Welcome to Kanji Curiosity | The Basics | Glossary
Time for the final page of Alberto’s beautiful haiku calendar!
Now that we’re at the last haiku of the year, I’d like to thank Alberto for the work he contributes to Kanji Curiosity. He puts an enormous amount of effort into explaining each haiku (in a language other than his native Spanish), and he accompanies his texts with gorgeous photos that add immeasurably to the haiku experience. I’m so glad he was one of the contest winners in the spring, or else none of this would have come to pass.
Both the 季語 (kigo: seasonal keyword) of the poems and Alberto’s wonderful photos put us in touch with the world’s natural beauty. Today I’d like to continue this immersion in nature by investigating two kanji that abound in nature-related components. We encountered these characters last week, but there wasn’t enough time to delve into them. Now we have a chance to tie up these loose ends, which feels like the perfect thing to do as the year draws to a close.
Forks in the Road
First, let’s take a look at 岐 (KI: to diverge; fork, forked road). Etymologically, there’s plenty of nature inside 岐, as 山 is “mountain,” and 支 is “branch,” also acting phonetically here to express “fork.” The character 岐 originally referred to a Chinese mountain known for its twin peaks. Then it came to mean “forked mountain” and then just “fork” (in the road) or “forked road,” as in this word:
岐路 (kiro: forked road) forked road + road
We came across 岐 in this expression:
多岐に渡る (taki ni wataru: to cover a lot of ground; include a lot of topics; (as adjectival phrase) wide-ranging)
many + to diverge + to extend
By itself, 多岐 (taki) means “digression.” Halpern says this use of 岐 means “to diverge,” so the breakdown is many + to diverge, but I’d love to read it as many + forks in the road!
A sample sentence with 多岐に渡る:
Hanashi wa taki ni watatta.
We talked about various topics.
話 (hanashi: talk)
Letting It All Soak In
Last week, we also saw 染 (SEN, so(meru), shi(miru): to dye).
The 九 in 染 used to look different. I can’t replicate the shape here, but it represented a “person bending.” As you might expect, the “water radical” means “water” here, and although 木 is “tree,” it means something more like “shrub” or “plant” in this case. So what we have with 染 is a person bending to soak a plant in the water. This is a reference to dyeing using the indigo plant or another plant with dyeing properties.
The original meaning of 染 is “dye, color,” as in these expressions:
染髪 (senpatsu: hair dyeing) to dye + hair
髪を染める (kami o someru: to dye hair) hair + to dye
染め (some: dyeing, printing)
染色 (senshoku: dyeing) to dye + color
That extends naturally to anything (like color) that soaks into or permeates something else:
血染め (chizome: bloodstained) blood + to color
頬を染める (hō o someru: to blush) cheeks + to color
But I’ve kept you in suspense. At this point you’re wondering, “Where oh where did we see 染 last week?” The answer is that we came across it in this compound:
染み渡る (shimiwataru: to penetrate, pervade, spread)
to soak into + to spread
We then explored this term in a sample sentence about beer, which somehow led to an investigation of Traditional Chinese Medicine. And then, all too soon, it was time for your Verbal Logic Quiz. And wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly where we find ourselves again this week!