Welcome to Kanji Curiosity | The Basics | Glossary
I’ve discovered two new ways of offending the Japanese:
渡し箸 (watashibashi: resting one’s chopsticks across the top of one’s bowl) to cross over + chopsticks
渡り箸 (wataribashi: using one’s chopsticks to jump from side dish to side dish without pausing to eat rice in between)
to cross over + chopsticks
Both actions are considered breaches of etiquette.
Just one hiragana distinguishes one term from the other. (And that hiragana can serve as a memory trick. The し somewhat resembles the top of a bowl, whereas the り looks like upright chopsticks jumping from side dish to side dish and appalling all the Emirii Posutos of Japan.)
The first word, watashibashi, is one of those wonderful Japanese terms with internal rhymes.
渡 (TO, wata(ru), wata(su): to cross, extend, cover, range, span; to ferry across; build across; hand over, hand in, transfer)
Nevertheless, hearing watashi as 渡し sets most of us up for great confusion, because watashi as 私 (I, me) is indelibly imprinted on our brains. A native speaker told me he was confused on hearing a hit song called 矢切の渡し (Yagiri No Watashi). He thought it meant “Me at Yagiri.” But as you may recall from two weeks ago, 矢切の渡し is a ferry crossing the Edo River.
A Suffix Meaning “Delivery”
As it turns out, there are lots of words containing watashi. In most, -watashi is a suffix meaning “delivery”:
受け渡し (ukewatashi: delivery) to receive + delivery
直渡し (jikawatashi: direct delivery) straight + delivery
荷渡し (niwatashi: delivery of freight or goods)
goods + delivery
The first definition of the next word makes it seem as though the word is similar to 受け渡し. And the second definition isn’t too different from the delivery of, say, a package. But then the last definition completely changes the tune:
引き渡し (hikiwatashi: delivery; handing over; extradition)
emphatic verbal prefix + delivery
Extradition of criminals?! That’s some special delivery! The sample sentence uses the verb form 引き渡す (hikiwatasu: to extradite).
Fujimori wa hikiwatasareta.
Fujimori was extradited.
藤森 (Fujimori: family name)
wisteria + woods
Extradition frightens me, but here’s a kind of delivery I like:
前渡し (maewatashi: advance payment; advance delivery)
in advance + delivery
支配人 (shihainin: manager; executive)
to control + to place under + person
２週間分 (nishūkanbun: two weeks’ worth)
weeks + interval + worth
給料 (kyūryō: salary; wages) pay + fee
彼 (kare: he)
Here’s a final word with the -watashi suffix:
手渡し (tewatashi: personal delivery) hand + delivery
This makes perfect sense; with a personal delivery, you’re hand-delivering something.
Hand It Over!
If you change just one hiragana, switching from the noun form 手渡し to the verb form 手渡す, the meaning changes quite a bit:
手渡す (tewatasu: to hand over, surrender)
hand + to hand over
Watanabe wa watashi ni ichi-mai no kami o tewatashita.
Watanabe handed me a sheet of paper.
渡辺 (Watanabe: family name)
to cross over + vicinity
Hey, anything look familiar about this name?!
私 (watashi: I, me)
-枚 (-mai: counter for flat things)
紙 (kami: paper)
Taking 手渡す and changing things just a little, we find a completely different expression:
人手に渡る (hitode ni wataru: to fall into another’s hands)
person + hand + to transfer
Hitode! I know that word! Here, it means “hand, manpower, another’s hand.” But it also means “starfish,” and it’s a great ateji example that I wrote about in Crazy for Kanji on page 80. Usually, one writes “starfish” as 海星 (hitode: sea + star), making it the star of the sea. But 人手 is an alternate rendering. If we think of 人手 as “starfish,” then doesn’t 人手に渡る look like “to cross over a starfish”?
バトンを渡す (baton o watasu: (1) to pass the baton (e.g., in a relay race); (2) to pass the torch (to one’s successor))
to hand over
I’ll now pass the baton to you; time for me to stop working and you to start, as you tackle the Verbal Logic Quiz!