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Stayin’ Alive: Part 2

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Let’s start with a quick quiz. What do you think the following might mean?

残生 (zansei)     to remain + life
生残 (seizan)     life + to remain

To block the answers, I’ll share a photo I took in Los Angeles on Sawtelle Boulevard, a Japanese area that unfortunately extends for just two blocks:


Explanation of the Sign …

OK, here are the answers:

残生 (zansei: remainder of one’s life)     to remain + life
生残 (seizan: survival)     life + to remain

Last week we learned that the yomi of are ZAN, noko(ru), and noko(su). As you can see, its on-yomi is at work in these compounds. So is the on-yomi of . When we invert each compound, these yomi remain the same. But look how the definitions change! The meaning of 残生 seems intuitive to me. As to why life + to remain = survival, imagine that you’re in an earthquake and a building crushes your leg. You lose a lot of blood, but you survive. Life remains inside you! That turns you into this:

生残者 (seizansha: survivor)     life + to remain + person

In the next scenario, there aren’t too many like you:

Sono jishin no seizansha wa nimei dake datta.
Only two people survived the earthquake.

地震     earth + to shake
-名 (-mei: counter for people)

Last week we saw the expression 名を残す (na o nokosu: to be remembered; go down in history, name + to leave behind). In the earthquake sentence, the use of -名 is quite different; this kanji serves as a way to count people more formally than with -人 (-nin).

Here’s another way of referring to survivors, and it returns us to our two primary kanji for the day:

生き残り (ikinokori: survivor)     life + to remain

Now we’re seeing the kun-yomi, though, and okurigana have come into the picture.

More Survival Terms …

The Opposite of Surviving …

English speakers usually imagine survivors to be people. But in Japanese, a company can be a survivor, as well:

Kaisha wa ikinokori o kakete funtō shite iru.
The company is struggling for survival.

会社 (kaisha: company)     association + company
(ka(keru): to wager, bet, risk, stake, gamble)

Although this verb means “to bet,” it usually expresses a strong determination to achieve something—a do-or-die attitude. In the sentence above, 賭けて implies that a risk is involved in the company’s efforts to stay alive.

奮闘 (funtō: hard struggle; strenuous effort)
     to rouse up + to fight

Wow, one short sentence presents three tough kanji! More on them at the link.

On , , and

I would have expected the following word to be about survival, too:

居残り (inokori)

After all, the first kanji is (i(masu): to exist). So shouldn’t this compound be about the remaining days of one’s existence or the way one remains alive after a disaster? Not quite:

居残り (inokori: working overtime; detention (e.g., after school))
          to exist + to be left over

Of course, overtime work and school detention are their own disasters, but they’re of a different magnitude than, say, an earthquake!

Fortunately, there’s this to make the overtime work better:

居残り手当 (inokori teate: overtime pay)
     to exist + to be left over + labor + to apply

A more common (and less colloquial) way of saying the same thing:

残業手当 (zangyō teate: overtime pay)
     to remain + work + labor + to apply

We saw 残業 (zangyō: overtime (work)) long ago in a discussion of 風呂敷 (furoshiki: wrapping cloth). Here’s one more 残業 term that reintroduces , one of our star kanji today:

生活残業 (seikatsu zangyō: (working) overtime to make ends meet
     (to support one’s lifestyle))     life + lively + to remain + work

This definition reminds me of basketball player Patrick Ewing’s famous comment. There was an NBA strike, because the players wanted more money, even though they already had multimillion-dollar salaries. Ewing explained that basketball players need to make more because they spend more.

More sports talk at the first of the two Verbal Logic Quizzes!

Verbal Logic Quizzes …

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