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In introductory physics books, when they introduce 弱い相互作用 "weak interaction" and 強い相互作用 "strong interaction", I almost always see a notification that these terms are supposed to be the name of the specific forces and should not be taken to mean just an adjective modifying a noun in an ordinary way. Are these terms really unnatural as the name of specific things much as to require such notes, and why is it? What natural (unexisting) alternatives would be possible? Is the unnaturalness any stronger than the unnaturalness of the corresponding English terms in English?

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I came up with this question because the answer 小さい西瓜 does not seem to be right to me for describing "personal watermelon" asked in the question japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/5732/…. I agree with ジョン's comment there. –  sawa Jul 18 '12 at 1:22
Are there any other popular compound words that consist of adjective-い + noun in Japanese? Probably we omit the い when we make a compound word in yamato kotoba, for example 弱気 (よわき), 弱腰(よわごし), 弱火(よわび), and so on. –  Gradius Jul 18 '12 at 16:17
@Gradius, is 弱気 really pure yamato kotoba? ki is 音読み. –  dainichi Jul 20 '12 at 6:33
Hmmm... I've realized that 弱気 is not a yamato kotoba. –  Gradius Jul 23 '12 at 16:56
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1 Answer

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I think this is more about formalizing the use of technical vocabulary and eliminating ambiguity than any concern about unnaturalness.

For example, if they didn't include that note, then a beginning student might misunderstand the discussion of 弱い相互作用 to cover any sort of sufficiently weak interaction (like gravity from a distance, say), rather than only that specific type of interaction that has been given the name "Weak Interaction".

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How is it in English? –  sawa Jul 18 '12 at 2:25
@sawa For non-physicists, I think because rather than interaction the word "force" is more commonly used, that it's understood that they are two different forces. –  Louis Jul 18 '12 at 2:31
@sawa I don't read very deeply in physics so I almost always encounter the idea introduced explicitly: "the four fundamental forces are called...". I do remember seeing it often used with the definite article, though, which is a way (unavailable in Japanese) of reminding the reader that the reference is to a specific type of interaction/force and not just to any and all interactions that could be characterized as weak. –  Matt Jul 18 '12 at 3:03
@sawa In English, I think "weak interaction" or "weak force" is a set phrase. Most English speakers wouldn't know the term "set phrase", and I suspect many Japanese people would not know that term either. –  Andrew Grimm Jul 18 '12 at 3:29
@AndrewGrimm I do not think they are phrases. They are (compound) words. –  sawa Jul 18 '12 at 4:47
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