JapanesePod101.com Blog http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog Learn Japanese with Free Daily Audio and Video Lessons! Wed, 17 Jan 2018 03:29:50 +0000 https://wordpress.org/?v=wordpress-mu-1.0 en Onward http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/04/30/onward/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/04/30/onward/#comments Fri, 30 Apr 2010 09:30:42 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/04/30/onward/
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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: (more̷ ;)

A Murder Mystery and More! Part 3 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/04/16/a-murder-mystery-and-other-quizzes-part-3/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/04/16/a-murder-mystery-and-other-quizzes-part-3/#comments Fri, 16 Apr 2010 09:30:54 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/04/16/a-murder-mystery-and-other-quizzes-part-3/
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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

(more̷ ;)

Interspecies Stabbings: Part 2 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/04/09/title-tk-part-2-4/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/04/09/title-tk-part-2-4/#comments Fri, 09 Apr 2010 09:30:45 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/04/09/title-tk-part-2-4/
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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.
(more̷ ;)

How to Stick It to Someone: Part 1 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/04/02/pointed-words-part-1/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/04/02/pointed-words-part-1/#comments Fri, 02 Apr 2010 09:30:06 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/04/02/pointed-words-part-1/
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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.

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

Give up? Here are the definitions:
(more̷ ;)

Radically Wet: Part 4 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/03/19/title-tk-part-4-2/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/03/19/title-tk-part-4-2/#comments Fri, 19 Mar 2010 09:30:57 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/03/19/title-tk-part-4-2/
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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, 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.



(more̷ ;)

A Japanese Stimulus Package: Part 3 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/03/12/excitement-part-3/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/03/12/excitement-part-3/#comments Fri, 12 Mar 2010 09:30:58 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/03/12/excitement-part-3/
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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!
(more̷ ;)

Death by Acronym: Part 2 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/03/05/death-by-acronym-part-2/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/03/05/death-by-acronym-part-2/#comments Fri, 05 Mar 2010 09:30:45 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/03/05/death-by-acronym-part-2/
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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!)



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.
(more̷ ;)

The Violence of Water: Part 1 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/02/26/the-violence-of-water-part-1/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/02/26/the-violence-of-water-part-1/#comments Fri, 26 Feb 2010 09:30:50 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/02/26/the-violence-of-water-part-1/
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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.


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).


(more̷ ;)

Bag of Tricks: Part 3 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/02/12/bags-for-unusual-items-part-3/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/02/12/bags-for-unusual-items-part-3/#comments Fri, 12 Feb 2010 09:30:39 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/02/12/bags-for-unusual-items-part-3/
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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:
(more̷ ;)

Your Mother as a Bag: Part 2 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/02/05/your-mother-as-a-bag-part-2/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/02/05/your-mother-as-a-bag-part-2/#comments Fri, 05 Feb 2010 09:30:21 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/02/05/your-mother-as-a-bag-part-2/
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We start with Alberto’s haiku calendar for February, another beauty:


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: (more̷ ;)

It’s in the Bag: Part 1 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/01/29/its-in-the-bag-part-1/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/01/29/its-in-the-bag-part-1/#comments Fri, 29 Jan 2010 09:30:18 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/01/29/its-in-the-bag-part-1/
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Recently I’ve shown you koala and kangaroo pictures, and in the past I’ve posted pictures of dogs, giraffes, and yaks. By this point, you should be an expert in animal identification. Based on the breakdowns below, see if you can figure out which animal each compound represents:

袋熊 (fukuro-guma)     pouch + bear
袋狼 (fukuro-ōkami)     pouch + wolf
袋鼠 (fukuro-nezumi)     pouch + mouse

Words for Discussing Pouched Animals …

To block the answers, I’ll present the vitals on the kanji of the moment:

(TAI, DAI, fukuro: (1) bag; sack, pouch; (2) skin of an orange (and other like fruits); (3) dead end; (4) plot of land surrounded by water)

The Etymology of

So many meanings!

By the way, the first on-yomi of is easy to remember, because we so often tie (タイ) bags!

Once again, here’s the koala sign that has prompted this examination of . You can also revisit the breakdown of the words in the sign.

(more̷ ;)

Happy Birthday to Whom? http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/01/22/title-tk-3/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/01/22/title-tk-3/#comments Fri, 22 Jan 2010 09:30:52 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/01/22/title-tk-3/
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What do you think the following word means?

虚誕 (kyotan)

The first kanji, (KYO, KO, muna(shii)), means “empty” or “false,” as we saw long ago. You may recognize from 誕生日 (tanjōbi: birthday, to be born + to be born + day), where means “to be born, birth.” So 虚誕 is a false birth?! No, has other meanings, and the pertinent one in 虚誕 relates to the original definition of .

In , the radical is (words). That’s not entirely obvious, because every component in can serve as a radical!

All Can Be Radicals …

Meanwhile, is “to stretch, extend,” also acting phonetically in to express “big.” With “big, stretched words,” you have bragging or exaggerations. Thus, originally meant “deception” or “false.”

