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Words with a °∆life°« of their own
The ancient taboo on uttering Buddhis£Ū-related words at the Grand Shrines at Ise is a famous example of Shinto imikotoba, or words associated with misfortune. The practice of avoiding imikotoba, and replacing them with other °»innocuous°… words, continues to this day. Substituting the word °»etekō°… for °»saru°… (to refer to a °»monkey°…) and the word °»atarime°… for °»surume°… (to refer to °»dried squid°…) are two especially common examples — so common, in fact, that Japanese make such substitutions without realizing that they are doing so because of a taboo. These two particular taboos result from the homonymic associations between the word °»saru°… ĪÓ meaning °»monkey°… and the word °»saru°… ĶÓ§Ž meaning °»to depart°… or °»to die,°… and those between the word °»suru°… •Ļ•Žmeaning °»dried squid°… and the word °»suru°… ņʧŽ meaning °»to lose money.°… They are thus replaced with words that bear antonymic, positive, meanings such as °»ete°… ∆ņ§∆ (°»to attain°…) and °»atari°… ŇŲ§Ņ§Í (°»a windfall°…), respectively. This attention to the phonic cognates of words can be seen in other customs today, such as the practice of avoiding giving certain presents, such as flowers of the cyclamen (shikuramen) and cineraria (sai°«neria) varieties, to people who have been hospitalized. The °»shi°… and °»ku°… of °»shikuramen°… are homonymous for °»death°… and °»suffering°… and the °»saineri°… in °»saineria°… bears the cognate meaning °»to go to sleep again,°… [referring, of course, to °»the big sleep,°… which in Buddhist cosmology occurs repeatedly]. This attention to words°« phonic cognates is one expression of kotodama shinkō, or a belief in the spiritual energy of words themselves. The custom of avoiding words with bad connections, connotations, and cognates and favoring words with good ones is deeply rooted in Japanese culture and continues to this day.
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