I used to call black people くろじん, either because I mistakenly read 黒人{こくじん} as such or because I heard it somewhere (or both), until I was told by another Japanese learner that こくじん is more politically correct.

Looking into it, I can't find the word in the dictionary.

I actually used くろじん for a while and was never corrected on it. I learned こくじん by asking what it meant, after someone said it.

Is this all my mistake, or is it actually a word? If so, is it derogatory?

  • I am surprised that no one in two long years has mentioned that くろじん, while not an existing word, sounds fairly derogatory. Aug 17 '14 at 1:27
  • Not really relevant, but according to Liza Dalby 玄人{くろうと} is a word, and that word gave rise to はくじん (which I think is written 白人 based on the disambiguation at ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E7%99%BD%E4%BA%BA ). Mar 7 '15 at 13:26
  • @AndrewGrimm Interesting, I wonder which meaning she meant. Gogen has some uncited theories. One uses しろひと and くろひと in an analogous way that reminded me of martial art belt rankings. Here though 黒 would be the root... Mar 9 '15 at 6:19

It is not a word. Perhaps people understood what you were saying and had not bothered to correct you. When on-reading is mistakenly read as kun-reading, it is often easy to tell what you mean even if it is not correct.

  • 5
    It's a relief to know I wasn't going around spouting racial slurs. Jul 13 '12 at 7:24
  • 1
    I have purposely missed used the on/kun readings jokingly on some words and don't get corrected as often as I thought. Japanese are often too polite to tell you that you are wrong.
    – BillyNair
    Jul 13 '12 at 22:35

Oddly enough I was referred to as くろじゃ by elementary school students and one old man when I went to Japan for a ten day exchange. I figured out こくじん was the correct term before those incidents, and I became confused after hearing natives say another way.

  • I'm curious, where in Japan were you? I've never heard くろじゃ myself, but there are lots of fascinating different dialects. Aug 16 '14 at 23:58

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