Creeping kanji

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Ben Zimmer was recently in Pittsburgh, where he gave the keynote address at the American Copy Editors Society conference. He mentioned that one of the copy editors (Bill Walsh of the Washington Post) was confused by a sign for a new bar/lounge in Pittsburgh:

The name is actually "Social House Seven," with 七 (Cant. cat1; S. Min chhit; Wu tshiq; Hakka cit7; Teochew cig4; Mand. qī; Jap. shichi, nana; Engl. seven; etc., etc.) representing the 7. Descriptions of Social House Seven may be found here and here. The first link explains that "the 7,300-square-foot space will be a Japanese-style izakaya, lounge and event space."

Among the many Japanese words that have been borrowed into English, "izakaya" ("a type of informal Japanese drinking establishment that serves food to accompany the drinks") is fairly recent (1987).

By the way, Social House Seven is located at 123 7th Street.

We've several times looked at "creeping romanization" in Chinese (e.g., here and here) and romaji in Japanese (e.g., here and here). Compared to creeping kanji in English, romanization in Chinese and Japanese is galloping.


  1. Mara K said,

    April 1, 2015 @ 9:18 am

    I read it in Chinese as "social qi house", with 七 as a punning substitute for 气, implying that the place will be nice and relaxing with exactly the right atmosphere.

  2. un malpaso said,

    April 1, 2015 @ 1:49 pm

    The most common Kanji I have seen creep into Internet texts is シ (OK, Katakana. Or… Katakana-ji (following the English model of emo-ji, etc.)? Katakanization? Japanization?

  3. Jason S said,

    April 2, 2015 @ 11:54 am

    un malpaso: I'm more accustomed to seeing ツ.
    For those unfamiliar with Japanese, in katakana "tsu": ツ and "shi": シ look very similar.

    I'd call it an emoticon, since it's being used purely for its resemblance to a smiley face. What's novel is that it's a foreign symbol is being borrowed, but it's used regardless of any semantic or phonetic value (much as internet Japanese itself does extensively with kaomoji ("face-letters")).

  4. Victor Mair said,

    April 2, 2015 @ 9:12 pm

    From Cecilia Segawa Seigle:

    Reading about Creeping kanji, I thought of the abbreviation of 2 English words that Japanese have been doing for close to a century and something that you had commented on a short while ago. I don't remember what you quoted exactly, but I remember mentioning "masukomi" (mass communication) and "afureko"(after recording).

    Last night I found a new word watching 7:30 NHK program on channel 35. They were talking about great food you can find in "depachika"
    I had never heard the word – they explained it – Department chikashitsu (地下室)―the food section of any department store – you know that all department stores have food shops of all kinds in the basement floors (1 or 2 floors). Instead of 2 English words this is a combination of English and Japanese, but this 新造語 really threw me off.

  5. Jim Breen said,

    April 3, 2015 @ 1:15 am

    Re デパ地下/デパチカ I am pleased to say it's been an entry in EDICT/JMdict for about 10 years. I try very hard to keep up with 新造語.

  6. JQ said,

    April 3, 2015 @ 9:32 am

    七 can be an insult in Cantonese (there is probably a "proper" character for it). This reminds me of a passing fad in school where we used to insert 七 in the middle of words to make them ruder…

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