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The words 飛ぶ and 跳ぶ are both read as とぶ, the former meaning "to fly" and the latter meaning "to jump" (generally; don't know if they are interchangeable at all).

The compound-verb suffix 〜込【こ】む means that the action "goes in (to)", "enters", etc.

So the word とびこむ means "to jump/dive into", both literally and figuratively ("jump into (doing) a mountain of homework", "butt in to someone's business", etc.).

However, とびこむ is written with the "to fly" version of the kanji: 飛び込む.

Why is this? When 跳ぶ means jump and 〜込む means "into", why wasn't chosen for とびこむ? This doesn't make sense to me at all.

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

飛ぶ is the general term that covers all the uses of homophonous kanjis such as 跳ぶ and 翔ぶ. 跳ぶ is a specific one, entailing some mid-air movement (such as pedaling your legs, etc.). As usual with homophonous kanjis, the specific one can be replaced by the general one, but not the other way around. In the literal sense "to dive in to e.g. a swimming pool", you can use 飛び込む as well as 跳び込む. For the metaphoric sense "jump into homework/business", 跳ぶ is probably too specific because those senses do not accompany movement in the air, and you have to use the general 飛ぶ.

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So 跳び込む does formally exist? I've never seen it and it doesn't show up in any of my dictionaries. Even searching Google results "Did you mean 飛び込む?" Do you have any examples? Or does it just informally exist because some people may write it that way? –  istrasci Jan 11 '12 at 22:19
    
@istrasci On Google, you still see many examples of 跳び込む, right? Everything on Google is based on statistics, it never gives you a perfect suggestion. By the way, my Japanese input method gives me 跳び込む. –  sawa Jan 11 '12 at 23:17
    
Yes, but what I'm asking is, even though there are many examples of 跳び込む on Google, is that just because some people write it that way, or because it's formally accepted by 文部科学省 (or whoever decides those things)? Interesting about your IME. Which one do you use? I'm just using Kotoeri in OSX. –  istrasci Jan 11 '12 at 23:29
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The ministry sometimes publicizes standrards on the orthography, but they cannot go that far to controll which homophonic kanji to use. It is normal Japanese. My IME is Anthy on Linux. –  sawa Jan 11 '12 at 23:42
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