Twitter in Japan

According to reports, Japanese has become the second most used language on Twitter, after English. I suspect one of the reasons is that written Japanese can be much more compact than most languages. In English, “secondhand book” takes up fifteen characters, including the space. In standard Japanese hiragana, the word is ふるほん (fu.ru.ho.n), four characters, and in the borrowed-from-Chinese kanji symbols, it’s one reading of 古本, only two twitter characters. If you can pack an entire word into one character, 140 of them become a useful way to impart information. Of course, there’s a lot of context that’s needed to pick out the meaning of the words. Depending on the kanji, the Japanese word さんか (sa.n.ka) can mean participation, obstetrics, mountain villa, or a specific group of mountain tribes that were resistent to pacification. Since Chinese is the source of kanji, you’d expect Chinese to be a major player in the Twitter arena. It isn’t, probably because there are …ah… political …um… implications … that make China not a tweet-friendly nation. That may change.

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