Rock-paper-scissors redux

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sat May 19 02:13:59 UTC 2007

Thanks for the extra info, Benjamin. And it's "kuro-" and not "kura-"?
Just making sure that there's not a typo. My source for the word,
_Ebony_ magazine, which has "kura-," is hardly definitive.

As for "roshambo," I have the impression from a cursory Googling that
some people use it in English in place of rock-paper-scissors. As a
school-child, I knew the name of thiis game as something that sounded
like "jong-kim-po." I've located "janken-pon" in Google as an
alternative name for "rock-paper-scissors." Presumably, that's the
source of "jong-kim-po." How that came to be the only name for this
game known to black kids in 1940's Saint Louis I have no idea.

I haven't played this game since I was in perhaps the fifth grade,
"rock-paper-scissors" is only a literary term for me.


On 5/18/07, Benjamin Barrett <gogaku at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Benjamin Barrett <gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Rock-paper-scissors redux
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> I have never heard the word "kuronbou" in Japanese except as a
> derogatory term and will bring the fact that it's in Jim Breen's
> dictionary up. At least, it should be labeled.
> I heard roshambo just a few weeks ago in English.
> I've never questioned what significance "red" has in akanbou, but my
> Nihongo Daijiten says it's (1) a newborn infant, which makes sense, or
> (2) a naive person.
> Benjamin Barrett
> a cyberbreath for language life
> Wilson Gray wrote:
> > What you have to say re "kurambo / kuranbo" is good enough for my
> > purposes, Doug. After all, the price that you're charging for the info
> > is certainly right! Thank you! Since the shift of /n/ to /m/ in the
> > environment before /b/ is predictable, I'm aware of the variation in
> > transliterations.
> >
> > As for "roshambo," my point was that the writer had obviously pulled
> > that statement out of his ass, uh, hat, given that no right-thinking
> > Frenchman would transliterate Japanese
> > /S/ as "sh" and not as "ch."
> >
> > -Wilson
> >
> > On 5/17/07, Douglas G. Wilson <douglas at> wrote:
> >
> >>> "... '[R]oshambo' [is] the French name for the game."
> >>>
> >> Well, I don't know .... I didn't find this to be self-evident in my
> >> previous inquiry .... Maybe I'll take another look.
> >>
> >>
> >>> ... I wonder what game "kurambo" is the French name for.
> >>>
> >> Apparently the dictionary form of this word is "kuro[n]bo[u]" (the "n" can
> >> also be transliterated "m") as expected ("kuroi" = "black").
> >>
> >> Breen's current on-line Japanese-English dictionary does not show the
> >> translation "Negro" (although older dictionaries do), but rather
> >> "dark-skinned person, well-tanned person" and of course also "stagehand (in
> >> kabuki), prompter" (I suppose a person who traditionally is entirely
> >> covered in black cloth?). It may be that this word is becoming obsolescent
> >> as a racial term/slur.
> >>
> >> I suppose the variant "kuranbo"/"kurambo" which I see here and there on the
> >> Web may be influenced by "sakuranbo[u]" = "cherry"?
> >>
> >> As "kuronbou" is to "kuroi"="black", so "akanbou" is to "akai"="red" ...
> >> this means [not "person of a red-skinned race", not "well-sunburned
> >> person", but] "baby" (cf. "akachan"). I guess maybe folks tend to be born
> >> sort of red. (^_^)
> >>
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