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Misfits at the Same Table

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You know that wedding reception table where the bride and groom seat misfits who don’t belong at any other table? Well, that oddball table is ours today! We’ll feast on a smorgasbord of random, cool things pertaining to .

Speaking of seating, we encountered two seat-related compounds in the last blog:

中座 (chūza: leaving before an event (e.g., a meeting) is over)
     in the middle + gathering

座中 (zachū: in the room, gathering, theatrical troupe)
     gathering + in the middle

My definition of as “gathering” may have seemed strange to you; (ZA, suwa(ru)) more commonly means “seat” or “to sit.” Actually, the kanji (SEKI) also means “seat.” And as it happens, both characters combine with in compounds. If 中座 and 座中 refer to leaving or staying in rooms, what could 中席 mean? You’ll find out if you take a quick quiz!

For Verbal Logic Quiz 1 …


Can You Be More Specific?

The compound 中席 is one of several words with crazy specificity:

車中談 (shachūdan: informal talk given aboard a train (as by a politician))     car + inside + to discuss

中農 (chūnō: middle-class farmer)     middle + farm

中腰 (chūgoshi: half-sitting, half-standing posture)     middle + loins

This reminds me of the “fierce pose” or “chair pose” in yoga.

暑中見舞い (shochū-mimai: routine inquiry about (someone’s) health in the hot season)     hot + during + inquiry (last 2 chars.,
                                           which break down as to see + to dance)


Cool-Looking Compounds

Given that means “middle,” it’s more than satisfying to see it assume the middle position in this compound:


Better yet, this word (nanchū (no) nan: the hardest of all, difficult + center + difficult) is a palindrome, though if you wrote it out as 難中の難, the neat symmetry would disappear. Here’s another palindrome with at its core:


This word (gekichūgeki: drama + in + drama) means “play within a play” or “drama about making a drama.” Truffaut’s Day for Night qualifies as a 劇中劇.

More on

And here’s another stunner:


This word (chūkō-onbu: mezzo-soprano, middle + high + sound + section) contains a dazzling repetition of shapes: three forms in a row, smack in the middle, then the illusion of three shapes side by side, each with a box of sorts underneath. And these repeating features sit squarely between two bookends, which are entirely different, so as to add visual interest. Perfect!


Neutrality Isn’t Just for Switzerland

As you may know, can mean “Japan,” as in 和食 (washoku: Japanese-style food, Japan + food) and 和服 (wafuku: Japanese clothes, Japan + clothes). One might therefore interpret 中和 (chūwa) as “China-Japan.” But as we saw last week, 中日 (chūnichi) is the way to write “China-Japan.” Turns out, both and have scads of meanings. In 中和, means “mix,” while means “neutral,” as an extension of “middle.” So 中和 means “neutralization” or even “counteracting of (poison).” That is, neutralizes a toxic mix. And now, here’s a quick quiz about neutrality.

For Verbal Logic Quiz 2 …


State of Mind

At last we’ve arrived at one of my favorite topics: state of mind. Yet another meaning of is “to be absorbed in” or “to be immersed in.” Accordingly, the following words describe intense, deeply internal, all-encompassing experiences:

熱中 (netchū: enthusiasm, zeal, nuts!)
     passion + to be absorbed in

暗中 (anchū: in the dark, in secret)
     dark + to be absorbed in, inside

集中 (shūchū: concentration)
     to collect + to be absorbed in

夢中 (muchū: rapture, absorption, intentness; in a trance)
     dream + to be absorbed in

霧中 (muchū: in the fog)
     fog + to be absorbed in

This last word can refer to a literal fog but much more often serves a figurative purpose, meaning “lost,” “bewildered,” and “not knowing what to do.” Rarely does 霧中 appear alone; people often use it in the expression 五里霧中 (gori-muchū: five + Japanese mile + fog + to be absorbed in). This compound means “in the fog for five miles in all four directions,” which is to say, “really, truly, completely lost”!

For One More Word
with a Cool Internal Rhyme …

And now we come to another great compound with , one that hones in on this sense of mental immersion:

意中 (ichū: one’s mind or thoughts)
     mind + to be absorbed in, inside

This compound often appears in the following expression:

意中の人 (ichū no hito: one’s beloved, the one in one’s thoughts)
     mind + to be absorbed in + ‘s + person

Isn’t that beautiful? The one you love is the person in your thoughts. Your mind is in a state of absorption. But you can’t apply this word to everyone you love—not even to your spouse. To find out more, click the link below.

For More on 意中の人

And what if the subject of your thoughts isn’t a person but rather kanji?! For that, I proclaim the following to be a new word:

漢中 (kanchū: to be absorbed in kanji)

But wait—since indirectly means “China,” it seems that my coinage could mean China + China. Well, then, perhaps the two muchū compounds can do the trick, collectively describing what it is to love kanji while feeling eternally lost.