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On Racehorses and Rivalry: Part 1

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I’ve made an exciting discovery! As you may know, I’ve been collecting exceptions to a rule. If there are back-to-back instances of the same kanji, the repetition symbol typically replaces one (as in 時々, tokidoki: sometimes). Thus far, we’ve seen five anomalies:

夜中中 (yonakajū: throughout the night)
     night + middle + middle

中城城 (Nakagusukujō: a castle in Okinawa)
     inside + castle + castle

民主主義 (minshu-shugi: democracy)
     people + to play a central role + to play a central role +

One occasionally sees 民主々義, but it’s not common.

直接接触 (chokusetsu-sesshoku: direct contact)
     straight + contact + contact + contact

Tōkyō Tokkyo Kyoka Kyoku
Tokyo Department for Patent Authorization

For the breakdown of this tongue twister, see the link.

In the first two examples, the yomi changes with the duplication (e.g., naka versus for and gusuku versus for ).

Anyway, the big news is that I’ve found a sixth exception, and it, too, involves a yomi change:

競馬馬 (keiba-uma: racehorse)     to compete + horse + horse

With the repetition of , the word shifts from the on-yomi BA to the kun-yomi uma.

My heart is racing as fast as any racehorse can run!

I found 競馬馬 while investigating three kyōei homonyms. Here’s the first:

胸泳 (kyōei: breaststroke)     chest + to swim

We saw this two blogs ago, where I said that Japanese prefer to use 平泳ぎ (hiraoyogi: flat + swimming) or 蛙泳ぎ (kaeruoyogi: frog + swimming) when referring to the breaststroke. (Incidentally, “breaststroke” contains an internal repetition that makes me want to write it as “breastroke”!) If I were ever discussing the breaststroke in Japanese, I would also opt for 蛙泳ぎ over 胸泳, simply because “frog swimming” is cuter. But the Japanese avoid 胸泳 for a different reason—namely, that it’s homophonous with the following word:

競泳 (kyōei: swimming race)     to compete + to swim

Whereas 競泳 is competitive swimming, people often swim the 胸泳 for fun, so they steer clear of a homonym that could mislead people.

Meanwhile, I’ve found another kyōei (which isn’t hard, as there are several):

競映 (kyōei: competitive showing of films)
     to compete + to screen (a film)

I’m trying to imagine what this is. A film festival where people vote on the best movie? Or a competition to see who can screen the greatest number of movies? (Ah, one dictionary says it’s a competition to see which film gets the largest crowd. Another dictionary defines it as a competition between films that have identical or similar themes.)

Anyway, these latter kyōei words have aroused my interest in the adorable kanji at the head of both. What’s going on with the twins in ? And oh my goodness! I just realized that there are two types of duplication in our star word:

競馬馬 (keiba-uma: racehorse)     to compete + horse + horse

Do you see it? Two identical components within , and two instances of ! I was already thinking that reminded me of the “double happiness” character in Chinese: . Now I see this racehorse as embodying quadruple happiness!

To be precise, I should say that the components in are almost identical. Magnification reveals variations in the way each ends (at the lower right):

But never mind about that. This variation is similar to what happens in (RIN, hayashi: forest), where the lower-right limb of the first tree is slightly clipped so it doesn’t crash into the lower-left limb of the second tree.

Here’s the deal with (and I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get to it!):

(KYŌ, KEI, kiso(u), se(ru): to compete with; bid; sell at auction; contest, race)

The Etymology of

If you can handle a rapid change in tone, I want to make a confession. I’m attracted to not only for its looks but also because I like words describing base human nature. They make me feel better. If there’s a word for the idea, then obviously other people feel the same churlish, unsociable things that I do from time to time (or most of the time).

In exploring words, I was therefore hoping to discover terms about bitter rivalries, cruel attempts to cut down competitors, and the like. I wasn’t wholly disappointed, but almost. Whereas pops up in a few such words, it appears in many more terms about civilized, organized footraces.

Here’s a word that seems to bridge both worlds:

競い合う (kisoiau: to compete with, vie for)
     to compete with + to put side by side

This is a matter-of-fact word about competitions, as you’ll see at the link.

Sample Sentence with 競い合う

The yomi kisoiau is a kun-kun combination. And if you strip away the hiragana from 競い合う, you end up with an on-on duo:

競合 (kyōgō: contention, competition, rivalry, quarrel)
     to compete + to put side by side

This word also seems straightforward and neutral, neither passing judgment on competitions nor taking glee in them.

Sample Sentence with 競合

If you take 競合 and insert different hiragana from those in 競い合う, you get yet another neutral word meaning “competition”:

競り合い (seriai: competition)     to compete + reciprocal

Here, we see with the kun-yomi of se(ru). Seri is the adverbial form.

Wow, did you notice how much the yomi changed among three words sharing the same two kanji: kisoiau, kyōgō, and seriai. That’s messed up!

Now, if you preface 競り合い with another kanji, here’s what you produce (with yet another yomi change, thanks to voicing):

小競り合い (kozeriai: skirmish; quarrel)
     small + to compete + reciprocal

Ah! Finally some conflict and nastiness! Strange that a “small competition” isn’t still neutral and just smaller. Rather, it’s a skirmish, a quarrel, or something of the sort. Good enough for me!

Time for your Verbal Logic Quiz!

Verbal Logic Quiz …

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