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Take a look at the following sentence to see if you recognize anything:
Whenever I confront unknown kanji, I try to identify components and patterns. In this case, one thing jumps out at me—this sentence is soggy! Five of the 12 kanji contain the “water” radical, ! In both 過激派 and 注意深く, two out of three characters are sopping wet. Surely this sentence is about fishing, scuba diving, or water conservation. While you ponder the issue, I’ll block the translation with two watery pictures.
Seifu wa kagekiha gurūpu no katsudō o chūibukaku kanshi shita.
The government carefully watched the activities of radical groups.
Meanwhile, let’s look more closely at one of the two wettest words:
過激派 (kagekiha: radical party; extremists)
excessive + intense + faction
As we’ve seen, -派 (HA) is a suffix meaning “faction, type, school.”
We know that in 激 (GEKI, hage(shii): violent, intense, agitated, sudden, to excite, stir up, stimulate), the meaning of “violence” comes from the movement of wild water. And in 派, water combines with a pictograph of a “tributary.” Henshall says that the idea of a tributary lent itself to the sense of “branching” or “splitting,” which led to the meaning of “faction.” Very neat! (By the way, this “tributary” appears not only in 派 but also in 脈 (MYAKU: vein, pulse), because veins are the tributaries of the body!)
During the 2008 presidential campaign, John McCain called William Ayers a “washed-up terrorist.” (As you may recall, Ayers is a former member of a radical political group and someone who happens to know Barack Obama.) To call Ayers washed up is to say that his career as a terrorist has come to naught, much as an old, creaky fishing boat might wash up on the shore and spend its final days rotting on the rocks. (One might wonder, then, why anyone would perceive Ayers or his associates as a threat.) There was lots of talk about Ayers as a washed-up terrorist, but I never heard anyone analyze this from a kanji perspective. Once you see how wet a word 過激派 is, you realize that political extremists can never truly be “washed up,” because they’ll remain immersed in water—most likely hot water!
Nonetheless, political extremists certainly make many people uncomfortable, as we see from sentences that feature the following word:
過激 (kageki: extreme; radical) to exceed + severe
Take, for example, this sentence:
Kare no kangae wa watashi ni wa kageki-sugimasu.
His ideas are too extreme for me.
彼 (kare: he)
考え (kangae: idea)
私 (watashi: I, me)
-過ぎる (-sugiru: too much)
As long as we’re reading in all directions (as one does with palindromes), let’s flip around the two parts of kageki (ka and geki, in terms of the sounds associated with each kanji) to get gekika. One kanji remains the same, but the ka kanji changes:
激化 (gekika or gekka: intensification; aggravation)
intense + suffix meaning “-ify”
With 激化する, things intensify—things such as corporate competition:
Sono kaisha wa kyōsō no gekika no aori o ukete, tōsan shita.
Having fallen victim to increased competition, the company went bankrupt.
会社 (kaisha: company) association + company
競争 (kyōsō: competition) to compete + to contend
あおり (aori: influence)
受ける (ukeru: to receive; sustain (damage); incur (loss))
倒産 (tōsan: (corporate) bankruptcy)
to cause to topple + fortune
Or a war might intensify:
Nitchū sensō no gekika to tomo ni kokujō wa ōi ni henka shi
As the Sino-Japanese War intensified, the situation of the country changed appreciably …
日中戦争 (Nitchū sensō: Second Sino-Japanese War
(1937–1945)) Japan + China + war + to argue
とともに (to tomo ni: as, when)
国情 (kokujō: conditions of a country)
country + actual conditions
大いに (ōi ni: very; much, greatly, a lot of)
変化 (henka: change) to change + to change into
This phrase comes from a long, difficult sentence describing a movie I loved. Kabei is the story of a Japanese intellectual jailed by his government for writing some controversial essays before Japan entered World War II. The government accused him of a “thought crime” (a most intriguing term that repeatedly appeared in the subtitles). I didn’t catch the Japanese word that the characters used for this, but the Wikipedia summary of the movie plot calls it a 思想犯:
思想犯 (shisōhan: white-collar crime)
thought + conception + crime
Nowadays, “white-collar crime” sounds like banking fraud, not anything to do with intellectual ideas.
If you’ve read the side page with sample sentences about extremism, you’ve already come across 思想 (shisō: thought, idea, ideology) in a phrase about radical ideas. This word teams up with 過激 in the following term:
過激思想 (kageki-shisō: extremism; radical belief)
excessive + intense + thought + conception
Just as 過激派 retained considerable water, 思想 has lots of heart (心) in it. If adamant liberals come off as “bleeding hearts” in certain parts of the world, extremists of all stripes are more like “wet hearts” in Japan!
Time for your Verbal Logic Quiz! See you in two weeks after a Kanji Curiosity break.