Another cool compound that I saw in China was 超市. Any idea what it means?
Yup…it means supermarket. It’s a literal translation from the English – 超, literally meaning super or very; and 市, which means market. Not only did this remind me of what a marketing knock-out the term supermarket is in English, it also reminded me a lot of old timey kanji compounds in Japan.
Can you read them? The first is pronounced コーヒー and the second is pronounced タバコ. That’s right, they are the kanji for coffee and cigarettes. The first has kanji that were chosen to fit the sounds コーヒー, and the second literally means "smoking grass." There are a bunch of these katakana words that have kanji which are no longer used very often. You’ll occasionlly see coffee kanji on the signs of coffee shops because it looks cool, and actually, now that I think about it, the kanji for cigarettes is used quite frequently, but many aren’t used that much.
I found a few others I didn’t know about here (under section 5.2.5 and again under section 7), which is actually a pretty interesting site. Funny enough, one of the words listed is クラブ, which uses the kanji 倶楽部. I’d seen that compound around pretty frequently over the last few months, and even once while I was in China (although the middle character was simplified), but I couldn’t figure out the pronunciation. I had approximated the meaning, but didn’t know that it meant club. Pretty cool stuff.
A couple more cool compounds…I’ll give the answers in the comments: