Tokyo Damage Report

KANJI KONTRADICTION KORNER part ONE

PART 4 — How did that happen???

Lots of kanji are frustratingly similar to each other. I don’t find the confusion so bad. The bad part is, the part that really bothers me, is the question of HOW DID THAT HAPPEN??

Take, for example, .弾 . The kanji verb for “play-the-guitar.” Also the noun for bullet.

Explain that.

it is as if eveyrone in America (where we speak English) got together and had a little meeting one day, and someone said, “Hey guys, I got a great idea ? what if ‘strum’ now also means ‘doorstop’?” “Oh, yeah. Then we can just stop saying doorstop finally? Because I was really sick of it. Kudos! Let’s do this thing.”

Another example. .使 (tsukau) means to use, like use a tool. Add just one stroke and it becomes .便 (ben) which means poop. Again, not really that annoying unless you ask yourself, HOW DID THAT HAPPEN? Some ancient Chinese motherfucker was writing a tool-book while drunk?

“Oh, shit, man, I did an extra stroke on this motherfucker.”

“no problem, dude, we needed a way to spell ‘poop’ anyway. Let’s just use that one.”

“We are fucking stone cold geniuses. Excuse me, EH ? EXCUSE ME, EVERYONE IN CHINA ? WE GOT A WAY TO SPELL POOP. IS THAT OK WITH YOU GUYS?”

(china): “Works for us.”

“Ok, then. Excuse me while I take a huge tool-with-extra-line.”

 

 

another example–   .誤る means to make a mistake, and is pronounced “ayamaru”.  .謝る means to apologize, and is also conviniently pronounced “ayamaru.”

Which could lead to the following amusingly Abbot-And-Costelloish scenario;

A-san: (pointing to spilled coffee) Hey dingbat, you just ayamaru-ed!

.B-san: Yeah, I guess so. What do you want me to do about it?

 

A-san : I want you to ayamaru!

.B-san (spills more coffee)

 

(repeat)

 

Or this guy, : .反. If you draw it with the upper left corner lines overlapping by like a milimeter, it is .友 (tomo) which means friend. But if the lines do NOT overlap it turns into .反 (han) which means against. Isn’t that a bit like putting the delete button right next to the save button?? Who designed this damn interface?


PART 5 — GROWING KANJI

OK, so kanji can be totally confusing. Some of these characters take over 20 strokes each!

.鑑 for instance. What the hell is that about? But, say the jerkfaces, many difficult-seeming kanji are just the ones you already know, but with one additional radical. They say. You should study from the simplest kanji to the most complicated, adding one part at a time, and then it will make sense.

Well, then, let’s get our hopes up and give it a try.

.斤 (kin) means a unit of weight, about 600 grams. But if you add one line, .丘 it turns into a hill (saka) . A 600 gram hill?? Better yet, give the hill some “animal legs” and . . . poof! The hill turns into .兵 (hei); a soldier. Just like in real life! Kanji is starting to make sense to me. Get the soldier wet with water, and presto!  .浜 he turns into a beach!! (hama) . . . and that is just the kanji which I have learned so far — I’m pretty sure if I knew more kanji I could turn him into a platypus, the Chrysler Building, or a ziggurat with a cherry on top!

What fun! Let’s do another one, shall we?

.又 means on the other hand, or furthermore.

Add the kanji for ten .十 and it becomes “furthermore times ten?”

well no." ten furthermores" is . . . a twig!!  .支.

Add another radical , and twig becomes, you geussed it, leather: .皮.

Next, add the water radical. When the leather gets wet, it becomes nami .波, which means Poland. I am not kidding about this.

If you add “woman” to poland, you get .婆、 which means old hag.

And if you add “stupa or tower” to old hag, of course the result is .塔婆 (touba)–

a wooden tablet left at a grave.

So you see, it all makes perfect sense.

Also, in your face, Polish bitches!!


PART 6 — FUN WITH RADICALS!!!

Kanji are composed of smaller kanjis called radicals. The craven apologists will insist that the radicals help you figure out the meaning of the kanji, thus making it “logical” and “humanly possible to learn.” For instance, 。wash is. 洗う and shower is .浴びる。Both shower and wash have a common radical, which is water. Of course, the radical for water looks nothing like the kanji for water, which is  .水, but whatever. Words with similar meanings have common radicals. So far so good.

