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I received this email from someone close, who has a deadline to finish a graduation thesis:

期日は20日です(>д<)
これ右端揃うかな?笑

右端揃 means "right-alignment" but I don't understand what is the meaning of the second sentence? Is the verb "うかなう", which I can't find a definition of ? Is it about postponing the deadline? Or is the verb 揃う ?

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I do not know its meaning in this context, but the verb here is 揃う (そろう). –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jul 18 '11 at 14:43

3 Answers 3

Japanese fonts are usually non-proportional. Each Japanese character (hiragana, katakana, and kanji) is a complete square: the height and the width are the same. This size is called 全角 'full square'. One reason for this is to make it possible to use the same fontset for vertical and horizontal writings. However, for the latin part, these characters are also non-proportional within themselves but, the width is the half of its height (I believe the depth is set to zero), and are called 半角 'half square'. So whenever you have a computer text displayed solely in Japanese font, the width of a line is exactly a multiple of the width of half square.

In your example, the first line has six full squares and seven half squares, which add up to 9.5 full square width. The second line has nine full squares and one half square, which add up to 9.5 full square width. In this sense, the two lines (should) align exactly at the right end. (However, if your setting is such that the Japanese part and the latin part are using different fonts, they are not aligned.)

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半角 'half square'. --> it's referred to as "half-width" in computer jargon. –  Mark Hosang Jul 20 '11 at 9:24
    
@Mark Thanks for the note. You may be right, but there is a concept called 4倍角, used in old Japanese word processors which is not just about the width but expansion of the character both horizontally and vertically. I think 'square' will be general enough to cover the nuance in these cases. –  sawa Jul 20 '11 at 14:53
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I thought your comment was great in reference to the etymology of the word, but thought that other people, using rikai-chan for instance, would be confused when "half-width" comes out as a translation. My orig. comment was meant more as a side note than a correction :D –  Mark Hosang Jul 21 '11 at 0:58

From the context of a quote from this (admittedly unrelated :D) website entry about CSS:

標準では文章は左端から「左寄せ」で表示されますので、何もしなくても各行の左端は揃います。しかし、右端は揃わない可能性があります。CSSを使って「両端揃え」を指定すれば、左右の両端を揃えることができます。

From this context, we understand that with left-alignment of text, the left side is justified, which means the text is in even against the left side (左端が揃う then is "to be justified on the left"). However, the right side is not, necessarily. In order to have the right side be justified as well, one must use 両端揃え (both-sided justification, what most word processors call "justified" paragraphs).

Now that we have context, we can see that 右端が揃う is "to be justified on the right."

In this particular usage, I would interpret the second sentence as being used to mean "put everything off to the last minute," or at the very least working on it until the last minute. Perhaps this is a misinterpretation, and sawa's purely graphical interpretation is more accurate, however.

Summary: I would say that the second sentence means roughly "Maybe I should put it all off until the last minute? lol"

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Hum, that would make sense too... I let the experts decide by vote. –  Nicolas Raoul Jul 19 '11 at 3:00
    
@Nicolas: And all the three answers have the same score at this moment! :) Honestly, I do not think that anyone can decide the intent of the author of the email without learning much broader context (which I guess would be unsuitable as a question). –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jul 20 '11 at 18:40

I would say that the person is saying that by making the text right justified, 「右端揃う」, that will then force the tracking to expand, which in turn makes it so that the text fills up more space and gives the appearance of a longer essay. This makes it easier to meet the required amount of pages in less time, since one has to write less words.

It's a cheap trick, like using a bigger font. However, since Japanese has no spaces or kerning, then this tactic is ultimately futile, which is why it's just a joke (indicated by 笑).

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I think you're right! The thesis is in Japanese, but that could be part of the joke. –  Nicolas Raoul Jul 19 '11 at 2:56

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