Happy Birthday to Whom?

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

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What do you think the following word means?

虚誕 (kyotan)

The first kanji, (KYO, KO, muna(shii)), means “empty” or “false,” as we saw long ago. You may recognize from 誕生日 (tanjōbi: birthday, to be born + to be born + day), where means “to be born, birth.” So 虚誕 is a false birth?! No, has other meanings, and the pertinent one in 虚誕 relates to the original definition of .

In , the radical is (words). That’s not entirely obvious, because every component in can serve as a radical!

All Can Be Radicals …

Meanwhile, is “to stretch, extend,” also acting phonetically in to express “big.” With “big, stretched words,” you have bragging or exaggerations. Thus, originally meant “deception” or “false.”

That’s the meaning in our star word, as the breakdown indicates:

虚誕 (kyotan: exaggerated talk)     false + false

More False Talk …

That’s not the whole etymological story, though. The word 降誕 (kōtan: holy birth, royal birth, to descend (from heaven) + birth) originally meant “making a fuss about a holy (or royal) birth.” That makes sense, given the exaggerations inherent in back then. Consequently, “birth” became an extended meaning of , which we can define in an assortment of ways:

(TAN: to be born, nativity, false, to be arbitrary)

“To be born” is now the main meaning, as in 誕生日 and its root:

誕生 (tanjō: birth, creation, formation)     to be born + to be born

Breech Birth …

Words for a Proper Birthday Celebration …

We saw 誕生 two weeks ago in this koala sign:

pc270221-copy.JPG

The Words in the Sign …

The kanji doesn’t just factor into words about early koala development. It also pops up in words that span a lifetime (koala, human, or otherwise):

The one-year celebration of a birth:

初誕生 (hatsutanjō: first birthday)
     first + to be born + to be born

The 100-year celebration of a birth:

生誕百年 (seitan hyakunen: 100th-birthday anniversary)
     to be born + to be born + 100 + years

Depending on what order you’re reading in, you may have just seen 生誕 (seitan: birth) on a side page.

Whoa! From the first birthday to the hundredth in a matter of seconds! Where did the time go?!

The kanji can even help us talk about life after death:

再誕 (saitan: resurrection (of a company or school, etc.))
     again + to be born

This is an uncommon word. People usually use 再生 (saisei: resurrection, rebirth, again + to live) to refer to the resurrection of a company, school, airline, and so on.

Speaking of death, it seems that today’s blog has come to an end. But there’s life after death in the form of a Verbal Logic Quiz! Enjoy!

Verbal Logic Quiz …