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交番{こうばん}, meaning "police box," is listed as both a noun and a する-verb in JMdictDB. I'm curious as to what「交番する」would mean. Literal translation doesn't make any sense to me, and I can't find any example sentences with this usage. Is it something along the lines of "to police"? Or does it have another meaning?

  • [*] This table has been automatically generated. It should not be assumed that any single conjugation is as frequently used or as natural as any other, or is used at all. – HizHa Aug 19 '16 at 22:45
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    I believe that is saying that the table generates a word + する conjugation for any word that is marked as a する-verb. The marking as a する-verb is not, I believe, done automatically. – Will Kunkel Aug 19 '16 at 22:50
  • Googling 交番する doesn't show any results that are useful.... – ishikun Aug 19 '16 at 23:01
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デジタル大辞泉, a monolingual dictionary, also says 交番 can be used as a suru-verb:

こう‐ばん〔カウ‐〕【交番】
[名](スル)
1 交替で番に当たること。また、役割・位置などが入れ替わること。「世代―」

But when you click the 例文 tab, you can see there is no real example of 交番する in the list, so it must be (and have been) rare.

Personally, I haven't heard or seen 交番する, either. But I found 憲兵条例 which took effect in 1881 uses 交番する like this:

第6条 憲兵の常務を分つて二種とす 昼夜交番して非違を視察するを巡察とし臨時に探偵逮捕する為めに派遣するを検察とす

And apparently this 交番する means the same as 交替する. This more or less aligns with the usage of 交番する in physics, where it means "(for an electric current, magnetic field, etc) to switch direction periodically":

電磁調理器では、インバータにより商用電力から変換して得た数十kHzの交流電流を、電磁調理器の天板の内部に近接して配置されたコイル(通常は視認できない)に流し、その電流と同じ周波数で交番する磁束を生成する。 (from 電磁調理器 on Wikipedia)

  • Interestingly, JMdictDB doesn't list 交番 as being able to be used as a する-verb with the meaning of "alternating", but only with the meaning of "police box". Your monolingual dictionary doesn't seem to attach parts of speech to each meaning, though, only to the word itself. It's possible that the する-verb annotation was simply mistakenly applied to the wrong meaning. – Will Kunkel Aug 20 '16 at 0:58
  • @WillKunkel I agree, 交番する seems to be an almost obsolete verb meaning 交替で番をする, not something like "work in a police box". – naruto Aug 20 '16 at 1:47
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According to wikipedia:
The name kōban derives from the name of the earliest structure built in 1874, which were indeed simple boxes meant for standing watch (立番 tachiban) in rotation (交替 kōtai), thus creating a compound word consisting of kō (交) and ban (番).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C5%8Dban

So the first kōbans were very similar to the British Royal guards, where the policeman had to stay standing for several hours and then be replaced by another policeman.
The policemen would "rotate shifts", which is what 交番 literally means.
https://kathrynwarmstrong.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/changing-of-the-guard.jpg

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