Wednesday, January 24, 2018

do- ド~ Prefix - Meaning

Sometimes, the syllable do ド is added before a word in Japanese. For example do-inaka ド田舎, do-mannaka ド真ん中, do-heta ド下手, and so on. But what does the prefix do mean in Japanese?

Basically, it just adds emphasis. You can translate it as "very" or "super" or "hyper" or "mega" or "ultra" or "master" or "blaster," etc. However, note that do ド prefix isn't used the same way as "very" in English, that is, you don't (normally) say "very happy" by saying do-ureshii ド嬉しい.

Instead, the do ド prefix is found mostly in certain specific words. For example, inaka 田舎 means "countryside," so do-inaka ド田舎 would mean "super countryside." But that sounds stupid in English, so it'd probably be translated like the "boondocks" or whatever makes sense.

doinaka ド田舎 written in the manga Drifters ドリフターズ in a map to Kyushu's Shimadzu

Another example: heta 下手 means "unskilled" (written with the kanji for "down" and "hand") or something done "poorly (in skill)." So if someone draws "bad," you could say heta, and do-heta ド下手 would be "super-bad" or "awful" or "shit" or "you picking up a paintbrush desecrates the memory of the old masters" or "very bad," etc.

If mannaka 真ん中 means "center," then do-mannaka ド真ん中 means at "the very center" or "right in the middle," etc. How you'd translate it doesn't matter The important thing is that it adds emphasis to the meaning.

Note that while do ド is normally written with katakana, and does not have kanji, it can sometimes be written with hiragana instead: do-heta ど下手.

Dirty Words

For certain words, a translation with an expletive in place of do ド often makes sense, even thought do ド isn't an expletive. For example:
  • do-hentai ド変態
    Fucking pervert.
  • do-S ドS
    Damn sadist.
  • do-M ドM
    Damn masochist.
  • do-sukebeドスケベ

Manga: Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai ~Tensai-Tachi no Ren'ai Zunousen~ かぐや様は告らせたい~天才たちの恋愛頭脳戦~ (Chapter 27)
  • do-hentai koui......!?
    A super perverted act!?


It's not common, but sometimes, maybe because of aesthetics, the prefix do ド may be written with the kanji, like this: do 弩.

The meaning of the kanji is associated with bow-like weapons that sling projectiles at stuff. A reading of it is ishiyumi 弩, meaning "crossbow" or "slingshot."


According to the Pixiv dictionary (entry: 超ド級), the reason why the do ド prefix is written with that kanji is a weird one.

A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far Far away

It starts in the 20th century, when the United Kingdom came with a new kind of battleship of its Royal Navy: the "Dreadnought." Obviously, dreadnought is not a Japanese word, it's an English one (I assume), so to write it in Japanese, its katakanization, doreddonooto ドレッドノート, is used instead.

Now, if you've ever played an online game or watched a movie that's set in space with space battles and stuff, I'm pretty sure you'll have realized by now that Dreadnought ship kind of got its name famous. Because a lot of other battleships (even sci-fi spaceships) started being called Dreadnoughts too. That's because of how impressive the Dreadnought was.

So ships that looked like the first Dreadnought got called Dreadnought in English, and doreddonooto-kyuuドレッドノート級 , Dreadnought-class," in Japanese.

Of course, since technology is always moving forward, it didn't take long for "Super-Dreadnoughts" to appears, or in Japanese: chou-doreddonooto-kyuu 超ドレッドノート級, "Super-Dreadnought-class."

Since both names are kind of long, they're normally abbreviated to do-kyuu ド級 and chou-do-kyuu 超ド級.

More Kanji, Please

In the abbreviations above, the katakana do ド sticks out like a sore thumb next to the kanji, it'd be better to write the whole word with kanji, but do ド is the abbreviation of a loan-word, so it doesn't have any kanji of its own. What do?

The solution to this was just picking a random kanji which could be read like that without caring much for the kanji's meaning, and that kanji was do 弩. So it doesn't matter a whole lot that this kanji means "crossbow" or "slingshot," because it wasn't chosen by its meaning.

With this you could write the words as dokyuu 弩級, "Dreadnought," and choudokyuu 超弩級, "Super-dreadnought."

These Two Things Have Basically Nothing To Do With Each Other

Now you might be thinking that maybe the prefix do ド we've been talking about came from the English word "Dreadnought" because do ド means "very" and Dreadnoughts were considered to be "impressive." But that'd be wrong.

Literally the only relation one thing has to the other is that someone saw that dokyuu ド級 could be written as dokyuu 弩級 and figured: why not write do-esu ドS as do-esu 弩S then?!

That's just it. They are not the same thing at all. The do ド prefix even existed in Japanese words before 1900, so it's not possible that it cam from the word Dreadnought of the battleships created in 1900.

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