How is it possible to naively get both "Foreign Carrot Regime" and "Foreigner Suffrage" from "外国人参政権"?

I'm interested in how the same kanji can be combined in different ways to create a different meaning.


[外国]{がい・こく} + [人参]{にん・じん} + [政権]{せい・けん} → Foreign + Carrot + Regime


[外国人]{がい・こく・じん} + [参政権]{さん・せい・けん} → Foreigner + Suffrage

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  • Breaking it down to individual kanji, 外 means outside, 国 means country, so 外国 means "foreign", and 人 means person, so 外国人 means "foreigner". – Andrew Grimm Aug 27 '15 at 22:46
  • Um, I'm not sure what your comment means. Are you confused by my answer? – istrasci Aug 27 '15 at 22:58
  • no just adding details. – Andrew Grimm Aug 27 '15 at 23:00
  • Isn't Foreign Carrot Regime an unlikely reading anyhow? 外国 and 人参 are both nouns, so to be used as adjectives they should be followed with の, right? (Also, isn't にんじん typically written in kana?) – rickster Aug 28 '15 at 4:47
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    @rickster compound words can be made of several nouns. For example, 交通事故 is made of 交通 - traffic - and 事故 - accident. Even the word 外国人 itself is made of "foreign country" and "person". – RealSkeptic Aug 28 '15 at 7:41

外国人 is formed from "外" (outside), "国" (country), and "人" (person). Outside country person = foreigner.

外国 is formed from "外" (outside), "国" (country). Outside country = foreign.

人参 can mean either carrot or ginseng. Wiktionary's entry on 人参 refers to 人參 in Chinese, describing its etymology as a combination of the Chinese characters for person plus that of a root, because of the forked root of ginseng looking like a human's limbs.

"Suffrage" is 参政権, and "Regime" is 政権. The former contains "参", which jisho.org says can mean participation. Participation + regime = suffrage.

Foreign suffrage = Outside country person | participation in regime.

Foreign carrot regime = Outside country | person root | regime.

I don't quite understand why "参" has meanings of both root and participation, but apart from that, it makes sense.

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    The "participate" 参 is read さん, while the "ginseng" 参 is しん (=蔘). They're different words sharing the same kanji. – broccoli facemask - cloth Aug 28 '15 at 15:34

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