Sound familiar? 😀 I read this in wikipedia.org after browsing for some kana information:
Hentaigana (変体仮名) are alternative kana letterforms equivalent to standard kana characters.
Hentaigana were used more or less interchangeably with their equivalent hiragana on an ad hoc, individual basis until 1900.
Hentaigana are considered obsolete in modern writing, but a few uses still remain. For example, many soba shops use hentaigana to spell kisoba on their signs.
Hentaigana are used in some formal handwritten documents, particularly in certificates issued by classical Japanese cultural groups (e.g., martial art schools, etiquette schools, religious study groups, etc).
Also, hentaigana are occasionally used in reproductions of classic Japanese texts. Hentaigana may be used much like blackletter in English and other Germanic languages, to give an archaic flair.
However, most Japanese people are unable to read hentaigana, only recognizing a few from their common use in shop signs, or figuring them out from context.
Note that this hentai (変体: “variants”) is not the same word as the hentai (変態) from which the English slang term is derived. 😉
Click here for a Hentaigana chart.
Note: 変体 <- if you take each kanji individually, 変 means change or strange while 体 means form or body (as in karada). Although 態 in 変態 also means appearance, synonymouse to form. :confused:
Ja, mata ne.