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Monday, March 9, 2009

純情可憐

じゅんじょう かれん
jyunjyou karen

日本の方へのメッセージ:
NSFWという略語は「NOT SAFE FOR WORK」という意味で、人前で(得に同僚や子供)クリックしない方がいいリンクのことです。

It's rare that we get the chance to post a yoji that doesn't lend itself to pictures of scantily clad women in one way or another, but today is one of those days. These kanji don't allow it.

純 is one that I first learned in 純粋 (じゅんすい;jyunsui), meaning "pure." It has connotations of "unadulterated" but working in the school system I've heard it used to refer to the innoncence of youth. When it's used in the first compound of today's yo-ji, 純情, it becomes "purity of heart," or "naivete."

可 gets used in all kinds of compounds but think of it here like you would think of it in 可愛い. 可愛い has always perplexed me because of it's incredible descriptive range, which Google Image search will help me demonstrate: Can you think of another word that you could use to describe both THIS , THIS ,and THIS[NSFW]?

And if that's not enough, I've never been sure about the connection between 可愛い and 可愛そう. For me "cute" and "pitiful" are two very different things (BIG MISTAKE in this bit. Check the comments to see us getting owned by reader Pazu) , but in Japanese they seem conceptually linked somehow. Even the second part of today's yo-ji, 可憐, can be defined as either "sweet" or "poor," as in "poor baby."

Luckily 純情可憐 doesn't have the same ambiguity. As the definition will tell you, it's actually got a pretty narrow window of applicability.

Definition:
おもに若い女性の清らかで愛らしいさま。
Translation:
1. Beautiful and pure.
2. Sweet.

I like this one because I've had trouble figuring out how to describe a girl in Japanese who, in English, I would refer to as "sweet." Using 八方美人 is risky for reasons we've already discussed, and in a small town where you stand out, it's hard enough to say something nice about a woman without setting off an 井戸端会議 about your romantic intentions.

The one time I tried to explain the ways in which English speakers apply their version of "甘い" to people the conversation became confusing quickly: I didn't know that 甘い could be used to mean generous or indulgent at the time. To compare, think of how quickly 和英 or 英和 conversations can get sketchy when a Japanese person wants to talk about a 優しい女, but doesn't know whether or not to translate 優しい as "kind" or "easy."

純情可憐 resolves these problems for me. It encapsulates what I think of as the epitome of "sweet," and its chastity cuts out any potential for inappropriate interpretation. It is mainly used to refer to women who are below the "Christmas Cake" cut-off, so I might still have trouble applying it to older women, but it's still a lucky find.

It reminds me of 箱入り娘, for obvious reasons.

例文:新人タレントは、テレビドラマで純情可憐な少女の役をみごとに演じきった。
The up-and-coming actress gave a magnificent performance in her latest television drama role, playing a sweet, innocent young girl.

4 comments:

RYUICHI said...

Hi,
Zhang Ziyi in The Road Home(初恋のきた道) is the best example to describe 純情可憐! I remember watching the movie in a theater ling time ago. Now, I think she is still 可憐, but not 純情.
By the way, 可愛い has a wide range. It is, you know, used very often. If you use other expressions which are 愛らしい, キュート or チャーミング instead of it, you need to consider the situation or character. This link maybe will be helpful.

Pazu said...

”I've never been sure about the connection between 可愛い and 可愛そう. For me "cute" and "pitiful" are two very different things, but in Japanese they seem conceptually linked somehow.”

可愛そう is NOT pitiful, it's the -sou form of かわいい. Pitiful is 可哀そう. Different kanji, completely different meaning.

AzzidisRidden said...

Oh, man. FACED! I even checked that with a Japanese person before I posted it... but not well enough. DAMN YOU, JAPANESE HOMONYMS!

Thanks for pointing that out, I'll amend the post so we don't give people the wrong idea.

可憐 can still be defined as either "pitiful" or "cute," so the idea of a link between the two concepts still stands, if only on one, quivering leg. :)

Pazu said...

You have a point here. Maybe 可憐 is like a puppy abandoned in the streets, cute and pitiful at the same time? :)