That’s the meaning in our star word, as the breakdown indicates:

虚誕 (kyotan: exaggerated talk)     false + false

More False Talk …

That’s not the whole etymological story, though. The word 降誕 (kōtan: holy birth, royal birth, to descend (from heaven) + birth) originally meant “making a fuss about a holy (or royal) birth.” That makes sense, given the exaggerations inherent in back then. Consequently, “birth” became an extended meaning of , which we can define in an assortment of ways:

(TAN: to be born, nativity, false, to be arbitrary)

“To be born” is now the main meaning, as in 誕生日 and its root: (more̷ ;)

Locating Your Longings: Part 4 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/01/15/title-tk-part-4/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/01/15/title-tk-part-4/#comments Fri, 15 Jan 2010 09:30:18 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/01/15/title-tk-part-4/
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When you long for something or someone, do you think of that longing as having a particular location? Do you store it somewhere, such as your heart, mind, soul, or journal? I don’t feel as if my yearnings have specific addresses; they seem all-pervasive. But the following word hints at the idea that desire is actually lodged (宿) somewhere!

宿望 (shukubō: long-cherished desire)     to lodge + desire

This may have something to do with the nuances of 宿 (SHUKU, yado: to lodge), which also appears in two words synonymous with 宿望:

宿志 (shukushi: longstanding desire)     to lodge + purpose

We’ve seen in both 意志 (ishi: will, intention, determination, intention + to intend) and 志望 (shibō: wish, desire, ambition, ambition + to aspire). Working with Halpern’s definitions, I’ve defined this kanji a little differently all three times!

宿願 (shukugan: longstanding desire)     to lodge + desire

You may recognize as the central part of お願い (onegai: wish). GAN is an on-yomi of , and we see this yomi again here:

願望 (ganbō: wish, desire)     desire + wish

Aha! We’ve come full circle, returning to !

If you also want to return to the idea that wishes can be stored somewhere inside a person, check out this word: (more̷ ;)

Great Expectations: Part 3 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/01/08/great-expectations-part-3/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/01/08/great-expectations-part-3/#comments Fri, 08 Jan 2010 09:30:58 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2010/01/08/great-expectations-part-3/
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明けましておめでとうございます!Akemashite omedetō gozaimasu! Happy New Year!). We’ve seen that this 明け means “to open, begin.” What I hadn’t seen until last week was this version of the greeting:

謹賀新年 (Kingashinnen: Happy New Year)
     respectfully + to congratulate + new + year

On 謹賀

A Japanese friend posted this on my Facebook page. Although I guessed the meaning, I was puzzled both by the yomi and by the fact that I’d never heard this expression. That’s because it’s formal and is used only in writing.

Whereas the 明けまして phrase sounds completely Japanese, 謹賀新年 consists of four on-yomi, so it seems more Chinese. However, I will forever associate it with Australia, because that’s where I was last week when I received the greeting. About an hour later, while admiring koalas at a koala conservation site, I realized that the tourists next to me were Japanese. After they’d gazed at the nearest koala and said “Kawai!” several times, I showed them the message on my cell phone and asked for the yomi.

Japanese Highlights of the Trip …


More Koalas! …

(more̷ ;)

Hoping Against Hope: Part 2 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/12/18/blind-ambition-part-2/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/12/18/blind-ambition-part-2/#comments Fri, 18 Dec 2009 09:30:59 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/12/18/blind-ambition-part-2/
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Around the holidays, people like to hear old stories again, whether they involve Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or the Ghost of Christmas Past. This time of year also fills people with hope, so much so that adults temporarily suspend fears of pedophilia and let their children sit on strange men’s laps to spout off consumerist fantasies.

You’ll find both storytelling and hope with . You already know that it often means “hope,” because we learned the following last week:

(BŌ, MŌ, nozo(mu): hope, wish, aspire to, desire, look afar, look forward to)

As for the storytelling, a few sample sentences with form a tale of hope and longing. We start the story with this sentence, which a Tokyo resident named Satoshi-san once emailed me during our very brief language exchange:

2008-nen yori Eikoku no daigakuin e no ryūgaku o kibō shite imasu.
Starting in 2008, I hope to study at a graduate school in England.

Breakdown of the Kanji #1 …

In other words, he had a clearly defined 希望:
(more̷ ;)

The Wishing Star: Part 1 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/12/11/the-wishing-star-part-1/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/12/11/the-wishing-star-part-1/#comments Fri, 11 Dec 2009 09:30:31 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/12/11/the-wishing-star-part-1/
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I’d never thought about it before, but I’ve just realized that the English expression “looking forward” has two meanings: “gazing into the distance” and “happily anticipating.” One kanji captures both meanings. We usually interpret (BŌ, MŌ, nozo(mu)) as meaning “hope.” A while back, though, we saw that can also mean “looking afar” or “gazing into the distance.”

This duality helps us find several layers of meaning in the song title 望みの星 (Nozomi no Hoshi: The Wishing Star). If you’re wishing on a star (or on the moon, as per the etymology), you’re both gazing at a distant object and hoping that something will come true.

Novelist Wendy Tokunaga cowrote this enka (演歌: performance + song) song with her friend, Hiro Akashi. We’re only up to the title, and already I’m impressed!

I was even more impressed when I heard Wendy sing the song in Japanese. I know you’ll be blown away, too. Wendy has won televised singing competitions in Japan, so you’re in for a treat, not the ear-shattering output of some karaoke singer.
(more̷ ;)

Loose Ends http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/12/05/loose-ends/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/12/05/loose-ends/#comments Fri, 04 Dec 2009 21:30:41 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/12/05/loose-ends/
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Time for the final page of Alberto’s beautiful haiku calendar!