But, what do the following things have in common: spoons, darkness, measurement, days-of-the-week? Um. . . . no seriously, try to think of what they have in common. What? You can’t set any of them on fire??? They can all be used to eat soup with, or measure things, except darkness and days?

I’ll give you a clue. Here is the kanji as they are written:

.匙saji, .暗いkurai, .量るhakaru, .曜日youbi.

Answer: they all have the same radical. 日, meaning “sun.” Spoon, sure, ok, I can understand. . . . But day?of- the-week?

Or how about these guys: alone person, narrow, Germany, cat, and furthermore. What do they have in common?

If you said, “Dogs,” you would be right.

.独りhitori , .狭いsemai, .独 germany , .猫 neko and .猶nao. They all have the dog radical on the left side.

. . . and why does alone mean germany?

.

 

Or, laugh, etcetra, answer, and, ohhhhh let’s see. . .um. . .. . .clarinet.

.笑う warau, .笛  nado, .答 kotae,. 等fue(clarinet).

The common thing here is bamboo! This makes it really easy to remember, because when was the last time you saw anyone answering a qeustion sans bamboo?

Even better, the literal meaning of etcetra is bamboo temple. That reminds me of the famous ‘70s shampoo commercial, where the tag line was, “I told a friend, and she told two friends, and SHE told two friends, bamboo temple, bamboo temple, bamboo temple!”


Ok, one more because this is just so fucking absurd I can not keep it to myself.

Ask your Japanese friends, “What does a rainbow and strong have in common? Or, what do affiliate and maple tree share? OK, still stuck? I’ll give you an easy one. barbarian, dissolve, wind, and touch. Here is a hint — ALL 8 SHARE THE SAME SINGLE THING.”

.虹、強い、属、 楓 、 蛮、

 

. 融ける  風、 触る。

Your Japanese-speaking friend might cry, but they will probably not guess 虫. But that is the common, logical thread that ties together all those words. Oh, it means “insects.”

how the hell does that connection work?!?!?

“The strong barbarians dissolve a maple inside a windy rainbow which is affiliated with the loving touch of bugs.”

I mean, you could smoke a crack rock the size of ODB, sculpted in his likeness, and still not come up with anything remotely as absurd as that.

How the fuck, people? How the fuckkity fuck fuck McFuck?

At this point it becomes more logical to ask, “What fucking words is that radical NOT in??”

“Hey, we still don’t have a kanji for clouds. Why don’t we use the insect one again?”

“That would be silly, is why. Sit down, dumbass. You and your crazy ideas.”

.“Fuck, there’s another rainbow. Quick, guys, how are we gonna spell it?”

 

“um . . .use the insect radical?”

.“Brilliant! NOW you are talking some sense, buddy.”

 

Oh, also, the other half of rainbow means factory. “Mom, come quick, look at the beautiful insect factory! Let’s find the end of it and look for a pot of mushroom cannibal pre-teen zebra.” “Yeah, that reminds me kid, I gotta get my DIO cd and listen to INSECT FACTORY IN THE DARK.”


PART 7 — KANJI WHERE THE MEANING OF THE INDIVIDUAL RADICALS HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THE MEANING OF THE WORD

OK, this is good. Looking at the radicals that make up kanji. Comedy gold here. The hits just don’t stop coming.

.洋 (you) means ocean. This is basically the radical for water, plus .羊 (hitsuji) which means sheep. So ocean means literally “wet sheep.” Because wet cows would be just too weird. “Pack your scuba gear kids, we are off to the wet sheep!”

.足 ashi means feet, but .跪 hizamazuku (kneel) = foot plus danger.

Or even better, ankle (kurubushi) is literally .踝 foot fruit!!

Like shooting fish in a fucking barrel. I could do this all day.

And, what does the phrase FAMOUS SHELLFISH mean to you? If you are Japanese, it means bribery. .賄う  (makanau) bribe. Famous is the right radical, and shellfish is on the left..

Speaking of shellfish, if i was to say to you, that i am AGAINST SHELLFISH, would you think i am stomping on limpets and writing letters to the editor decrying the repressive regieme of the conch?

Well, you would be wrong, my friend. The kanji whose literal meaning is against shellfish — .販 (han) — actually means marketing, sell, trade.

To say nothing of the way kanji treats women:

.奸 (kan) woman+dry out. It means wickedness, mischief, rudeness .

