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  • Writer's pictureJason Khoh

Word of the Week - Letter

Did you know yesterday was #WorldLetterWritingDay? Let’s learn a few words related to letters for our Word of the Week.

The first word is ‘tegami’ (手紙) for ‘letter.’ Its two Chinese characters (kanji; 漢字): ‘hand’ (手) and ‘paper’ (紙) remind us of its original meaning: ‘paper kept close at hand ready for use’ (手元において使う紙). This word was adopted for letters from the Edo Period onwards (1603-1868 CE).

The second word is ‘kitte’ (切手) for ‘stamp’. It is actually an abbreviation of kippu tegata (切符手形), which literally means ‘tickets and bills.’ These were originally strips of paper indicating what particular right or benefit someone had paid for. As this term was widely used throughout Japan, it was used for stamps when the modern postal service was established in 1871.

The onomatopoeia ‘sortto’ (そうっと) is a really useful word to use when you’re doing something carefully or gently (eg, gently closing a door - そうっとドアを閉めた). Another variation of this is ‘sotto’ (そっと).

In our increasingly digitalised world, more and more customs and traditions like giving and receiving letters seem to be heading out the door. When’s the last time you wrote a letter to someone you love?

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