Daily Archives: February 25, 2009


This word’s sound may suggest affected shyness on the part of its object, but one would hope otherwise. After all, if you have bought that common collocation of koi, a pond, you will want these variously coloured (selectively bred) fish to be on ornamental display, or else you will be more inclined to the English name of the species: carp. In Japan, whence this word, the fish are symbols of love and affection, because another word koi means “love” and “affection” (koi no ochiru is “fall in love” – or perhaps “drop the carp”?). So if you present a pond to your paramour, you will hope that neither koi nor companion will be coy. But spelling can matter more than just that much: the k beginning and i ending on this word both signal foreignness; a coloured carp pond is not exotic, and a coy pond would not seem so, but a koi pond, now, that “ain’t from around here.” One may be tempted to see the word in ideographic ways: the k like a fish tail, the o like an eye or a pond, and the i… well, perhaps like the lonely sweetheart standing by pond’s edge wondering where his fish and fiancée have fled to.