I found the following in a book I'm reading:


As far as I'm aware, 窘める is read たしなめる and means "to scold, rebuke, admonish". 宥める, on the other hand, is read なだめる and means "to soothe, placate".

Are there any situations in which 窘める could be read なだめる? Or would this have to be some sort of publishing error (possibly caused by how similar 宥める and 窘める look)?

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    This may be a case of ironic use of furigana that means the opposite of its annotated kanji, a practice that I hear does occur quite often. – ithisa Sep 13 '13 at 17:59
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    I've seen other examples of "ironic use of furigana", such as 現実{しんきろう}. – snailboat Sep 13 '13 at 20:18

Using ruby with a different reading (or even different kanji) to add nuance or clarify the meaning is a pretty common device in manga, books and lyrics.

Most often the words used are synonymous or closely related, e.g.: 宇宙{そら}, 地球{ほし}, or 瞳{め}. (Usually the furigana is the actual reading and the kanji gives the nuance or selects one meaning from several possibilities.)

「i ~crossin' the star~」 by 木村{きむら}由姫{ゆき} has quite a few examples of this:

おとぎ話で覚悟を決めさせて ダレカじゃないこの想い[i]{愛}が聴こえる?
「天{あま}の河{がわ}で心揺れて 流れるまま[永久]{とわ}に触れて 瞬間{とき}の内{なか}で甘く熟れて」

In some cases concrete words under placeholders help the reader grasp the context which is obvious to the speaker (e.g. 「学校{ここ}はプールがないから。」 or 「田中{あいつ}は来なかった。」).

Sometimes even more elaborate schemes appear like the one in the 『星界の紋章』 (Crest of the Stars) books where the words written with Japanese kanji are given readings in the fictional [アーヴ語]{Barohn language}: 帝国{フリューバル}, 士族{リューク}. Scrapped Princess is another offender, except there the readings are English words: 竜機神{ドラグーン}, 第五特務部隊{オブスティネート・アロウ}. A recent example is the Toaru series (とある魔術の[禁書目録]{インデックス} and とある科学の[超電磁砲]{レールガン}).

In your case it seems the author is hinting that the meaning is used in figurative or ironical sense. It's somewhat difficult to tell more without context.

  • Yeah, I'm familiar with the usage of furigana for added nuance/Engrish/etc, but this is the first time I'm seeing furigana that are antonymic to the word they're attached to. Looking at the context, though, the "scold" meaning seems to fit and the "soothe" meaning doesn't, so I still get the feeling that this particular case might just be a typographical error (though your comment about ironic use of furigana is well-taken in a more general sense). – senshin Sep 13 '13 at 20:36
  • Somehow I doubt 宥める would require furigana when 浅はか doesn't have it, so I'm inclined to think it's not a typo. Does furigana appear often in the text? BTW, 窘める is more "chide" than "scold". – Igor Skochinsky Sep 13 '13 at 21:15
  • Are you sure about that? 浅 is a 小4-level 常用 kanji, while 宥 and 窘 are non-常用. This is from a light novel, so it's peppered with furigana all over, to the tune of 5-15 words with furigana per page or so. (Also, thanks for the clarification on 窘める.) – senshin Sep 13 '13 at 22:04
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    @senshin Light novels are known for their "kanji play", writing words with different kanji than you'd expect, and of course they use furigana to do so. (Though I think how much that is true varies from author to author.) – snailboat Sep 13 '13 at 22:10

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