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Boundaries and the Spaces They Define: Part 2

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Hey, it’s 08/08/08. Whether you come from a country where they put the year first, the month first, or the day first, it’s 08/08/08. (That is, unless you’re reading this in Japan, in which case it’s probably at least the 9th.)

How perfect that is for today’s discussion about boundaries! The shapes of both 0 and 8 enclose spaces, so these digits constitute boundaries of a sort. (A stupid joke comes to mind. What did the 0 say to the 8? The answer: “Hey, nice belt.” OK, you didn’t hear that from me.)

Last week, we looked at (KYŌ, KEI, sakai), which can mean “boundary.” In the words we saw, tended to refer to skinny lines dividing two entities. For instance, we ran across these garden-variety words for “boundary”:

境界 (kyōkai: boundary, border)     boundary + boundary

The second kanji appears in 世界 (sekai: world, world + world). An embellished version of 境界 is 境界線 (kyōkaisen: boundary line), where means line.

境目 (sakaime: border, boundary line)     boundary + dividing line

Sometimes a boundary doesn’t bisect a space but rather encloses it. Think of a fence around a corral. Think of a ring around a rosy. (What’s a rosy? Oh, dear, I’ve found one theory, and it’s not good. But the explanatory text unexpectedly contains Japanese!) Such a boundary is probably much less important than the space it defines. That’s the sense with this word:

境内 (keidai: compound, grounds)     boundary + inside

Spahn says this refers to the grounds of a temple or shrine.

“Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn. They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But, man, there’s no boundary line to art.”
  —Charlie Parker (1920–1955), U.S. jazz musician

Strangely, the next word goes both ways. It can mean either “boundary” and “grounds,” but I doubt it refers to both at the same time:

境域 (kyōiki: boundary, border, precincts, grounds)
     boundary + region

Where Have I Seen ? …

And in yet another type of situation, boundary lines have heft and dimensionality. That is, the boundary isn’t a skinny fence enclosing a pasture but something containing a world of its own—something more like the Great Wall of China or the curvy white band in this beautiful image:


Imaginary Boundary
Photo Credit: Umberto Berzano

In kanji terms, this sort of boundary ceases to be (kuchi: mouth) and instead becomes . (A discussion about this emerged in the comments a year ago.)

In fact, I mentioned briefly last week that, according to Breen, can mean “region,” as well. Maybe that happens when a boundary becomes hefty enough. A few words reflect as this type of entity:

国境地帯 (kunizakai-chitai: border zone)
     country + border + ground + zone

We’ve seen that 国境 (kunizakai or kokkyō) means “national or state border.” The last two kanji, 地帯, collectively mean “area, zone.” Incidentally, is obi, the sash around a kimono! Think of a DMZ not as a hostile place with barbed wire and machine guns but rather as a region featuring pretty pieces of fabric.

生死の境 (seishi no sakai: between life and death)
     life + death + boundary

As someone hovers on the border between life and death, the line may not be thin and insubstantial at all. Rather, if one’s vital signs zigzag across a monitor, if one goes in and out of consciousness, and if one lingers in that state for a long time, the border between life and death becomes quite a wide space.

The space inside a boundary may consist of time. That is the boundary might demarcate an intermission between events:

端境期 (hazakaiki: lean period between harvests)
     end + region + period

You may have seen the first kanji, , in 道端 (michibata: roadside, road + edge), 端に (totan ni: just as, in the act of, way + edge), or 片っ端から (katappashikara: absolutely every little bit, everything from A to Z, one-sided + edge), a word mentioned in one JPod podcast.

We saw last week that in addition to its original meaning of “boundary,” can mean “situation, condition.” I have zero information about how evolved from one meaning to the other, but in some ways, a boundary and a situation go together naturally. We can see a situation as an experience between two points in time. Time is the boundary, and the situation is the filling. That appears to be the case with this word:

老境 (rōkyō: old age)     old + situation

Between ages 65 and death, one finds oneself in the situation of old age—a situation created by time. But on the bright side, 老境 also means “calm state of mind typical of an aged person.”

“Part of the strangeness of being human is our need of boundaries, parameters, definitions, explanations, and our need for them to be overturned.”
  —Jeannette Winterson, on her novel Written on the Body

We’ve reached what appears to be the end of today’s blog—or at least one of its boundary lines. That must mean it’s time for your Verbal Logic Quiz. Enjoy!

Verbal Logic Quiz…