Japanese Language: End of Message

以上

Many Japanese e-mails, letters, and so forth, end with the above kanji, read as ijou. This is used in the same way as many Americans would use EOM, standing for End of Message, indicating that there is no more message to read.

In Japanese, it one “word,” but is actually more of an abbreviation. Let me explain.

To use a video game example, one “potential” (a.k.a. battle skill that triggers a certain % of the time under given conditions) in the game Valkyria Chronicles 1 (well, I say “1” because there’s a 2 and now a 3 about to come out) is written in Japanese as triggering when 3 以上 enemies are at fairly close range.

The maddening thing about this type of writing is that this can mean “3 and up” or “more than three.” The “i” part indicates comparison, the “or” part in “3 or more”, and the “jou” part indicates above, for the “more” part.

(Full disclosure: The first version of this post had me thinking that it needed to be “greater than 3,” but it isn’t necessarily so. This is one of those things where it’s great to have full context to be extra sure. While not the point of this article, I regret the slip. – J)

So with this in mind, why end a message with “more than”?

Well, it’s not the complete line, that’s why. It’s just a shortened version.

以上は無し

Take this version, ijou wa nashi. The “wa” is the usual topic particle, and this is the kanji-ized version of “nashi,” which a big, fat nothing. No, really, it signifies lack of existence.

Read like this, the message can be easily understood as saying, (the message) contains nothing further.

Or as we would put it in English, End of Message.

In a military context, this could be used verbally to end a spoken message. The Japanese is the same, but the English would change. In British and American military culture, the proper word would be the order, Dismissed.

Put differently, that will be all. There are many ways to put such a message, but the meaning – that the message has reached its end, and there is nothing further – is what must be understood, without needing to worry about the specific word involved.

Japanese people in business contexts simply expect everyone to know what 以上 (ijou) represents when used at the end of a message. Now you actually do know.

J Sensei

About J Sensei

Blogger, writer, linguist, former Japanese> English translator, rusty in French, experienced in Japanese, fluent English native. Writing for Technorati.com and various blogs. Skype: jeremiah.bourque (messages always welcome). E-mail: [email protected]
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