July 14, 2007 8:59 PM   Subscribe

Could someone translate this set of four Asian characters more me please. I have no idea at all except that it's something about women? link
posted by chairish to Writing & Language (22 answers total)
Response by poster: arrgghh

... translate this set of four Asian characters for me ...

posted by chairish at 9:03 PM on July 14, 2007

posted by vincele at 9:33 PM on July 14, 2007

Taken together it means something like "girlfriends (in the platonic variety) true for a long time"

The last character doesn't really say eternity... long time would be more accurate.
posted by Phire at 9:37 PM on July 14, 2007

I was gonna go with "True Friends Forever", in the tattoo sense.
posted by rokusan at 9:52 PM on July 14, 2007

Response by poster: Great! Thanks! Is it Japanese? Please excuse my ignorance ...
posted by chairish at 10:07 PM on July 14, 2007

The syntax doesn't sound like Chinese, but I'm not fluent enough in Chinese to discern poetic license from bad grammar. The characters themselves certainly are Chinese.

The font for "woman/girl" is different, which is odd.
posted by Phire at 10:14 PM on July 14, 2007

There is no "Japanese" in this, nor syntactical elements, just 4 characters aside each other, and google comes up empty, so it's probably not a saying at all.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:55 PM on July 14, 2007

女友 can be shorthand for girlfriend in the romantic sense and in this case I would guess that's what it means. Chinese like to have things in nice short 4 character chunks. Most of their proverbs (Chengyu) come this way, though this probably isn't a chengyu. I would guess it means very roughly "My girlfriend is in my heart forever."

I just asked a Chinese friend and she said it looked really strange, so it might just have been made up by a non native speaker.
posted by afu at 11:45 PM on July 14, 2007

I'm not entirely sure, but I think kanji are somewhere in between Japanese and Chinese.
posted by ifthe21stcentury at 12:43 AM on July 15, 2007

ifthe21stcenturym, you're incorrect. The characters originated in China. Japan borrowed/stole them, along with many Chinese pronunciations, and added their own native pronunciations. Technically, the word 'kanji' is the Japanese word for the characters, Chinese/Korean/Vietnamese have a different name for them. You can tell the difference between Chinese and Japanese writing by looking for hiragana or katakana, the other two character sets used in Japanese writing.
In this case, there is no hiragana or katakana, so it is not Japanese. There is also no syntax, no particles, nothing but four characters. I agree that it was probably made up by a non-native speaker, or someone who had a character dictionary and assembled a sentence by looking up and writing.
posted by Meagan at 4:03 AM on July 15, 2007

it seems to have been made-up by a non-native speaker, but i'm not absolutely sure about that.
i've never seen it before or heard it before (i think). (i've learnt mandarin as a 2nd language for most of my life.., but, uh, not very well.) but 心久 seems to be a legitimate word/phrase, if you google it. (a lot of chinese 4-word phrases/proverbs sort of work in a pair-against-pair sense (not sure how to describe it better); that's why i looked up that pair of characters.)

um... i'll try to find out what 心久 means but this is what i'm thinking for now, anyway.
posted by aielen at 4:51 AM on July 15, 2007

Yeah the characters do look very strange... actually its just the "女" (female) character, the first one, that looks out of place!

Anyway, I agree with afu that it probably means "my girlfriend is in my heart forever".

Not a standard/well-known chengyu (if at all), but I assume that is the general meaning.
posted by Mrs PuGZ at 4:55 AM on July 15, 2007

Just chiming in to agree that it looks very weird. The "woman" character in particular is way out of proportion to the rest of the characters.
posted by gemmy at 6:21 AM on July 15, 2007

Japanese also has 4-character aphorisms—many borrowed directly from Chinese—but I'm pretty sure this isn't one. Neither 女友 nor 心久 come up in my dictionaries (nor do I recognize them) but apparently 心久 is a way to write a man's given name (Shinji).

I agree this was probably made up by a non-native speaker.
posted by adamrice at 6:46 AM on July 15, 2007

Nobody has mentioned yet that it sorta rhymes in Mandarin Chinese. So whoever wrote it was probably thinking in Chinese.
posted by msittig at 6:47 AM on July 15, 2007

Meagan, in my very limited experience, it's entirely possible for kanji to be written sans any nearby hiragana/katakana. Yes, much of the time the Japanese will put explanatory hiragana above kanji, but I don't believe it's mandatory, and if a given short phrase can be written entirely in kanji, there's no need for 'regular' kana to be included.
posted by cyrusdogstar at 8:11 AM on July 15, 2007

Just because there is no hiragana or katakana nearby doesn't mean that it's not from Japanese. You could, for example, have something like 自業自得 on its own, and it would be recognizable as coming from Japanese.

Still, in this particular case, it doesn't look like Japanese. I agree with those above that it's probably just been put together character by character by someone who doesn't know Chinese or Japanese. Another clue is that all of the characters are slightly out of alignment each other, making it look like each character was cut/pasted in place, rather than written together.
posted by mariokrat at 9:01 AM on July 15, 2007

This phrase is not Japanese.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:19 AM on July 15, 2007

I don't have a lot of experience reading handwritten Chinese, but isn't the character y'all have identified as 心 written kind of sloppily (and with a different number of strokes)? Is this common?
posted by rxrfrx at 12:29 PM on July 15, 2007

I can tell you for a fact that it isn't Japanese. It doesn't look like Chinese, either, but I'm not fluent in Chinese so I can't say with certainty. As others have noted, perhaps it's just four characters strung together...?
posted by armage at 1:10 PM on July 15, 2007

rxrfrx: yes, it's common. In addition to typographic letter styles, there are three different styles of handwritten letters—called kaisho, gyosho, and sosho in Japanese—with kaisho being close to typographic style, sosho being extremely cursive, and gyosho being somewhere in between. That 心 is either gyosho or just a fluid form of kaisho. Once you know how characters are written, you know where the brush is lifted off the page, and know what's going on even when it isn't lifted all the way off.
posted by adamrice at 1:51 PM on July 15, 2007

Response by poster: Hey thanks y'all. You've given me all the informatiomn that I wanted - and plenty more besides.
posted by chairish at 4:05 PM on July 15, 2007

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