Explanation of the Haiku …

(more̷ ;)

Wanderlust: Part 4 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/11/27/wanderlust-part-4/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/11/27/wanderlust-part-4/#comments Fri, 27 Nov 2009 09:30:37 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/11/27/wanderlust-part-4/
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Let’s start with a quick quiz. From past weeks you already know this kanji:

(TO, wata(ru), wata(su): to cross, extend, cover, range, span; to ferry across; build across; hand over, hand in, transfer)

And you might know from 世界 (sekai: world, world + world). Put these two key kanji together, and here’s what you get:

渡世 (tosei: livelihood, subsistence; business)
     to go through (life) + existence

Now, add to produce this:

渡世人 (toseinin)     to go through (life) + existence + person

What do you think it means? A person earning a living? A business owner? Check the link for the answer. I think you’ll be surprised! A big hint: Think of Kenny Rogers (for as long as you can stand to do so).
(more̷ ;)

Special Delivery: Part 3 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/11/20/title-tk-part-3-2/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/11/20/title-tk-part-3-2/#comments Fri, 20 Nov 2009 09:30:24 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/11/20/title-tk-part-3-2/
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I’ve discovered two new ways of offending the Japanese:

渡し箸 (watashibashi: resting one’s chopsticks across the top of one’s bowl)     to cross over + chopsticks

渡り箸 (wataribashi: using one’s chopsticks to jump from side dish to side dish without pausing to eat rice in between)
     to cross over + chopsticks

Both actions are considered breaches of etiquette.

Just one hiragana distinguishes one term from the other. (And that hiragana can serve as a memory trick. The somewhat resembles the top of a bowl, whereas the looks like upright chopsticks jumping from side dish to side dish and appalling all the Emirii Posutos of Japan.)

Another Time When One Kana Really Matters …

The first word, watashibashi, is one of those wonderful Japanese terms with internal rhymes.

More Watashi Rhymes …

The watashi (渡し) in this word is a perfectly legitimate yomi, given all the ways of reading :
(more̷ ;)

Will We Cross That Bridge When We Come to It? Part 2 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/11/13/title-tk-part-2-3/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/11/13/title-tk-part-2-3/#comments Fri, 13 Nov 2009 09:30:15 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/11/13/title-tk-part-2-3/
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In any society, a bridge is perhaps the most visible symbol of trust. And this kind of trust seldom comes into question. When most of us see a bridge, we assume it can handle the cars, trains, and gale-force winds bearing down on it.

Lately, though, people in my neck of the woods realize that they can’t take bridge safety for granted at all. In September, inspectors found a significant crack on the San Francisco Bay Bridge. (They wouldn’t have done an inspection except for a rare circumstance, so this discovery shook our confidence considerably.) Crews labored to fix the problem, only to have the repair job fail weeks later, sending 5,000 pounds of steel crashing down onto passing cars. Workers have now repaired the repair job, but they say it’s only a temporary solution and that we’ll need another repair in coming months.

On top of that, they’ve recently reconfigured the bridge, introducing a treacherous S-curve. I was nearly in an accident when the car ahead of me lost control there, careering from one side of the bridge to the other at a 90-degree angle to the rest of us. After that, a Safeway truck overturned at the S-curve, tying up traffic for hours. And just days ago, a truck carrying Asian pears plunged off the S-curve to an island below, killing the driver.

The traffic jams clear up eventually, but distrust lingers long after that. Many of us are left wondering whether we can believe the officials who deem our bridges safe. The bridge feels about as creaky as the old Japanese one in the photo.


Wisteria Bridge over the Fujikawa River, c. 1880.
Photo source: Okinawa Soba

About the Wisteria Bridge …

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Ferry Crossing: Part 1 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/11/06/ferry-crossing-part-1/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/11/06/ferry-crossing-part-1/#comments Fri, 06 Nov 2009 09:30:36 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/11/06/ferry-crossing-part-1/
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I came across an intriguing word:

過渡 (kato: (1) crossing; ferry; (2) transient; (3) changing old to new)     to pass by + to go through (life)

It catches my attention for several reasons. For one thing, the spelling (but not the pronunciation) of the yomi reminds me of Kato Kaelin, made famous in the days of OJ’s trial, then quickly forgotten. I love finding words such as karen and shaun, whose romanized versions are first names in English.

Those “Names” in Kanji

Beyond that, I like that 過渡 has such disparate definitions: “ferry” versus “transient.” If you think poetically, this makes sense; as a boat glides across the water, its location is impermanent. Modes of transit are inherently transient! At the same time, the logical part of the brain resists seeing a ferry symbolically. It’s a bus on water.

The multidimensionality of 過渡 comes from (TO, wata(ru), wata(su)), which has a rich variety of meanings.

I began thinking about this character because it stars in the haiku on the November page of Alberto’s beautiful calendar. As you’ll see, the kigo (seasonal keyword) in that haiku is 鳥渡る (tori wataru: migrating birds, birds + to cross over). You may be more familiar with the inverse:
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Left Behind: Part 5 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/10/30/leaving-out-and-leaving-behind-part-5/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/10/30/leaving-out-and-leaving-behind-part-5/#comments Fri, 30 Oct 2009 09:30:41 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/10/30/leaving-out-and-leaving-behind-part-5/
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As I mentioned last week, the etymology of (ZAN, noko(ru), noko(su)) contains the idea that it’s cruel to hack someone up until nothing remains. But perhaps that’s a glass-half-empty perspective. The glass-half-full view would be, “Hey, look! Something remains! In fact, what we have here are human remains!”

