're taking care of (i.e. if you're a zookeeper, etc).

I still suggest you stick with your original idea though. Or you could make it even cuter (in a way. And no, I don't suggest you actually do this) by saying Kuma-tan. make sure the japanese is written entirely in hiragana if you choose this option (くまたん).
posted by Muu at 10:26 AM on February 9, 2007

(misoazaki, sent you an E.)

"Pet" bear connotes some things I don't intend; "-sama" would be closer, I think. On reflection, I wish there were a shorthand way to say "My Beloved and Esteemed Brother Bear" in about five hiragana or katakana glyphs, but if it's a mouthful in English...

Wondering how it's going to be perceived in J culture when he reveals he got it from a male friend -- we're not gay; more like Grant and Sherman -- "he stood by me when he was crazy, and I stood by him when he was drunk" -- maybe not quite that extreme, but don't want to get all Movie of the Week on y'all.
posted by pax digita at 11:48 AM on February 9, 2007

Oops, "...stood by me when I was crazy..."
posted by pax digita at 11:49 AM on February 9, 2007

Sorry, fixed my e-mail, pax digita, if you're still interested.

adamrice, if I had a pet bear, I'd just call her my "petto no kuma(-chan)." Or like Muu said, my "kai-guma(-chan)."

Or you could make it even cuter... by saying Kuma-tan. make sure the japanese is written entirely in hiragana if you choose this option (くまたん).

Muu, you're probably aware of this, but "kuma-tan" sounds so... Akihabara. : ) Ew. If someone called me that, I'd be squicked out big time.

"My Beloved and Esteemed Brother Bear"

pax digita, now that I've read your follow-ups, I think maybe you should stick simply with kuma-san (くまさん or クマさん) after all. It's commonly used as a nickname for big, burly men, and wouldn't sound too cutesy or inappropriate.

"Aisubeki kuma-san" (愛すべきクマさん) maybe? "Aisubeki" means "lovable" or "likable," and wouldn't be mistaken for the "infatuation" kind of love.
posted by misozaki at 4:53 PM on February 9, 2007

i want to second an earlier comment. ask mefi is possibly my most revered sight on the net
posted by edtut at 11:56 PM on February 9, 2007

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