One Foot at a Time (5) 足促捉・路踊距跳躍


In an earlier post we saw that a bushu shinnyo (shinnyu) came from a combination of a crossroad and a footprint.  There are other shapes that came from a combination with a footprint, one of which is 足 /ashi’/. Ashi has two different bottom shapes from the footprint 止, depending on its position in the kanji: (1) 足, as shown with a blue background, if it is by itself or on the right side, such as 足促捉; and (2), as shown in a green background, if it is on the left side as a bushu ashi-hen, such as 路踊距跳躍. The term /he’n/ means a bushu that comes on the left side.ashi&ashihen

(1) The Kanji 足 “leg”

History足2The kanji 足, in oracle bone style, bronze ware style and ten style, had a square and a (forward facing) footprint. Our readers may recall that this shape is the same as the oracle bone style of the kanji 正. For 正, the square shape represented a town wall (together with a footprint, they meant conquering a town.)  Here the top was a kneecap. 足 was a part of the body from the knee to the foot, and meant “leg.” It also meant “to suffice” and “to add,” and its use goes back to ancient times. I have not been able to find how “leg; foot” and “to suffice; add” are connected in any reference.

The kanji 足 has two kun-readings; /ashi’/ leg; foot” and /ta(riru)/ “to suffice; adequate.” The on-reading is /so’ku/.  In addition to words describing the body parts such as 手足 (”hands and legs” /te’ashi/), 足首 (“ankle” /ashiku’bi/), and 足跡 (“footprint; footmark” /ashia’to/), the kanji 足 makes up a number of useful expressions: 足手まといになる  (“to become a drag or burden” /ashidema’toi ni naru), 一足毎に(“at every step” /hitoashigo’to ni), 足が出る (“to overrun the budget” /ashi’ga desu/), 人の足元を見る (“to take mean advantage of” /hito no ashimoto’ o mi’ru/), 土足で上がる (“to go inside a house without taking shoes off” /dosoku de agaru/).  For the meaning “to suffice,” 足りない (“not enough” /tarinai/),  満足する (“to be satisfied” /ma’nzoku-suru/), 不足する (”not enough” /fusoku-suru/). For the meaning “to add,”;  〜を足す(“to add~” /~o tasu/) and 足し算 (“addition” /tashi’zan/.)

(2) The Kanji 促 “to urge; prompt”

History促Adding a bushu ninben “person” to 足 makes up the meaning of prompting or urging someone (from behind) to do something. The kanji 促 means “to urge; prompt; inspire.” The kun-reading is 促す (“to prompt” /unaga’su/). The on-reading /so’ku/ is in 催促する (“to press; urge” /sa’isoku-suru/ ), and 促進する (“to promote” /sokushin-suru/.)

(3) The Kanji 捉 “to grab; catch”

History捉Adding a bushu tehen “an act one does using a hand” to 足 makes up another kanji 捉. From “someone from behind trying to catch up by hand” it meant “to grab; catch.”  Its kun-reading /torae’ru/ is used in an expression such as 意味を正しく捉える  (“to understand the meaning correctly” (/i’mi o tadashi’ku torae’ru/.) The on-reading is /soku/ but it is not used very commonly.

In the second group (a bushu ashihen in green background), the footprint looks more like that of the kanji 止, except that the last stroke goes up.

(4) The Kanji 路 “road”

History路For the kanji 路, in bronze ware style, the right side 各consisted of a backward/downward foot and a rock, and was used phonetically to mean a road. In ten style the shape showed an elongated shape that was typical of ten style.   Interestingly the kanji shape returned to bronze ware style, except that the last stroke of the footprint went up.  The kun-reading is /michi./ The on-reading /ro/ is used in 道路 (“road” /do’oro/) and 路面  (“road surface” /romen/).

(5) The Kanji 踊 “to dance”

History踊In ten style, the right side meant water welling up, or something going through from bottom to top. It was used phonetically for /yoo/. With a bushu ashihen added, the kanji 踊 meant “to dance.” The kun-reading is 踊る/odoru/.  In last post we just saw the kanji 舞, a graceful dance that involves a shuffling feet movement in traditional dance form. The kanji 踊 is a more energetic dance. The two kanji 舞 and 踊 make up a word 舞踊 (“dance” /buyout/) in general.

(6) The Kanji 距 “distance”

History距For the kanji 距, in bronze ware style the footprint extended toward the bottom right.  In ten style the right side was a large carpenter’s tool. It was used phonetically to mean jumping a long distance. From that the kanji 距 means “distance.”  There is no kun-reading. The on-reading /kyo/ is in 距離 (“distance” /kyo’ri/).

(7) The Kanji 跳 “to jump around; hop”

History跳In ten style, the right side 兆 was a cracked tortoise shell used for divination.  The underside of the tortoise shell was heated, and the lines that appeared were read. Once the heat was applied lines ran quickly on the surface. It was used phonetically. With ashihen added, they meant to “jump around; hop.” By itself the right side 兆 means “sign; omen; trillion.” The kun-reading is 跳ぶ (“to jump” /tobu/)  and the on-reading is /cho’o./

(8) The Kanji躍 “to leap”

History躍In ten style, the top was two wings and the bottom was a bird.  It signified a bird about to take off, and was used phonetically for /ya’ku/. We know this component very well in the kanji 曜 “day of the week.” With a bushu ashihen added, the kanji 躍 meant “ to leap.”  There is no kun-reading. The on-reading /yaku/ is in 活躍する (“to play an important role” /katsuyaku-suru/), 飛躍する (“to take a large step; jump (logic)/ hi yaku-suru/), and together with the kanji 跳 in (7), 跳躍 (“jump; leap” /chooyaku-suru/).

Going through the developments of 足 and ashihen, we have noticed that:  (1) When used on the left side it takes a shape closer to the kanji 止, and when used on the right the last stroke is extended; and (2) in the first group, 足 was used phonetically for the sound /so’ku/, and in the second group a bushu ashihen provided the meaning.

In the next post, I would like to look at the kanji 走 and the kanji that has a bushu /soonyoo/. [August 3, 2014]

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