The kanji figures into many words about things left behind. For instance, take the following expression:

食い残す (kuinokosu: to leave food half-eaten)
     to eat + to leave behind

This verb has a noun form:

食い残し (kuinokoshi: leftover food)     to eat + to leave behind

Just two weeks ago, we saw another word for leftovers:

残り物 (nokorimono: remnant, scraps, leftovers)
     remainder + thing

If you change the first hiragana in 食い残し, you alter the yomi considerably but retain the meaning:
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A Killer Kanji: Part 4 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/10/23/a-killer-kanji-part-4/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/10/23/a-killer-kanji-part-4/#comments Fri, 23 Oct 2009 09:30:45 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/10/23/a-killer-kanji-part-4/
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It’s easy to think that (ZAN, noko(ru), noko(su): to remain) has a soft nuance. After all, this character shows up in words such as 残念 (zannen: regret, to remain + thoughts). But when you learn the etymology of , you’ll see that we have a killer kanji on our hands!

In , says Henshall, the means “death” or “bare bones.” The right-hand side is a halberd (), an ax-like weapon, that has been doubled for emphasis. In , the also means “to cut and kill.” Altogether we have “to kill someone cruelly by cutting them to the bone.” In China, still primarily means “cruel, harm.” Some people think that “to remain” is a borrowed meaning, deriving from the idea of hacking a person till only the bare bones remain.

Several expressions reflect the cruel underpinnings of this kanji:
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Garden-Variety Banking: Part 3 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/10/16/title-tk-part-3/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/10/16/title-tk-part-3/#comments Fri, 16 Oct 2009 09:30:22 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/10/16/title-tk-part-3/
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I don’t know much about banking, but I do know that a bank should inspire trust and confidence. The name of the bank has to be serious, a trustworthy brand in and of itself. My first bank account was at Annapolis Bank and Trust, where they put “trust” right in the name. Other banks go by the names of First Capital Bank, Enterprise National Bank, Premier Service Bank, Tomato Bank.

Tomato Bank?!

Yes, indeed. That’s what you find on Sawtelle Boulevard, a Los Angeles street filled with Japanese businesses:

On 宏基銀行

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Stayin’ Alive: Part 2 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/10/09/title-tk-part-2-2/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/10/09/title-tk-part-2-2/#comments Fri, 09 Oct 2009 09:30:22 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/10/09/title-tk-part-2-2/
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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:


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Crowing About Regrets: Part 1 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/10/02/title-tk-part-1-2/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/10/02/title-tk-part-1-2/#comments Fri, 02 Oct 2009 09:30:44 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/10/02/title-tk-part-1-2/
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I found a word whose yomi sounds like something a rooster might say:

心残り (kokoronokori: regret; reluctance)     heart + remainder

Sample Sentence with 心残り

It’s not quite “cock-a-doodle-doo,” but in some parts of the world roosters are quoted as saying “kookoorookoo,” which we almost have with kokoronokori. I love the string of o sounds in this fun kun-kun combination!

The breakdown is also a winner: regret remains in the heart long after an event has passed. (Of course, anger and sadness also have a great deal of staying power, but somehow regret has prevailed here.)

As heart + remainder = regret, it seems natural that the inverse, 残心, would also describe some emotional state. Not so! The inversion significantly changes both the meaning and the yomi:
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Counting One’s Lucky Stars http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/09/25/counting-ones-lucky-stars/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/09/25/counting-ones-lucky-stars/#comments Fri, 25 Sep 2009 09:30:01 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/09/25/counting-ones-lucky-stars/
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If your life is on the line, that’s a bad thing. But what if that line were the horizon? Then it wouldn’t be a negative idea at all:

生涯 (shōgai: one’s lifetime)     life + horizon

Your lifetime stretches out over the horizon of your life!

Sample Sentence with 生涯

It’s that time of the year when I move a smidge to the right on the horizon of my life. (I’m assuming one reads horizon life lines from left to right, but it’s hard to say for sure!)

Or Is All My Life a Circle? …

This means a few things:
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A Touch of Red: Part 3 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/09/18/a-touch-of-red-part-3/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/09/18/a-touch-of-red-part-3/#comments Fri, 18 Sep 2009 09:30:12 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/09/18/a-touch-of-red-part-3/
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Storks are normally white. And cranes tend to be grey, though blue is also a possibility. So what do you think a red stork or red crane would be?

紅鶴 (benizuru)     red + crane

To block the answer, I’ll share a picture of a hibiscus plant from my garden. I wanted to post this last week to illustrate the discussion of red flowers, but I didn’t get my act together in time.


Seeing these flowers makes me feel happy and fortunate, as if I’m somehow living in Hawaii!


Give up? We’re talking about flamingos!

紅鶴 (benizuru: flamingo)     red + crane

This word combines two kun-yomi, beni and tsuru, which has changed to zuru with voicing.

People usually refer to flamingos as フラミンゴ (furamingo). Now you’re linguistically equipped to buy an ornament for your lawn in Japan. (You might need to acquire a lawn, too.)
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Animals in Lipstick: Part 2 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/09/11/animals-in-lipstick-part-2/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/09/11/animals-in-lipstick-part-2/#comments Fri, 11 Sep 2009 09:30:25 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/09/11/animals-in-lipstick-part-2/
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Today we start with a zoology question—or zoology mixed with kanji! What do you get when you combine a fish with a sheep and then add makeup? OK, I realize this sounds like the asinine lipstick debate that dominated the 2008 U.S. elections for too long. In fact, it was so asinine that I can’t even remember why there was a controversy. Glad that’s been pushed out of my head. Now I have about two more brain cells that can accommodate kanji.