.家内、(kanai) my wife. Literally means inside-the-house-person.

.強姦   goukan. Literally, strong plus women. Means feminism, right? Well, actually it means rape.

And, unlike rainbow and ocean, THIS stuff IS on purpose.


part 8 — homophones (not to be confused with Republicans and Catholics) (although just as annoying)

homophones: words which sound alike but have different meanings.

Like most languages, Japanese has words which emphasize the good and bad connotations of something. For instance, english has Porn,(i.e. what YOU read) and on the other hand we have erotica (i.e. what I read). We have firm (meaning well-built, steadfast, reliable) versus hard-headed (meaning stubborn, unopen to reason, and blunt).

Japanese, has the analogous. 堅, meaning firm, and. 固い meaning obstinate.

.勤めるmeans do a job. While. 務める means do one’s duty.

.直す means fix, while .治す means cure.

I tend to think connotations are a dubious prospect in ANY language, but in japanese they are particularly fucked up.

Because, all the pairs I listed above, they give the kanji the same pronunciation!!

BOTH good-firm and bad-firm are KATAI. both FIX and CURE are pronounced NAOSU.

It’s written differently but you say it the same way?!!??

What is the principle at work here ? that we can hear the shape of the word as it is being pronounced?? the chinese have earned a reputation for inventing everything 1000 years early ? noodles, gunpowder, wheels. I guess we can now add LSD to that list.

.Oh maaaan, li peng! This is some good shit. Duuuuude.

 

Oh my god, Xiu, I am feeling sounds. And smelling lights.

Man,? this is so freaking cosmic. I totally saw the kanji you were speaking right now.

Dude DUUUDE ME TOO OH MY FREAKING GOD IT IS SO BEAUTIFUL. LET’S BASE OUR WHOLE LANGUAGE AROUND THIS MOMENTOUS DISCOVERY.

.Hey, not so loud. When you shout it turns the words all purple and spikey.

 

WHAT?? WHY ARE YOU FIVE LAMPREYS ALL OF A SUDDEN??

.Oh god THE PURPLE SPIKEY WORDS, they are crawling all over my skin GET EM OFF ME GETEMOFFGETEMOFF AIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

 

 

(Are you loving how this site is turning into Dave Barry Damage Report as much as I am?)

 

Anyway, according to the awesome pinyin.info site, ….Japanese has over three times as many homophones as chinese! Because chinese has hella tones, and Japanese doesn’t. so the japanese wind up with less than a quarter of the phonemes of chinese, and the same amount of words to pronounce. One can picture the guys who first brought kanji over to japan . . . “Shit, Saori, this fucking chinese all sounds the same.” “yeah, ching-chong, wing-wong. What the hell? let’s just pronounce every other word kou and be done with it.”

Dude, that is some shit right there. You have to really work hard to make your language more difficult than Chinese.

 

more resources for dealing with homophones

http://www.cjk.org/cjk/reference/japhom.htm

http://www.kanjiclinic.com/kc24final.htm

 


part 9 – compounds

Like english words, such as fireman or notebook, kanjis can also be linked together to make more complex words, which are called compound kanjis.

Take sun for example;. 日 . not only is it easy to draw, this is also a useful kanji because it is part of no less than 82 compounds, most of which are used in everyday language. But the problem is, the OTHER HALFS of those compounds are kanjis which are totally useless except for the one compound that 日 is in.

Invariably these latter kanjis are a- utterly useless solo and b- incredibly hard to draw.

Typically their their original meaning is something overspecific , remorselessly abstract, or totally outdated, such as, “the act of ploughing your rice paddy 3 weeks early so the shoots get a certain type of seasonal parasite” or “the act of soaking the corner of a futon in lye so as to discomfort an elder.”

In english when words become totally outdated or useless, we just stop saying them. . . like SUCKERS

. In contrast, the more efficient japanese, they take these words and RECYCLE THEM, pairing them up with more common words, so that foreigners still have to waste 1000 hours learning them. For example, “the act of ploughing your rice paddy 3 weeks early so the shoots get a certain type of seasonal parasite” is the left-hand-side of “cat” , and “the act of soaking the corner of a futon in lye so as to discomfort an elder” is in the right-hand-side of “dog”

. . . . . . . And these bastards account for nearly half of the kanji!!

p.s. also, MUD is literally "wet nun".

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