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If you had to draw “violent,” what images would you use? Maybe you’d think back to the board game Clue: Colonel Mustard committed the murder in the billiard room with a rope, whereas Mrs. Peacock used a lead pipe in the conservatory. Or maybe your mind would turn to machine guns, bombs, and other tools of warfare.
Here’s something you may not have considered: water. Water! It’s all around us, but I’ve long neglected to use it as a weapon! And yet, as I’ve learned from one kanji, water leads to violence. So much for washing away one’s sins!
激 (GEKI, hage(shii): violent, intense, agitated, sudden)
If you’re picturing a glass of water, you might be puzzled about water’s aggressive nature. But consider these watery words:
激流 (gekiryū: raging stream; rapids) violent + stream
The second kanji breaks down as water + good! Or “good and wet”! It has the kun-yomi of nami, but it’s not the second part of tsunami (津波: harbor + wave), as you might be thinking.
So that’s the type of water we’re talking about here! Not the tame, faucet-fed kind but the sort that can demolish cliff walls and buildings (as is happening right now in my disaster-prone corner of the world).
Pacific Grove, California.
For more on the water in 激, visit the etymology page.
Out of Control
By now you may be wondering just what kind of violence 激 wreaks. Another way of asking this is, how can you use 激しい in a sentence? Here’s one way, and it still involves water:
Ichinichijū ame ga hageshiku futta.
It rained hard all day.
一日中 (ichinichijū: all day long)
1 + day + throughout
雨 (ame: rain)
降 (fu(ru): to fall)
With sentences such as this, it might be best to think of 激しい not as “violent” but rather as “raging,” in the sense of “raging waters.” This kind of “raging” has nothing to do with violence (of the barroom-brawl variety) or even with rage. That is, when someone has a raging case of hormones or a raging party, anger isn’t the predominant emotion. Rather, things are churned up, hard-hitting, out of control. That’s the feeling I get from 激.
More sample sentences at the link.
In sharp contrast to 激しい as “raging,” the on-yomi prefix 激- (GEKI-) means “ultra-.” In the first word here, that use of 激- makes lots of sense:
激安 (geki-yasu: dirt-cheap; bargain-priced) ultra- + cheap
The next word isn’t one that most older people would know, as it probably emerged from pop culture:
激似 (geki-ni: greatly resembling) ultra- + to resemble
This coinage is surprising because 激似 pairs a prefix with a suffix! Where’s the sandwich filling?! The suffix is -似 (-ni: takes after (his or her mother, father, grandmother, etc.)). Here’s 激似 in action:
Reiko wa Keiko ni geki-ni nan da ze.
Reiko greatly resembles Keiko!
I altered Breen’s sample sentence to reflect my amusement at my similarly named Facebook friends. The list currently includes two Keikos, a Reiko, an Eko, and an Echo.
玲子 (Reiko: female given name)
sound of jewels + child
恵子 (Keiko: female given name)
favor + child
ぜ (ze: sentence-ending particle, mainly used by men, adding force)
激辛 (geki-kara: extremely spicy; very strict evaluation)
ultra- + severe
A Google search reveals that there’s a website called Gekikarareview.com, which does ultra-strict evaluations of video games. And more Web searching reveals that some people are using the term 超激辛 (chōgekikara) when referring to food. The prefix 超- (chō-) also means “ultra-,” “super-,” or “hyper-.” Two prefixes meaning “ultra-” before the word “spicy”?! Sounds like food that would blow your head off with the first bite. Now there’s some violence for you, and you’re definitely going to want to mix in water!
Time for your Verbal Logic Quiz!