Monday, July 28, 2008


Tonight on Channel Young they had a short segment where they highlighted 错别字, wrong characters on public signs. One that they singled out is the first character in Yoshinoya's name:

According to the host, the first character should have been 吉, where the top horizontal line is longer than the second one. What makes me curious is that the "wrong" character is used in graphics throughout Yoshinoya's Japanese website, but that the text in the website's copy that shows up in my Firefox on Windows XP has the "right" character:


Is this a real mistake? Is it a calligraphic thing, or a Japanese/Chinese difference?


At Jul 29, 2008, 9:17:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said:

Surely that's either a calligraphic thing or a Japanese/Chinese difference, perhaps both. I mean, of all the foreigners, you'd expect the Japanese to be able to get the right character. And on a company logo? Who'd let a mistake get through on that? It's like Microsoft putting stuff in boxes marked Mircosoft. It could happen, but they'd send the defective boxes back to their supplier pretty damn quick.

At Jul 29, 2008, 10:30:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said:

Yeah, there are certain character details that the Chinese and Japanese differ on, and this is one of them.

As far as I know, there is no character composed of 土 over 口 (the closest I know of is 告), and since there is no possibility of confusion, the Japanese allow the 吉 variation in the Yoshinoya name.

So I think you could say this is just a case of the Chinese being pedantic.

At Jul 29, 2008, 5:05:00 PM, Blogger Micah Sittig said:

The funny thing is that the Yoshinoya employee they interviewed outside the shop seemed to agree that there was a mistake!

I agree with the pedantic thing. So... is this legitimate variant of 吉, as in it'd be in the Japanese dictionary? Or is this only a Yoshinoya thing?

At Jul 29, 2008, 7:02:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said:

I know when Unicode (the standard which most modern computers use for representing text characters) was being established, there was controversy about whether certain variant glyphs should be unified or not into a single 'character'. This appears to be one of these cases, and to represent the variant glyph on a computer requires some trickery. See:

This XHTML document has a special glyph of '吉'. A normal glyph for '吉' has a long upper line (character 'yoshi', with the upper line longer than the lower line). While the special one has a short upper line (character 'yoshi', with the lower line longer than the upper line). In ISO/IEC 10646-1, these two variation were unified to form a single code point. But many Japanese people need to distinguish them. This example includes information for search processors to distinguish two variations, but does not include for display or printing processors. Note that 吉田茂 (Yoshida Sigeru) was Prime Minister of Japan from 1946 to 1954 A.D.

At Jul 29, 2008, 7:12:00 PM, Blogger Micah Sittig said:

Thank you Mr Mayer! Until I hear otherwise, I'll surmise from the Unicode handling of these variant glyphs that this 吉 variant is a calligraphic variation seen in Japan, but that as far as language is concerned it is equivalent to its more common cousin.

At Aug 5, 2008, 12:54:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said:

I have lived in Japan and am familiar with Japanese and Yoshinoya.

This is a case of outrageous arrogance. It's like us 'correcting' French on the grounds that it uses the same alphabet.

It's obvious that Yoshinoya would not make an error on their own sign, in their native language.


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