Archive for the 'Kanji Curiosity' Category

Onward

Friday, April 30th, 2010

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Today I have a mix of news: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

 

The Good

I was on the radio again this week, talking about some unusual Japanese terms. Ever since Patrick Cox interviewed me on “The World in Words” in the fall of 2008, I’ve been sending him amusingly specific Japanese expressions. He likes things like that; in a segment called “Eating Sideways,” he presents expressions from other languages for which there’s no English equivalent.

Anyway, he recently gathered five of the terms I’d sent him, and much to my surprise we did a brief Skype interview on Monday. The podcast ran on Tuesday. My part starts at 19:05 and goes till the end, lasting nearly nine minutes.

When you hear unknown Japanese words, it’s hard to imagine what the kanji might be, so here’s a guide to the expressions I was struggling to say: Read the rest of this entry »

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

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Interspecies Stabbings: Part 2

Friday, April 9th, 2010

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As we saw last week, (SHI, sa(su), sa(saru), sa(shi), sashi, toge: to stab, pierce, prick, sting; thorn; business card) primarily means “to stab,” so it plays a role in many brutal words. Examining this kanji, you can quickly have your fill of stabbings, puncture wounds, and the like:

刺し傷 (sashikizu: a stab; puncture wound)     to stab + wound

Sample Sentence with 刺し傷

刺し通す (sashitōsu: to stab, pierce, run (a sword) through)
     stabbing + to run through

This uses the same kanji as a term we saw last time: 刺を通じる (shi o tsūjiru: to present one’s business card, business card + to transmit). But the meanings couldn’t be more different!


止めを刺す (todome o sasu: to put an end to; finish by a stab in the neck)     finishing blow + to stab

Sample Sentences with 止めを刺す

You might think gory stabbings tend to happen in a dark underworld that you’ll never enter. If only that were true. A closer look at words reveals that humans and animals constantly stab each other. It’s the law of the jungle.
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How to Stick It to Someone: Part 1

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

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Let’s start with a quiz. The kanji primarily means “to stab.” Given that, what do you think the following words might mean?

刺身     The second kanji means “body.”
刺青     The second kanji means “blue.”
名刺     The first kanji means “name.”

I’ll block the answers with Alberto’s haiku calendar for April.
aprilhaikulr1.jpg

Alberto will post an explanation of this haiku in the comments section.

Give up? Here are the definitions:
Read the rest of this entry »

Radically Wet: Part 4

Friday, March 19th, 2010

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Take a look at the following sentence to see if you recognize anything:

政府は過激派グループの活動を注意深く監視した。

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, water.png! 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.

p1010178-copy.JPG

 

p1010190-copy.JPG
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A Japanese Stimulus Package: Part 3

Friday, March 12th, 2010

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It’s always exciting when a foreign language teaches you about your own, and that’s the case with the following word:

激賞 (gekishō: enthusiastic praise)     intense + praise

Sample Sentence with 激賞

I’ve long known (SHŌ) as “award” or “prize,” as in アカデミー賞, “Academy Award.” When I saw “praise” in the definition of 激賞, I was startled. It couldn’t really be a typo, I figured, because there’s no such thing as an enthusiastic prize (though there are plenty of prizes for enthusiasm). Then it hit me that “praise” and “prize” could be connected in Japanese—and perhaps in English, too!

Yes on both accounts! Well, to be perfectly accurate, the English link is looser. Both “praise” and “price” (not prize) relate back to the Latin pretium, meaning “price, value, worth, reward.” And then “prize” has been an alternate spelling of “price.” I never thought about the similarities among any of these words!
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Death by Acronym: Part 2

Friday, March 5th, 2010

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We start with Alberto’s haiku calendar for March. It’s lovely, as always, but there’s one difference this time; he’s the one who wrote the haiku! お疲れさまでした! (Otsukaresamadeshita! Good job!)

 

marlr.png

See the comments section for his explanation of this haiku.

Now we’ll return from the ethereal haiku world and come back down to earth with a thud! In an ongoing investigation of (GEKI, hage(shii): violent, intense, agitated, sudden), I’ve come across a sample sentence with the following translation:

When the flight crew has the aircraft under control, everything is working normally, and yet it still crashes into the ground, that’s CFIT.

Really? You call that CFIT? Not “all hell has broken loose for no good reason” but just “CFIT”? Sounds rather mild, I would say.
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The Violence of Water: Part 1

Friday, February 26th, 2010

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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!

I’ve overlooked not only the violence inherent in water but also the water (water.png) inherent in violence:

(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

激浪 (gekirō: raging sea)     violent + waves

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.

On

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).

 

pacificgrove.jpg
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Bag of Tricks: Part 3

Friday, February 12th, 2010

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As you may know, 知恵 (chie: to know + wisdom) is “wisdom” or “intelligence.” And we’ve seen that (TAI, fukuro) can mean “bag.” Given that, what do you think the following represents?

知恵袋 (chiebukuro)     wisdom (1st 2 kanji) + bag

My cynical side takes over and imagines a wind bag who won’t shut up about everything he claims to know. Not at all. The first definition of “wisdom bag” is literally “bag full of wisdom,” and another meaning is “someone who devises a solution when others have no idea what to do”:

知恵袋 (chiebukuro: (1) bag full of wisdom; bag containing all the world’s wisdom; (2) person who is a fountain of wisdom; brains (of a company))     wisdom (1st 2 kanji) + bag

If it’s strange to imagine an experienced person as a bag, that’s probably no stranger than imagining a wise person as a fountain, as apparently we do in English!

The Japanese know how to put unusual things in bags:
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Your Mother as a Bag: Part 2

Friday, February 5th, 2010

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We start with Alberto’s haiku calendar for February, another beauty:

alberto-sanz-haiku-snow-february-ishida.jpg

Wow, this haiku features some complex kanji! Alberto will tell us about the poem in the comments section. Meanwhile, here’s the scoop on the least familiar characters:

(RYŌ, REI, ne, mine: peak, summit)
(SHO, SHŌ, SO, ka(tsu): also, furthermore, moreover)
(KATSU: brown)
(FUTSU, HEI, HETSU, ō(i), ō(u): to cover)

In this list, the first and last characters are non-Jōyō.

Let’s return to a kanji you’ve seen before. As you know from last week, (TAI, DAI, fukuro) often means “bag, pouch.” With that in mind, try to figure out what the following might represent: Read the rest of this entry »