Hands and Legs – Ninnyoo 儿 (3) 説税脱

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History説RightSideIn this post, we are going to look at three kanji 説税 and 脱, which have a common shape on the right side; it consists of a kanji 兄 and an upside down shape of a katakana ハ, or a short katakana ソon the top. In ten style, in red in this blog, the top was two lines that curved back away from each other, and in kyujitai, in blue, it became  a ハ or a kanji 八.  (For kyujitai, only a Mincho style was available to me.)  The two strokes signified an act in which one divided something into two groups — what the matter is and what it is not. Together with the shape 兄, an elder brother or a person divides something.

History分The development of the kanji 分 “to divide” shown on the right side gives us a good example of two short lines.  In all the three ancient styles, oracle bone style (brown), bronze ware style (green) and ten style (red), a knife or sword was cutting something into two parts and meant “to divide.”  The shape 八 has been kept through to the kanji.  (Incidentally, that explains why the first two strokes of the kanji 分 have a gap whereas in kanji such as 会 “to meet” there is no gap.)

1. The kanji 説 “to explain; preach”

History説In ten style, the left side of the kanji 説 was a bushu gonben, “language; word; to say.” The right side was the dividing shape. Together they meant an older brother explained a matter using words by showing what the matter was about and what it was not.  It means “to explain; talk.”

The kun-reading /to/ is in 説く (“to explain; preach” /to’ku/) and 口説く (”to persuade; seduce” /kudo’ku/).  The on-reading /se’tsu/ is in 説明 (“explanation” /setsumee/), 解説 (“commentary” /kaisetsu/) and 説教する (“to preach” /sek’kyoo-suru/).  There is another on-reading /ze’e/ in the word such as 遊説 (“canvassing” /yuuzee/).

2. The kanji 税 “tax”

History税The left side of the ten style 税 was a bushu nogihen, “rice plant; harvest.” The bending top was rice that drooped in its own weight.  The name nogihen came from a grass family such as rice, wheat, etc., which was called /nogi/ “awn.”  The New American Oxford dictionary describes “awn” as “a stiff bristle, esp. one of those growing from the ear or flower of barley, rye, and many grasses.”  To Japanese school children, it looks like a katakana /no/ and 木, thus no-gi-hen.  Together with the right side, the kanji 税 meant that a part of crop was divided and taken away from an elder brother, which was a “levy or tax.”

It does not have a kun-reading. Does this mean there was no tax in Japanese history?  No, it does not mean that.  Tax was paid in the form of labor or payment in kind using local products (cloth, silk, charcoal, etc.) and rice crop yield. These had different names depending on the periods.

The on-reading /ze’e/ is in 税金 (“tax” /zeekin/), ガソリン税 (“gasoline tax” /gasori’nzee/), 消費税 (“consumption tax” /shoohi’zee/) and 納税者 (“tax payer” /nooze’esha/).  The consumption tax, which was introduced in 1989 at 3%, was raised to 5% in 1997, then to 8% in April, 2014, in Japan.  It is to be raised to 10% in October, 2015!

3. The kanji 脱 “to take off; slip off; free oneself from”

History脱The left side of the ten style 脱 was a bushu nikuduki “flesh,” which meant a part of a body.  If the shape 月being “flesh” is hard to imagine, just think of the kanji 肉 (“flesh; meat” /niku’/): They had the same origin. Together they meant one’s flesh leaving the body.  It meant “to rid; take off; leave; free oneself from.”  Looking at the components, we can also interpret that something that was inside the body is leaving.

The kun-reading is in 脱ぐ (“to take off clothes” /nu’gu/) and 脱げる (“(cloths) slip off” /nuge’ru/). The on-reading /da’tsu/ is in 脱する (“to escape from; free oneself from” /dassuru/), 脱力感 (“feeling lethargic” /datsuryoku’kan/), 脱出する (”to escape” /dasshutsu-suru), and 脱税 (“tax evasion” /datsuzee/).

All the three kanji here are classified as 形声文字 semantic-phonetic composites.  The right side provided the sound. The kanji 説 and 税 shared the on-reading /zee/ in Japanese and the right side also had the sound /datsu/.  It was the left side bushu that carried the primary meaning but, as we have just seen, the shape on the right side also contributed greatly to its meaning.

In the next post, we will conclude our discussion on bushu ninnyoo (儿) with three more kanji 売読続, which in fact did not contain a ninnyoo even in its kyujitai.   [September 9, 2014]

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