Baby Talk


On the photo society trip just over a week ago, I came across a couple card games. One is called Sushi Bar; and I should probably do a little write-up on it soon. The game won a good design award, which was well deserved, since the design drew me in quickly. Reading the explanation of the game, I noticed it is based on the game: totoawase. Befuddlement came over me as I had a little trouble finding these words.

Awase (合わせ) is ‘join’ or ‘match’, but I was troubled by toto. For some reason I couldn’t convince my dictionary to cough up a definition. I think I was using the touch screen to write the kanji, but they used a made up character. Today I just punched in the sound and found an entry right away; however, only in the Japanese-Japanese dictionary, not in the Japanese-English dictionary.

Fish is toto (魚). Now, I’m sure a number of my readers – having learned at least a smattering of Japanese – are wondering what I’m talking about. After all, isn’t fish sakana (魚)? … and wait a minute, isn’t that the same kanji I just used for toto? Well, this is what my dictionaries refer to as youjigo (幼児語), which I’ll translate as ‘baby talk’ for this conversation.

My dictionary included three more examples in the definition of youjigo.

toto とと・とっと 魚・鶏 fish (chicken)
manma まんま rice (meal)
an’yo あんよ 歩くこと walking (toddling)
wanwan わんわん dog

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