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Rather than alternative readings (as seen in manga etc.) I mean deliberate use of a more complex kanji in place of a simpler one, or use of kanji when kanji would not normally be used. A few examples:

赤く腫れた目 掠れた聲

(Smile by BUMP OF CHICKEN) 聲 used instead of 声; 'hard' kanji used in other words.

微睡みの淵で目蓋に揺蕩う

(空想メソロギヰ by 妖精帝國) Words that the goo.jp dictionary has an 'x' next to the kanji for...

是程多くの眼がバラバラに
何処に行けば良いのですか
此処に居れば良いのですか
此の先も現在(いま)も無いだけなのに…

(アイデンティティ by 椎名林檎) Lots of kanji here, notably for いる、ない、この and それ.

日々淡々と腐にふけながら...

(Diabolos by DIR EN GREY) This appears to be a bit of kanji wordplay; 腐 is read 'ふ’ here, and appears to have no real meaning unless you look at the lyrics?


This (in my experience) appears to be ubiquitous, even for songs targeted at younger audiences (e.g. a 少女時代 song used 侮る, and I know at least one native speaker who can't read that - maybe a rare case). But of course natives are exposed to so much kanji, so can it be assumed that they can handle pretty much any ateji or rare kanji thrown at them?

And what is the effect that the artist is trying to achieve? I have been taught so far that using kanji unnecessarily comes across as either pretentious or overly formal (such as 有り難う御座います and the like)...

宜しくお願いします!:)

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Because this is poetry. Poetry needs complicated and sophisticated words. –  oldergod May 1 at 5:04
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japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/198/… might cover most of your question. –  Troyen May 1 at 5:59
    
@Troyen: thanks, I did read that. I think my question is quite different, although the answers may share a lot in common! –  rjh May 1 at 11:22

1 Answer 1

up vote 7 down vote accepted

what is the effect that the artist is trying to achieve?

The reason they often use complex kanji and ateji is quite simple, they might think it's cool.

Have you ever thought everyone find yourself greater than other people if you'd known a lot of complex words and idioms?

People who've written this kind of lyrics will say "To express our delicate and complicated worldview, we had to use many of kanji". But I think this is based on the same low.

On the other hand, it looks somewhat juvenile. At least not seen as mature person's preference. So most of people who like this kind of lyrics may be younger people, actually teen or 20's.

But of course natives are exposed to so much kanji, so can it be assumed that they can handle pretty much any ateji or rare kanji thrown at them?

Basically no.

I think "赤く腫れた目 れた " or " 微睡み の淵で目蓋に 揺蕩う " is too difficult for most of us to read properly (but we could read depending on its context) because you know, their kanji and yomigana are rarely used in our life. We can see this sort of kanji only in novels with ruby(furigana). Yet about ateji, such like "Diamond dust (てんしのささやき)", "幻想 (あした)", "音楽 (メロディ)", it's hard to imagine there're people who can read those words except for the lyrics writer.

using kanji unnecessarily comes across as either pretentious or overly formal

Yes.

Unnecessary kanji usage out of Jo-yo kanji table looks like self-satisfaction from many people's view.

English, difficult kanji, yomigana, and ateji, we Japanese cannot read lyrics without helps. Karaoke shows us readable lyrics.

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ありがとうございました。ずいぶん勉強になりました! It is very interesting that people need help in order to read lyrics! You answered all of my questions, thank you. –  rjh May 1 at 11:25

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