Sunday, February 25, 2018

Numbers Spelling Japanese Words - Pocket Bell Legacy

In Japan, there's a practice of a spelling words with numbers, just like l33t in English, which cool kids use to say random stuff on internet text forums, e-mails, and cellphone messages, just like l33t in English, and that nowadays it's not that popular anymore because people got sick and tired of it, just like l33t in English.

For example, 4649 means yoroshiku よろしく in this Japanese l33t. And 084 means ohayo お はよ. And 0833 means oyasumi おやすみ. And 3470 means sayonara さよなら.

Anyway, because sometimes you can still see its lingering existence in media, just like l33t in English, here's how spelling Japanese words with numbers work, and how did this happen to begin with.

Pocket Bell

In 1990 A.C., there existed this tool called a "pager." It was a primitive method of communication used by cavemen, akin to using rocks and sticks to make a fire. (seriously, though, that was too long ago, it's history.)

Anyway, in Japan, there were pagers called poketto beru ポケットベル, "pocket bell," not to be confused with "pocket monsters," poketto monstaa ポケットモンスター, which are something else. The term was sometimes abbreviated to pokeberu ポケベル, not to be confused with pokemon ポケモン, which is something else.

In these Pocket Bell™'s people sent short messages to each other. Which is like you'd do in Twitter...

...I... I... think?

No. That... that can't be right...

(...)

History of Pocket Bell

Alright, so back in a time and society I can't really imagine, without cellphones and internet, and without anime streaming! Oh, the horror! Pagers were capable of one thing: beep. That's it.

You've Got Beep.

The first version of a pager that had a tangible function for a 21th century person was the kind that had multiple different tones. Someone wouldn't send a "message" or "code" to your pager, they'd just make it beep in a way or another. So, for example, a doctor could know from different tones if they were supposed to go to the ICU or someone was calling him on the telephone, etc.

I want to reiterate this: you had a pager to know someone called you on the phone so you'd walk to the phone talk on the phone to that person. You couldn't talk to them, on the fucking pager! Those were different times. (source: http://www.spok.com/blog/throwback-thursday-history-pagers)

No Text, Just Numbers

Obviously, eventually, pagers evolved from beeping to sending numbers and text in short messages. And people who spoke English were able to send messages to each other. And so were Japanese people.

However, at the time of the Pocket Bell boom, which was by 1990's, it could not send Japanese text, no kana nor kanji, only about 10 digits per message. If you consider that pagers once could only send different TONES (not even text) then, yeah, 10 digits is progress, I guess.

Later, it became able to send kana and some kanji. (http://www.kogures.com/hitoshi/history/keitai-pocket-bell/index.html)

It was originally meant to be used by Japanese businessmen. You'd, for example, send to someone's pager what phone number they're supposed to call. Then that person would go to a phone, which naturally were not mobile at the time but I think that's worth mentioning, and then call the phone number.

So, again: you sent a number to a pager, then you'd be waiting beside your phone, for the guy whom you sent the number to get to their phone, and THEN call YOU. (madness!)

Japanese High School Girls Are So Powerful It's Scary

Unexpectedly, Japanese high school girls were reportedly delighted by the advent of the Pocket Bell because they could communicate with their friends without having to talk out loud on the phone where they could be heard by everyone in the family without an atom of privacy. (http://www.nytimes.com/1995/04/10/news/10iht-bellcon.ttt.html)

It was probably legit unexpectedly because seriously this shit only sends numbers, how the fuck did they even manage to talk with each other?! Is this that "love knows no barriers" kinda thing? Is the power of friendship that much strong? Just... how the hell did these Japanese high school girls managed to morse-code each other?!?!?!?!? WTF.

Anyway. Because this, somehow, did actually happen, today, the crypt messages those "e-mail friends," meeru-tomo メール友, or rather, "bell friends," beru-tomo ベル友, sent to each other remain a part of the Japanese culture, and consequently of the anime culture.

And so, even now, even though we have Twitter now, you can still find numbers representing Japanese words in Japanese media, referencing something that someone invented nearly 30 years ago.