Let me restate the question about the dolled-up fish-sheep hybrid. What could the following mean?


As you may know, combines a fish () and a sheep (). Somehow, they join to mean “vivid.” We saw in the first question of the March contest.

On the Etymology of

Meanwhile, as we discussed last week, (KŌ, beni) means “crimson” or simply “red.” With the kun-yomi of beni, can also mean “rouge” or “lipstick,” both when standing alone and in compounds:
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Crimson Tide: Part 1 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/09/04/crimson-tide-part-1/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/09/04/crimson-tide-part-1/#comments Fri, 04 Sep 2009 09:30:16 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/09/04/crimson-tide-part-1/
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Today brings us the September installment of Alberto’s beautiful haiku calendar!


Explanation of the Haiku …

I’m curious about the last kanji in the haiku, , particularly in the following word. How would you interpret this?
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The Race Is On: Part 2 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/08/28/title-tk-part-2/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/08/28/title-tk-part-2/#comments Fri, 28 Aug 2009 09:30:27 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/08/28/title-tk-part-2/
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I’ve found the nearly perfect kanji sandwich! Check this out:

徒競走 (tokyōsō: running race)
     to go on foot + to compete + to run

What a thing of beauty! If you took the first kanji, , and removed (a radical that Henshall defines as “movement along a road” and that Spahn has as “to walk a short distance, stop, linger”), you would have a completely symmetrical compound! (Well, it would be symmetrical in the ABA or ABBA sense. Sticklers might argue that true symmetry requires the word to start with the mirror image of . But such people are not permitted to take a bite out of my kanji-sandwich joy.)

Tokyōsō is also one of those great Japanese words where a vowel repeats down the line. If you insert one more kanji into 徒競走, you keep the same sound effect while introducing even more fun:

徒歩競走 (toho kyōsō: running race)
     to go on foot + to walk + to compete + to run

Together, the first two kanji, 徒歩 (toho), mean “walking.” But whereas means “to walk,” can mean either “to walk” or “to run.” Hmm, there’s a big difference between walking and running! Strange to blur the distinction. Maybe this word gives runners a nice “out”; if they get tired and start walking, they can point to the in 徒歩競走 for confirmation that walking is very much part of a running race.


An Array of Races

But let’s get to the root of the matter:
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On Racehorses and Rivalry: Part 1 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/08/21/on-racehorses-and-rivalry-part-1/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/08/21/on-racehorses-and-rivalry-part-1/#comments Fri, 21 Aug 2009 09:30:15 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/08/21/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:
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Words to Make You Sick to Your Chest: Part 3 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/08/14/sick-to-ones-chest-part-3/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/08/14/sick-to-ones-chest-part-3/#comments Fri, 14 Aug 2009 09:30:51 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/08/14/sick-to-ones-chest-part-3/
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Today’s blog is going to go all over the place. If that makes you so dizzy that you become sick to your stomach, then you’ve come to the right place, because soon you’ll learn a few ways to talk about that!

Take a look at this sentence (unless you’re eating, in which case you might want to wait):

Chi o mite kare wa mune ga waruku natta.
The sight of blood turned his stomach.

(chi: blood)
(mi(ru): to see)
(kare: he)
胸が悪くなる (mune ga waruku naru: to feel sick, to be nauseated)     chest + bad, sick

胸が悪くなる Won’t Always Make You Sick …

There are a few things to notice here. One is the extremely cool repetition of the shape in and ! I love that makes a 90-degree turn here. We almost see this shape again in , though that’s a stretch. Anyway, it would be fun to see somersault down a sentence, rotating a full 360 degrees (though if you’re worried about nausea, you may want to put aside ideas of rotation).
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Chest Exercises: Part 2 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/08/07/chests-in-motion-part-2/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/08/07/chests-in-motion-part-2/#comments Fri, 07 Aug 2009 09:30:28 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/08/07/chests-in-motion-part-2/
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Not that many things happen to the chest. Our fingers get papercuts, our toes get stubbed, and I’m forever bruising my thighs. But unless one plays American football, rugby, or the like, our chests don’t get whacked around as our limbs do.

In Japanese, though, any number of things can happen to the chest. Take the issue of being hit:

胸を打つ (mune o utsu: to be emotionally moving)
     chest, heart + to strike

In Japanese, striking the chest can provoke tears, and not of physical pain. We’re a world away from the rough-and-tumble world of macho sports! In fact, we’re actually talking about the heart here.

As we saw last week, expressions about (KYŌ, mune, muna-: chest, breast, thorax, inmost heart, mind, feelings) can be strictly anatomical on the one hand or figurative and feeling-based on the other. Today’s crop of words is almost entirely figurative and feeling-based. From this batch of words, we find that the chest/heart can be involved in a wide range of things—so many, in fact, that one wonders what it can’t do. Try to figure that out in the following quiz. (Must be why they call it a “figurative” expression!)
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Treasured Chest: Part 1 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/07/31/a-chesty-quiz-part-1/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/07/31/a-chesty-quiz-part-1/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2009 09:30:14 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/07/31/a-chesty-quiz-part-1/
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If you saw the following word, what would you think it meant?

胸像 (kyōzō)

As you may know, means “chest,” and often means “image,” as in 心像 (shinzō: mental image, heart + image). The chest and heart are fairly interrelated concepts. So if heart + image means “mental image,” what could chest + image be? A chest x-ray? A man’s image of a woman’s chest? A poor self-image, based on a less-than-robust chest? (This brings to mind comedian John Oliver, who says he has a concave chest and isn’t fit for any sports, though he could always serve as a sail.)

