One of my students started an interesting conversation with me yesterday:
‘Do you know せっぷく （切腹）?’
Well, ‘No,’ I replied.
She said, ‘Do you know はらきり （腹切り）?’
‘Yes…’ I’ve heard of it.
I just guessed that it was a Japanese word that some English people knew but my student claimed that はらきり was the English word for せっぷく. せっぷく means the same but is the word Japanese people normally use.
True enough, the word ‘harakiri’ is in my English-English dictionary, but it’s definately from Japanese: my student looked shocked when it also appeared in my Japanese-English dictionary. I didn’t know that harakiri had been accepted as an English word.
はらきり is the act of killing yourself by cutting open your stomach with a sword, performed espeically by the Samurai in Japan in the past, to avoid losing honour.
Interestingly both versions of the word use the same kanji… but to confuse us they are in reverse order and with different readings!