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Why was "wani" (crocodile or alligator) chosen as a term for a gawker at a konyoku (mixed gender onsen)?

Was it because of the animal's ability to stare, the fact that it is a predator, or was it named after a similarly named onsen?

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Just for consideration, "buaya" is a Malay word that means crocodile that is used (at least in Singapore) as a term for a similar thing (sleazy men). – Flaw Feb 27 '12 at 11:02
@Flaw: good point. in English, the term "lizard" or "reptile" can mean a sleazy man. – Andrew Grimm Feb 27 '12 at 11:07
It's interesting to note such cross-language similarities. – Flaw Feb 27 '12 at 11:09
Just a suggestion: You often need to be careful when romanizing ん. konyoku is こにょく. I assume that you mean kon'yoku. – Dono Feb 27 '12 at 11:50
@Chocolate I also didn't know this usage. Either way, it's a slang. No problem not knowing it. – user458 Feb 28 '12 at 6:42
up vote 8 down vote accepted

I think that modern common sense would assume that men at kon'yoku who wait for women to come would be similar to the crocodile who quietly waits for their prey. However, while easily understandable, think that is folk etymology.

The term is used outside of hot springs as well. Also, you need to remember that crocodiles originally did not originally habitat Japan. The term wani originally referred to another creature, generally thought to be a type of shark.

Early citations for this usage may be found from the early 18th century. It seems that it is an analogy to these ferocious shark predators.

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what's the difference between kon'yoku and konyoku? – Mansuro Mar 1 '12 at 18:40
They are pronounced differently. In the first, there are four mora or beats: ko-n-yo-ku. The medial -n- is the so-called uvular nasal ɴ and is also known as the moraic n. In the later, there are three mora or beats: ko-nyo-ku. The medial -n- is alveolar nasal n and followed by yo in the same mora. And of course they are spelled differently as well: こんよく vs. こにょく. Romanization distinguishes between these two as kon'yoku and konyoku. The ' indicates that the previous n ends and that it should not be read along with the following sound. – Dono Mar 1 '12 at 22:18

Crocodiles are ambush predators; they hide mostly inside water and wait for prey to come within striking distance as a means of predation. By analogy to this, men who wait for women in mixed-bathing hot springs are called ワニ.

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