A Murder Mystery and More! Part 3

Friday, April 16th, 2010

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Today we’ll do things backward. Try your hand at a bevy of quizzes, all involving (SHI, sa(su), sa(saru), sa(shi), sashi, toge: to stab, pierce, prick, sting; thorn; business card), a kanji we’ve examined over the past few weeks. In the answer notes, you’ll find sample sentences. In other words, dessert first and salad later.


Quiz 1: Homophonic Murder Mystery

This murder mystery has two steps. Let’s start with Step 1. (We can’t do everything backward today!)

The following words all have the same yomi: shikaku. One word means “assassin.” Can you locate the assassin by matching the kanji compounds to the meanings? If I supplied the breakdowns, it would be too easy, so try to make do without them.

1. 四角      a. assassin
2. 資格      b. sense of sight; vision
3. 視覚      c. blind spot; dead space
4. 刺客      d. qualifications; requirements; capabilities
5. 死角      e. square
6. 視角      f. visual angle

For Quiz 1 Answers and Step 2 …


Quiz 2: If-Then

1. If 鳥刺し (torisashi: bird + sliced raw flesh) means “bird catcher” (that is, one who catches wild birds) or “chicken sashimi,” and if means “horse,” then what does the following term mean?

馬刺し (basashi)

a. horse catcher
b. prodding a horse to move faster
c. horse sashimi; raw horsemeat dish
d. horse as fast as an arrow

2. If 牛刺 (gyūsashi: cow + sliced raw flesh) means “sliced raw beef,” and if means “person,” then what does the following term mean?

人刺 (jinsashi)

a. cannibalism
b. meat for human consumption
c. stabbing
d. surgery on a human

3. If 牛刺 (gyūsashi: cow + sliced raw flesh) means “sliced raw beef,” and if means “flesh,” then what does the following term mean?

肉刺 (mame)

a. carnivorism
b. incision in fleshy area
c. stabbing
d. blister

For Quiz 2 Answers …


Quiz 3: What’s the Meaning of This?!

Can you match the following words to their meanings? In particular, can you figure out what activity involves wet sheep (羊水)?! Breakdowns would make this quiz too easy, so I’ve provided none.

1. 羊水穿刺 (yōsuisenshi)
2. 刺草 (irakusa)
3. 有刺鉄線 (yūshitessen)
4. 刺し子 (sashiko)

a. quilting
b. amniocentesis
c. barbed wire
d. stinging nettle

For Quiz 3 Answers …


A Yojijukugo Contest!

This one isn’t a quiz but rather a contest. First, take a look at the following New York Times article. It’s about yojijukugo, four-character compounds that tell stories or convey ideas in pithy, idiomatic ways.

As you’ll see from the Times piece, the insurance firm Sumitomo Seimei has an annual create-your-own yojijukugo contest. What a fantastic idea! And to think that an insurance company devised something so creative!

Let’s do the same thing here. I’m making this up on the fly, and I may have failed to think through all the details, but it doesn’t seem that complicated to me. Here are the rules:

1. All entries have to be posted here in the comments section of this particular blog post by May 2, 2010, by 11:59 p.m., Japan Standard Time.

2. Submit as many made-up yojijukugo as you like. Please provide breakdowns and explanations.

3. If I were to choose the “best,” that would be unfairly subjective, so although I may weed out a few, I’ll present the choices in the May 7 blog, and all of you will have until May 13 to vote for your favorite.

4. I’ll name the winner in the May 14 blog.

5. The winner receives a one-year subscription to Joy o’ Kanji, the new project I’m developing. The Joy o’ Kanji website won’t go live for several months, so the winner will have to endure a bit of delayed gratification. But as I wrote on page 127 of Crazy for Kanji, there are many yojijukugo about the merits of self-control and discipline. Here’s one, for instance:

臥薪嘗胆 (gashin shōtan: going through unspeakable hardships and privations to attain one’s objective)
     to lie prostrate + firewood +
     to burn up + courage

Feel free to make your entries cheerier than that! I look forward to seeing your submissions. Good luck!

Meet you back here in two weeks!

4 Responses to “A Murder Mystery and More! Part 3”

  1. avatar L33tminion Says:

    It’s better to be stung by a nettle than pricked by a rose… Why would that be better???

    If you’re pricked by a rose, perhaps you can’t enjoy roses as much in the future, which is a shame. Whereas being stung by a nettle only ruins nettles for you, no big loss.

  2. avatar Eve Kushner Says:

    Oh, I see! Interesting take! Thanks so much for the comment.

  3. avatar Leonardo Boiko Says:

    Hi. I don’t know if this is the best place to ask about Joy’o Kanji, but I am very excited with the idea :)


    - Does “readers who subscribe” mean it will be paid?
    - Are you planning to dive into etymology? Does the team include linguists or other specialists to fact-check the numerous conflicting etymological stories that often surface for kanji?
    - If you’re doing etymology, does that mean you’ll cover kyūjitai?
    - Are you planning in covering the new 200 or so characters that are to be added to jōyō?

  4. avatar Eve Kushner Says:

    Hi, Leonardo.

    Thanks so much for your comment, your questions, and above all your excitement!!! Makes me very happy!

    As you say, this may not be the place to discuss Joy o’ Kanji, so I’ll email you to answer your questions. I encourage anyone else with questions about JOK to email me, as well: eve [at] yahoo.com (but substitute @ for [at]). You’ll find initial info. here:


    It seems that Leonardo already did enough poking around to find that website, quite possibly on the very day it went live! Wow, impressive!

    Thanks again for your enthusiasm! That kind of thing keeps me going!

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