No, it’s none of those things. Instead, here’s the deal:

胸像 (kyōzō: bust (statue))     chest + statue

Turns out, can also mean “statue.” And a statue of a chest is a bust!

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Prodded into Action: Part 3 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/07/24/prodded-into-action-part-3/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/07/24/prodded-into-action-part-3/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2009 09:30:55 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/07/24/prodded-into-action-part-3/
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You might think that, as an inanimate object, a rod would be incapable of doing much. But (BŌ: rod, pole, stick) pairs off with several actions, as in the following expressions:

棒読み (bōyomi)     rod + reading
棒を引く (bō o hiku)     rod + to pull
棒立ち (bōdachi)     rod + standing

Any ideas what these might mean? If I were guessing blindly, I might interpret 棒読み as a divining rod, an instrument to detect water or metal. Meanwhile, 棒を引く could refer to pulling a sword from a stone. As for 棒立ち, it could be a telephone pole. Wrong in every case! Let’s take ‘em one by one.
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Thievery Refined: Part 2 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/07/17/thievery-refined-part-2/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/07/17/thievery-refined-part-2/#comments Fri, 17 Jul 2009 09:30:58 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/07/17/thievery-refined-part-2/
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You know the expression “adding insult to injury”? The following term captures that feeling perfectly:

説教泥棒 (sekkyō dorobō: burglar who preaches at the victim about methods of preventing similar crimes)
     to preach + to instruct + thief (last 2 chars.)

First he breaks into your house, ties you up, and robs you. Then, as if that weren’t bad enough, he looks at you sternly and launches into a lecture: “You really need to be more careful about security, or else you’ll continue to be the victim of such crimes.” He has redeemed himself for his crime by teaching you a valuable lesson. Why, quite possibly you’re indebted to him!

We could consider him to be a refined burglar. And in today’s blog, we’ll see lots of ways in which thieves have refined their skills by creating thievery specialties. These niches could only exist in Japan, the land of highly specific words, exquisite attention to detail, and unthinkable levels of refinement.

If you’re to head down the road to refined robbery, you’ll need one basic word, which you saw in the latter half of 説教泥棒:

泥棒 (dorobō: thief; theft)     mud + tough guy

Notes on and

As you can see, 泥棒 refers either to the thief or to the theft.

泥棒 as “Thief” or “Theft” …


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The Utility of Poles: Part 1 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/07/10/beating-people-off-with-a-stick-part-1/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/07/10/beating-people-off-with-a-stick-part-1/#comments Fri, 10 Jul 2009 09:30:46 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/07/10/beating-people-off-with-a-stick-part-1/
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I have little interest in anything steely or mechanical, but this word caught my eye and leapt right into my heart:

心棒 (shinbō: shaft, axle)     heart + rod

An axle is a rod at the heart of a car! (Well, an axle may not be the heart in the way that Tokyo is the beating heart of Japan. I guess the car engine performs that function. But the axle is certainly at the center of things.)

If 心棒 is an axle, what happens when you precede this compound with (YŌ, mochiiru: use, service)? The word 用心棒 should refer to the function of an axle or perhaps to rotation itself, shouldn’t it? No, that would be far too logical. Instead, we have this:

用心棒 (yōjinbō: bodyguard)     service + heart + tough guy

If you’ve been reading this blog religiously, including the comments, then you’ve recently seen 用心棒. The last kanji is by far the least common. Here are its vitals:

(BŌ: pole, rod, stick)

The Etymology of

Although this character usually means “pole, rod, stick,” its meaning shifts to “tough guy” in 用心棒.

You may also have seen the following yojijukugo that punkf thoughtfully supplied in a comment:
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Rough Around the Edges: Part 2 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/07/03/rough-around-the-edges-part-2/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/07/03/rough-around-the-edges-part-2/#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2009 09:30:06 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/07/03/rough-around-the-edges-part-2/
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It’s officially summer! And on Alberto’s haiku calendar, the July page celebrates the arrival of summer!


Here’s the PDF where he explains the haiku a bit. Don’t be fooled (as I was) into thinking that 来ぬ means “has not arrived.” What we’re seeing is an old, literary, present perfect form of the verb. In other words, summer has come!

I’ve celebrated the arrival of summer with a trip to Spain, where I’ve been for nearly a week. Hope you’ve also rung in the season in a happy way. If not, there’s nothing like kanji to make you happy, so let’s get to it!

If you saw this compound and its breakdown, what would you think arasuji meant?

粗筋 (arasuji)     rough + plot

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How to Treat People Badly: Part 1 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/06/26/how-to-treat-people-badly-part-1/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/06/26/how-to-treat-people-badly-part-1/#comments Fri, 26 Jun 2009 09:30:27 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/06/26/how-to-treat-people-badly-part-1/
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If someone planned to serve you the following, how would you respond?

粗煮 (arani: dish consisting of bony fish parts boiled in soy sauce)
     coarse + to boil

Blech! Not one part of that sounds good to me. Bony fish parts and hot soy sauce do the opposite of whetting my appetite.

I would have guessed that you’d make this dish only if the fridge were barren, save for a few bottled sauces and a moldy onion growing new parts. But it’s entirely possible that 粗煮 is a delicacy! As it turns out, the answer isn’t so clear-cut; see the link for more on that.

