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About five nights ago I went out with a local friend to a traditional Okinawan club in Naha.

We were of course drinking 泡盛{あわもり} (awamori) with water and ice.

But the girl working there had a drink with us and poured in a bit of a can of coffee into her awamori.

Tonight I'm trying it myself in the guesthouse after asking the owner if it's a normal thing here and not just a peculiarity of that girl in the club.

He tells me it is popular in Okinawa and called コーヒー割{わ}り (kōhī-wari). Indeed I get Google hits and it seems the same is done with condensed milk in place of the coffee and/or 焼酎{しょうちゅう} (shochu) in place of the awamori.

None of the hits were in English or if they were don't provide much information. There's nothing in Wikipedia or WWWJDIC.

I don't understand why the name uses ~割り which seems to mean "split" or "divide"? This makes it sound like the coffee is "cut" or watered down with the spirits.

What am I missing? Could it be one of those Japanese abbreviations where half a word is missing?

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4 Answers 4

For ratios, 割{わり} is also used in other contexts to mean something like "10%", extending from the meaning of "split". So 十割そば are noodles that are 10 x 10% buckwheat, i.e. 100% buckwheat. 七割そば would be 70% buckwheat (the rest usually made up of wheat).

For beverages, other kinds of 割 include:

Pretty much, if it's possible to mix an alcoholic and a non-alcoholic beverage together, you'll probably find evidence of "[non-alcoholic beverage] + 割り".

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It seems to actually be an equivalent somehow of "mixer" or "mix" in English, but not in any directly translatable way (-: –  hippietrail May 22 at 1:49

コーヒー割り “split / divided coffee”

No, it is コーヒー modifying 割り, not the other way around. Japanese is left-branching in an almost completely consistent way. Keeping that meaning of 割る, it would be “split / divided by/with coffee”.

As others have explained, 割る here means dilute, by which you reach the expected meaning.

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Interesting. Is this a regular construction? How should I parse it. Obviously コーヒー or 水 on the left is a noun, what POS would the 割り on the right be? What is the 割る to 割り process? ... Then the result is a noun phrases. Is this correct? –  hippietrail Mar 31 at 4:11
    
I see from Wikipedia that 割り would be the -i form, or 連用形 ren'yōkei. But it says "The i form has many uses, typically as a prefix." But it's not a prefix here and I can't see any use in that Wikipedia that I can connect to this use either ... –  hippietrail Mar 31 at 8:45
    
I've gone ahead and asked about this in a followup question: When an -i form (連用形れんようけい) of a verb seems to be a suffix rather than a prefix? –  hippietrail Mar 31 at 9:05
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@hippietrail, sorry, late reply. As you've seen from the other question, 割り works as a noun, modified by コーヒー. But I think it makes some sense to call it a suffix as you do, since it's a bound morpheme (at least with this meaning), i.e. *割りを飲む doesn't work. –  dainichi Apr 1 at 12:50
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@hippietrail, just in case you hadn't noticed, 泡盛 (at least etymologically) follows the same pattern, 泡 means foam, 盛る means something along the lines of "heap up". So 泡盛 would be something like "heap of foam" (referring to something in the brewing process, Wikipedia tells me). I guess in this case there's no logical reason why it's not 盛り泡 "heaped up foam" instead. –  dainichi Apr 2 at 8:33

I didn't know of 泡盛 until I looked it up just now in Wikipedia but I think 〜割り is often used when you dilute a drink (probably alcoholic like 泡盛)with something else.

The one I am most familiar with is ウイスキー水割り, which is whiskey diluted with iced water, often ordered by salary-men in hostess/entertainment clubs/old-fashioned Karaoke bars.

In your case it sounds like the 泡盛 is diluted with coffee.

An English equivalent might be whiskey "cut with" water.

My Apple dictionary tells me 水割りする is a verb (to dilute with water) and gives the example:

ウイスキーの水割りを1杯くれ|Give me a whisky-and-water.

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Loaded with this new information I asked the guesthouse owner and apparently you can dilute awamori with coffee alone コーヒー割り or water alone 水割り, and it just so happens that the first time I saw somebody do it they actually used both water and coffee. TL;DR yes you are right (-: –  hippietrail Mar 30 at 15:00
    
Would this usage also be usable for, say, cleaning solutions? e.g. Pine-Solの水割り? Hmmm...now I'm curious about how to express ratios... –  Kaji Mar 30 at 15:45
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According to Wikipedia this seems to be for alcohol; 「水割とは、酒を飲料水で割ったもので、カクテルの一種。」 but I think you can use 割る as the verb for dilute 〜を水で割る。 –  Tim Mar 30 at 23:32

「[割]{わ}る」 here means "to dilute".

See meaning #II-4 in http://kotobank.jp/jeword/%E5%89%B2%E3%82%8B?dic=pje3&oid=SPJE04759100

「[泡盛]{あわもり}のコーヒー割り」 = "awamori diluted with coffee"

Other common terms containing 「割り」:

ウイスキーのソーダ割り/[水]{みず}割り

[焼酎]{しょうちゅう}のウーロン[茶]{ちゃ}割り

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Ah really!? I didn't think of that because when I've seen it the awamori is already diluted with water and the coffee makes it stronger in a secondary way. But maybe it's more common to add the coffee only without water also and I just haven't seen it done that way? –  hippietrail Mar 30 at 14:55
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Indeed it turns out that WWWJDIC does have an entry for 水割り: "(1) alcohol (usu. whiskey or shochu) diluted with water". So コーヒー割り literally means "diluted with coffee". That it's awamori may be implied but I'm not sure - maybe you have to say in full "泡盛のコーヒー割り". –  hippietrail Mar 30 at 15:09

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