Conversion Rules

The conversion is basically just changing numbers to characters, just like l33t in English, however, unlike l33t in English, the Japanese method associates numbers to kana, not to Latin alphabet letters, so they look like syllables instead.

These syllables come from the names of the numbers in Japanese, the words for counting in Japanese, (that is, the kun'yomi and on'yomi readings of the kanji), the katakanizations of the names of English numbers, as well as some other things. Here are the words attributed with each:

0
zero ゼロ
rei 零 ("nada.")
nai ない (means "not," mean 0 is nothing.)
o お (because the letter "o" looks like 0.)
maru 円 ("circle")
wa わ (from the shape.)

1
ichi
hitotsu 一つ
wan ワン
ai アイ (katakanization of the English letter "I," because "I" looks like 1.)
bou 棒 (a "stick," because it looks like a stick.)

2
ni
futatsu 二つ
tsuu ツー, touu トゥー
ji 次 (from "second son," jinan 次男, etc.)

3.
san
m-ttsu 三つ
surii スリー

4
yon 四, shi
yottsu 四つ
foo フォー
ho

5
go
ko こ (go ご without dakuten.)
itsu-tsu 五つ
faibu ファイブ

6
roku
ru る (from saying roku fast.)
muttsu 六つ
shikkusu シックス

7
nana 七, shichi
nanatsu 七つ
sebun セブン

8
hachi
ba ば (this is ha は with dakuten.)
yattsu 八つ
eito エイト

9
kyuu 九, ku
kokonotsu 九つ
nain ナイン

. (a dot)
ten

10
too 十 (the number 10 is normally juu 十, but in counters like tooka 十日, "ten days," it's too.)
(sometimes te て, tai たい, dai だい, not sure why.)

Examples

For reference.

4649
yottsu-roku-shi-ku
yoroshiku よろしく
(greeting.) Please take care of me. Let's work together. Please welcome me. Etc.

5963
go-ku-roku-san
gokurousan ご苦労さん
Thank you for your work.

39
san-kyuu
sankyuu サンキュー
Thank you. (katakanization.)

49
shi-kyuu
shikyuu 至急
Urgent.

86
hachi-roku
haroo ハロー
Hello. (katakanization.)

084
o-hachi-yottsu
ohayo おはよ (ohayou お早う)
Good morning.

0833
o-yattsu-surii-mittsu
oyasumi おやすみ
Good night.

3470
san-yottsu-nana-rei
sayonara さよなら
Goodbye.

101010
ta-da-ichi-maru
tadaima ただいま
I'm back.

889
hachi-yattsu-ku
hayaku 早く
Quick. Come quickly.

0906
o-ku-rei-roku
okureru 遅れる
To be late. [I'll] be late.

8110
hachi-ichi-too
baito バイト
Part-time job.

4510
shi-go-too
shigoto 仕事
Job. Work.

14106
ai-shi-te-ru
aishiteru 愛してる
[I] love [you].

724106
nana-ni-shi-te-roku
nanishiteru 何してる
What [are you] doing?

10139
da-ichi-surii-kyuu
daisuki 大好き
I love you <3

15
ichi-go
ichigo イチゴ
Strawberry. (also a person's name.)

893
yattsu-ku-san
yakuza ヤクザ
Huh?! You don't know who's the Yakuza??!

801
yattsu-o-ichi

.59
ten-go-ku
tengoku 天国
Heaven.

1564
hitotsu-go-roku-shi
hitogoroshi 人殺し
Murderer. (or murdering, as in, murder that takes place)

18782
ichi-yattsu-nana-yattsu-tsuu
iyana yatsu いやなやつ
Unpleasant guy.

(18782 + 18782 = ...)
37564
mittsu-nana-go-roku-shi
minagoroshi 皆殺し
Massacre. Killing everybody.

See also: Darling in the FranXX: Code Numbers to Names Explained, because the names of the characters in the FranXX anime come from this sort of wordplay.

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