Native Takes on the Situation …

From the following definitions of the first kanji, you can certainly see how this could be food of the last resort:


1. leftovers (after filleting a fish)
2. rice chaff (i.e., worthless husks of grains)
3. flaw (especially of a person)
4. a prefix meaning “rough; roughly”
5. crude; raw; natural; wild

You get all that just when the yomi is ara. And there are two more yomi. Here’s the full story on this kanji:
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Rough Handling: Part 3 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/06/19/rough-handling/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/06/19/rough-handling/#comments Fri, 19 Jun 2009 09:30:51 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/06/19/rough-handling/
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I wonder if you know how to say the following things in Japanese:

He’s free with his money.
She has a rough way of talking.
My boss is a slave driver.

No? How have you been getting by so far? Don’t you need the third sentence, in particular?

Two More Terms You Can’t Live Without …

Even though these English sentences seem to have nothing in common, their Japanese translations share some useful vocabulary. All three feature the kanji we’ve been examining for the past two weeks:

(KŌ, ara(i), ara-, a(reru), a(rasu), -a(rashi): rough, crude, natural, wild)

In fact, in every sentence, shows up in the following word:

荒い (arai: rough, rude, wild)

Furthermore, all the sentences contain a kanji that’s probably familiar to you:

使 (tsuka(u): to use)

But you may not know its suffix form:
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Aiding and Abetting: Part 2 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/06/12/blog-104/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/06/12/blog-104/#comments Fri, 12 Jun 2009 09:30:18 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/06/12/blog-104/
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If you saw the following, what would you think the word meant?

山荒 (yamaarashi)     mountain + rough

The kanji (KŌ, ara(i), ara-, a(reru), a(rasu), -a(rashi): rough, crude, natural, wild) contains the “grass” radical , so maybe this is a type of plant that grows on mountains.

Then again, the roughness could describe the mountain itself—perhaps the condition of an eroded slope. (By the way, “erosion” is a great word: 水食, suishoku: erosion, water + to eat. Erosion is what happens when water “eats” a slope!)

Mountain + rough could also refer to the unpolished manner of a country bumpkin living on an isolated mountain.

But no, 山荒 means “porcupine”! (Actually, according to Wikipedia, it’s a supernatural sort of porcupine!)

Do porcupines tend to live on mountains? If I knew nothing about kanji and looked at the spiky lines of and , I might indeed spot the pictograph of a porcupine. In fact, looks more like a porcupine than like a mountain!
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Wild and Wasted: Part 1 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/06/05/wastelands-and-wildernesses-part-1/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/06/05/wastelands-and-wildernesses-part-1/#comments Fri, 05 Jun 2009 09:30:27 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/06/05/wastelands-and-wildernesses-part-1/
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If I saw the following word out of context, I would puzzle over the breakdown:

大荒れ (ōare: great storm)     big + being wild

Sample Sentence with 大荒れ

I would wonder, exactly who or what is big and being wild? An untamed horse or a pro wrestler would come to mind. The breakdown even sounds illicit, like something in an ad for erotic services (not that I read those). But in this case, describes the weather.

From the following compounds and their breakdowns, you might conclude that (KŌ, ara(i), ara-, a(reru), a(rasu), -a(rashi): rough, crude, natural, wild) generally refers to a force that whips natural elements into a state of frenzy:

荒天 (kōten: stormy weather)     wild + skies
荒波 (aranami: wild waves or stormy seas)     rough + waves

You may know from 津波 (tsunami: harbor + wave).

荒れ狂う風 (arekuruu kaze: raging wind)
     being wild + crazy + wind

That’s sometimes true, but not always. In the haiku that Alberto Sanz has chosen for the June page of his haiku calendar, describes a woven mat.


Alberto has assembled a powerful, shocking, and moving explanation of a haiku that might seem placid and lacking in depth; I urge you to read his PDF.
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Strong Arm of the Lawless http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/05/29/how-to-get-your-way/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/05/29/how-to-get-your-way/#comments Fri, 29 May 2009 09:30:21 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/05/29/how-to-get-your-way/
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To “strong-arm” someone, we use threats or intimidation to coerce that person into doing what we want. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say “we.” I like inclusiveness, but I’m not sure “we” serves me too well here. (I also like to be a bit more discreet about my use of threats and intimidation.)

Turns out, the Japanese also “strong-arm” people to get their way. That is, the kanji for “threaten, coerce, intimidate” contains a strong arm, or several:

(KYŌ, odo(su), odo(kasu), obiya(kasu): to intimidate, threaten, coerce)

Although (RYOKU, chikara) now means “power,” it originally represented a bulging bicep. Henshall says that in means “strong arm” or “strength.” The tripling of is for emphasis, indicating great force or pressure. (Actually, Henshall didn’t say “tripling.” He said “trebling,” bringing to mind the very unthreatening treble clef.) Meanwhile, means “flesh.” So originally referred to putting great pressure on someone’s body. Now, the associated figurative meaning of “to threaten, coerce” has taken over entirely.

It may seem completely logical that this configuration of components would have a forceful meaning, but just think back to last week, when we saw that (waki) meant “side.” Same components, same radical, but a vastly different result.

