拉麺 [らーめん] – ramen

  • 拉 [ラ] – crush; kidnap
  • 麺 [メン] – noodles

“Kidnapped noodles” doesn’t make much sense, does it?   Neither does “crushed noodles.”  This may be because the Japanese appear to have borrowed the character from China, but not the meaning.  In Chinese, 拉 means “to pull.”  That said, “pulled noodles” makes a lot more sense, provided that you know how hand-pulled noodles are made in Japan and China.

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Normally, you will see “ramen” written in katakana: ラーメン.  However, I did see 拉麺 recently in a Chinese noodle shop.  Since I was in a noodle-y mood, knowing how to read it came in handy.