A Quick Lesson on Ateji

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So I was on Facebook this morning and I saw a shared post of an animal with a commentary that said: “ああぁぁ〜 可愛過ぎる〜‼” and I was like, “Wait, what?” It took me a while, but I figured out what’s going on here.
Here we have an example of something called Ateji. Ateji is when we take a word traditionally written in hiragana or katakana and give it some Kanji that historically have nothing to do with the word. This is what we have here.
“ああぁぁ〜 “ is just “Aaaah” That’s simple.

Then we reach the Ateji: “可愛” 可 is normally pronounced “ka” and means “can”. 愛 is pronounced “ai” and means “love”. So the idea here is that these Kanji will indicate “can be loved” or something like that. But there is no word as “ka-ai”. BUT, if we stick a w in there, we get “kawai”, which does mean cuteness. The adjective form is kawaii. (Two i’s)

過ぎる, pronounced “sugiru”, is a verb that means “to pass through” or “to exceed” and Japanese will use this for verbs (verbs sans their conjugations) and “adjectivable” nouns to explain that they’ve gone too far. It’s the equivalent of saying in English “x’ed too much” or “is too x”.

So 可愛過ぎる means “too cute”.

Aaah too cute!!