Even when you pile three pumped-up arms on top of a flesh radical, you don’t necessarily get just one result. In fact, has three types of meanings:

1. to intimidate, threaten, menace
2. to jeopardize, endanger, imperil
3. to startle, surprise

I have lots of sample sentences to share, in hopes of illuminating these meanings. So where shall we start—by intimidating, endangering, or startling others? I’ll take back what I said about being discreet! I’m suddenly enjoying this sadistic power trip!
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Sidelong Glance: Part 5 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/05/22/sidelong-glance-part-5/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/05/22/sidelong-glance-part-5/#comments Fri, 22 May 2009 09:30:49 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/05/22/sidelong-glance-part-5/
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Let’s say you encountered this sentence:


You likely know 新聞 as shinbun (newspaper, new + hearsay), so you could read the whole sentence, except perhaps for one troublesome character smack-dab in the center. Trying to work around it, you would have this:

Shinbun wa anata no ___ ni arimasu.

The newspaper is in your … driveway? Birdcage? Thoughts?

Looking at the components of might help. The “flesh” radical, , almost always tells us that we’re talking about the body. So the newspaper is somewhere in your body?!

When Does the Component Not Mean “Flesh”? …

As for , that means “power.” In fact, it was originally a pictograph of a bulging bicep. So we have a body with three biceps!
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Deep Breathing: Part 4 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/05/15/deep-breathing-part-4/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/05/15/deep-breathing-part-4/#comments Fri, 15 May 2009 09:30:59 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/05/15/deep-breathing-part-4/
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If you asked me to refer in Japanese to four species of Antarctic penguins, I might try to squeeze ペンギン (pengin: penguin), 4種類 (yon shurui: four kinds), and いる (iru: to exist) into a sentence. In the penguin sign I’ve mentioned (yes, we’re still talking about it!), ペンギン and 4種類 certainly appear. But instead of いる, we find this:

生息する (seisoku suru: to inhabit, live)     life + to live

Here’s the relevant text again:

Nankyoku ni seisoku suru yon shurui no pengin
four Antarctic penguin species
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]]> http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/05/15/deep-breathing-part-4/feed/ Comparatively Speaking: Part 3 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/05/08/comparatively-speaking/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/05/08/comparatively-speaking/#comments Fri, 08 May 2009 09:30:10 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/05/08/comparatively-speaking/
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Two weeks ago, I introduced the following sentence:

Pengin to seikurabe! Nankyoku ni seisoku suru 4 shurui no pengin
no waki ni tachi, anata no shinchō to hikaku shite mite kudasai.

Stand beside the four Antarctic penguin species and see how tall they are compared to you!

Breakdown of the Kanji

At first glance, it might seem as if this text is about penguins, and of course they play a vital role. But the more I look at it, the more I see that it’s full of body parts!

See how many components or whole kanji you can spot that relate in some way to bodies or their functions. I’ll post the original sign again to block your view of the answers, which come immediately afterward.
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Slipping Downhill and Scaling Summits: Part 2 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/05/01/crises-of-confidence-part-2/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/05/01/crises-of-confidence-part-2/#comments Fri, 01 May 2009 09:30:10 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/05/01/crises-of-confidence-part-2/
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It’s May 1. So what does that mean for us? Well, it’s a holiday in many parts of the world, but not for me, so that definitely wasn’t on my mind. Wrong answer!

May 1 is also my husband’s birthday. Happy birthday! This year, after my birthday rolls around, we’ll both have prime numbers as our ages. I don’t think that’s ever happened before. I also think it’s highly insignificant in the big scheme of things (e.g., the study of Japanese), so forget that answer, too.

The “proper” answer is that it’s time for the May page of Alberto Sanz’s beautiful haiku calendar:




The haiku again:
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Going to Extremes: Part 1 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/04/24/going-to-extremes-part-1/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/04/24/going-to-extremes-part-1/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2009 09:30:57 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/04/24/going-to-extremes-part-1/
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First off, there’s some housekeeping to attend to; I promised that today I would provide answers to the most recent contest and make the winners famous. The top three contestants did a great job. They also happened to be the only contestants! Congratulations to the following people:

Devon Bartlett
Naveh Mazenko
Alberto Sanz (again!)

You’ll find answers and explanations at the link.

Famous Sayings: Answers and Explanations …

These three people deserve credit not only for terrific research but also for feeling motivated enough to do extra work for no material gains. That is, they acted in the following way:

積極的 (sekkyokuteki: assertive, positive, active, willing)
     to accumulate + to go to extremes + adjectival suffix

And being motivated is the opposite of this:

消極的 (shōkyokuteki: negative, half-hearted, passive,
unmotivated)     negative + to go to extremes + adjectival suffix

I’m so impressed that I feel like doing this:
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Tinged with Melancholy: Part 2 http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/04/17/hometowns-part-2/ http://www.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/04/17/hometowns-part-2/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2009 09:30:05 +0000 Eve Kushner Kanji Curiosity http://blogs.japanesepod101.com/blog/2009/04/17/hometowns-part-2/ Quick Links
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As a multicultural citizen of the world, you’ve probably left your hometown behind. You may miss it occasionally, but what do you miss?

The way the hills and valleys came together, a river running through it? The scent of honeysuckle in summers, and the crickets that never stopped chirping? The brilliant autumn displays, and the heavy snows in winter?

Do you miss the kind of people from that area? Your family in particular? The food you can’t find anywhere else? Your house and the room that was yours and yours alone? The familiarity of everything in that house—the layout, the way the place smelled, the possessions that acquired so much meaning along the way?

Or … maybe it wasn’t so great. Maybe you even hated it, feeling choked by the narrowness of options and of mindsets. Perhaps you were bored out of your mind, traveling the same roads again and again. If so, why do you miss it? If you return for visits, does that satisfy the yearning? Or does the trip home confuse you, making you wonder why you were pining for such a hellhole?!
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