Opening and closing necrophilia

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From Jerome Chiu:


Aside from the word "INFORMATION" at the top of the sign, there's no English to let us know how they might have understood the hanja / kanji 漢字 in the first and second lines, but they are real howlers.  The first two characters in these two lines are all right, and just mean "opening" and "closing" (of the store), but the final two characters in both of these two lines are the same, and mean "necrophilia".

The signmaker(s) meant for those two lines to say "opening time" and "closing time":

개점시간 / 開店時間
("opening time")

폐점시간 / 閉店時間
("closing time")

The line immediately following reads:

geum, to, ireun ohu 8:30kkaji yeonjangyeongeopamnida
금, 토, 일은 오후 8:30까지 연장영업합니다
("We extend our business hours to 8:30PM on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays")

The wording below that says:

hyeonjae junbijunge itseumnida. ijeom yanghaehayeo jusigi baramnida. gomapseumnida
현재 준비중에 있습니다.
이점 양해하여 주시기 바랍니다. 고맙습니다
("We are now in the midst of preparation.  We hope that you will please understand this point.")

The way the hanja entry system on computers works in Korea is that you type the Korean sound (usually in words — a group of two or more characters) and press the Kor/Hanja button, then the system will convert automatically.  Of course, you can manually change between words that have the same pronunciation but different meanings / characters, supposing you know what you're looking for!

If the inputting was done with Japanese, there would have been an error in not recognizing the voiced sound "jikan じかん / 時間 (time)", whereas they ended up selecting unvoiced "shikan しかん / 屍姦 (necrophilia)".  Still, it's rather strange, because you usually need to scroll down the kanji list quite a bit to get to 屍姦 for "shikan" (sixth item here; twelfth item here).

There is nothing unusual or strange in the Japanese writing itself at the bottom.  It says something like "We will open shortly (lit. 'we are in preparation').  Thank you for your patience".  The absence of punctuation (full stops) is a bit odd, but that could just be stylistic.

In case you're wondering, the word for necrophilia in Chinese is jiānshī( pǐ) 奸尸(癖) or liànshī 戀屍.

[Thanks to Haewon Cho, Hiroko Kimura Sherry, Bob Ramsey, Krista Ryu, and Nathan Hopson]


  1. dainichi said,

    July 22, 2018 @ 7:16 pm

    > [about 準備中] "We will open shortly (lit. 'we are in preparation').

    In reality, 準備中 just means closed (as in outside opening hours, not closed down permanently) and doesn't imply anything about opening shortly. I think this is partly because of its euphemistic value ("even when we're closed, we're working hard to satisfy you"), partly to avoid that 閉店 be misunderstood as permanent or associated to permanency.

  2. David Morris said,

    July 22, 2018 @ 9:18 pm

    Some time ago I noted on my blog that I wanted to check the scope of the word 시간, so I typed it into Google Translate. It returned: ‘time, hour, period, lesson, necrophilia’. (It still does.)

  3. krogerfoot said,

    July 23, 2018 @ 12:45 am

    The description of the steps you'd go through to get a particular translation to or from Japanese matches my reasoning back in this post about why I thought it unlikely that a Japanese speaker would have made the mistake in question. My description was a lot more long-winded, which probably explains why the only commentary it attracted was to disagree with me.

    Google Translate in Japanese correctly produces 時間 for 시간. The J-E dictionary on my computer doesn't return a translation for 屍姦 (and you've got to scroll for quite awhile to produce it onscreen), but the Japanese dictionary offers ネクロフィリア nekurofiria as a gloss.

  4. B.Ma said,

    July 23, 2018 @ 3:53 am

    The bit regarding "the absence of punctuation (full stops)" in the Japanese being odd is a bit odd itself, since no fullstops are present in the Korean.

  5. Victor Mair said,

    July 23, 2018 @ 7:52 am

    Nitpicking unhelpfulness.

  6. jonathan silk said,

    July 23, 2018 @ 9:26 am

    Perhaps it is worth pointing out that (this is based entirely on random experiences, but no doubt Victor or others can talk about it scientifically) Korean speakers when speaking Japanese make what seem to me to be systematic errors in voicing: _des-kara_ I hear as _tes-karam_ (I hear that final nasal, but is it there?), for instance, so _jikan_ -> _shikan_ seems to me an expected Korean-ism. Or am I quite off base?

  7. Akito said,

    July 23, 2018 @ 10:06 am

    For Japanese jikan, the unvoicing rule for Korean initial unaspirated plosives and affricates would give chikan, not shikan. Besides, there is no reason to assume the translator worked from Japanese to pick the right (or wrong, in this case) kanji.

  8. Kelsey said,

    July 23, 2018 @ 10:13 am

    I just wanted to pop in here and ask a question if I may. I was looking for another way to ask, but couldn't find one readily available. I was wondering if you could help me solve a mystery about my pronunciation of an extremely fundamental English word – thanks.

    To give you a bit of background, I am a 27 year old native English speaker from the Southern United States (lived in Texas and Georgia). In my formative years I resided in Kenya and Botswana. Today when speaking with another American, she commented on my pronunciation of thanks. Apparently I pronounce thanks with a ð initial sound instead of θ. When conferring with another friend, she also pronounces thanks with θ. To my knowledge, there are two ways to pronounce 'th' – ð and θ. Voiced ð is used in words like the and those. θ is in words like think and thunder.

    Any clues or ideas about where my pronunciation may have come from? Is it a dialectical pronunciation or simply a personal mispronunciation? Thank you for your time!

  9. krogerfoot said,

    July 23, 2018 @ 7:50 pm

    Going back to David Morris's discovery, does Korean 시간 have other homophones beyond the two that Google's K-E database returns?

    If 시간 has two basic meanings, it seems likely that the translator (who presumably speaks Korean and knows the difference between "hours" and "necrophilia") might have meant to look up the more common sense of 시간 but through some slip of the fingers called up sense 2 instead, producing 屍姦 as the translation.

    Japanese's limited sound inventory means that the language has many words that are basically homophones (although some are distinguishable by intonation in some regions). As Prof. Mair points out, 屍姦 is not near the top of the list of common Japanese words with the しかん shikan reading. The スーパー大辞林 Dictionary lists about 30 separate entries for しかん, not including words with variant kanji renderings, while じかん jikan has about ten. As others have noted, calling up 屍姦 from translation software involves quite a bit of scrolling, so it's unlikely that the signmaker arrived at that translation via Japanese input.

  10. liuyao said,

    July 23, 2018 @ 9:59 pm

    I didn't want to suggest this, but it is possible that the input system reorders the list of hanja/kanji words according to the user's inputting history…

  11. dainichi said,

    July 23, 2018 @ 10:42 pm

    As far as I can see here:

    the unfortunate result is the only homophone to /sigan/ apart from 時間 in Korean, so I find it much more likely that the translator was working from Korean. I don't know what kind of Hangul-to-character conversion tools are available, but if there are only two options, it seems you would only need to mistype/misclick once. If modern Koreans aren't very used to characters, they might not notice that they picked the wrong one.

  12. TIC said,

    July 24, 2018 @ 2:35 pm

    I certainly can't answer your (OT) question, Kelsey, but –because this comment thread seems to perhaps have otherwise run its course — I'll add an observation… I'm from Central New Jersey (in an area influenced linguistically more by Philadelphia than New York) and don't recall ever having noticed anyone (in person, on the screen, on the radio, etc.) pronounce 'thank' with a 'the/those' voicing until very recently… The person in question is a pastor (and so he might use the word a bit more often than your average layman) and I've since listened attentively for and to his th-word pronunciations… I haven't noticed any others that are unusual… He was born and raised in North-Central Pennsylvania…

  13. Jonathan Smith said,

    July 24, 2018 @ 3:33 pm

    This kind of inputting mistake is par for the course for Western beginners but strikes me as totally outrageous for native CJKs of any stripe… I would ask Jerome Chiu to first confirm that the store does not in fact mark opening and closing with ritualistic necrophiliac acts. In fact, considering the parentheses and the syllable-for-syllable correspondences to the Hangul Korean (chosen over felicity in Japanese), it seems that the Chinese characters up top cannot be translations at all but are rather Korean Hanja re-renderings whose only purpose must be to emphasize that "necrophilia" rather than "time" is the intended meaning. :D

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