This is the second post on kanji that originated from “tree.” The kanji we are going to look at are 未妹味昧・制製・果課裸菓.
In the last post, we looked at 末, which had a long horizontal stroke at the top that came from just a marking bulge called hiten pointing out the top of a tree. In contrast the kanji we are going to look at here first is 未, which had a short stroke at the top, but it actually came from a real line rather than just a symbol.
- The kanji 未 “not yet; still”
In the oracle bone style writings of 未 (a), in brown, there was an upward-facing U-shape line placed on a tree. It signified that the tree was growing with rigor and the limbs were even outgrowing the trunk. It originally meant “a tree growing strong.” In the second oracle bone sample (b), bronze ware style, (c) in green, and ten style, (d) in red, the top limbs were in a more well-formed shape. The original meaning “a tree growing strong” was borrowed, or came, to mean something that had not been completed. The writing 未 meant “not yet; still.”
The kun-yomi 未だ /mada/ means “not yet; still.” Another kun-yomi 未だに /imada-ni/ means “not yet; still.” The on-yomi /mi/ is in 未来 (“future” /mi’rai/), 未明 (“early morning; dawn” /mimee/), 未然に防ぐ (“to prevent beforehand” /mizen-ni huse’gu/).
- The kanji 妹 “younger sister”
A long-time reader of this blog may recall reading such a story given in 1 above before in the kanji 妹 in the context of a bushu onnahen “woman; female.” [Kanji Radical おんなへん-女好妹要妻安 on November 23, 2914.] A female member of a family who was still growing meant “younger sister.” The history is shown on the right in a green box. For sample words, please refer to the previous post.
- The kanji 味 “taste”
For the kanji 味, in ten style the left side 口 was a mouth and the right side 未 was used phonetically for /mi/ to mean “not yet; still.” Tasting something in the mouth is the process of trying to figure out what it is. It meant “taste.”
The kun-yomi /aji/ means “taste,” and is in 味見する “to taste for a try,” 塩味 (“salty taste” /shio’aji/), 後味の悪い (“leaving a bad aftertaste; feeling an unpleasant effect” /atoaji-no-waru’i/). The on-yomi /mi/ is in 味覚 (“taste bud” /mikaku/) and 賞味期限 (“best before” date; food expiration date” /shoomiki’gen/). It is also used for other than food, such as 味方する (“to take someone’s side” /mikata-suru/), 興味ある (“interesting” /kyoomia’ru/) and 趣味 (“hobby; pastime” /shu’mi/).
- The kanji 昧 “self-absorption in something”
The two kanji 味 and 昧 are easy to be confused in isolation. The kanji 昧 has a bushu hihen “sun” instead of a bushu kuchihen “mouth.” For the kanji 昧, (a) and (b) in bronze ware style, the top was 未 “not yet,” and the bottom was “the sun.” The time before the sun rose was dark, and from that it meant “not clear.” When one is self-absorbed in something, he cannot see other things. In ten style (c), 日 and 未 were placed side by side. The kanji 昧 means “self-absorption; indulge.”
There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ma’i/ is in 曖昧な (“ambiguous; vague” /aimai-na/). 三昧 /za’nmai/ means “being self-absorbed in doing somethingor indulgence,” and is always used with other words such as 読書三昧 (“indulgence in reading books” /dokushoz’nmai/) and 釣り三昧 (“self-indulgence in fishing” /tsuriza’nmai/).
Overgrown limbs (the origin of 未) have to be trimmed back neatly. That is what happened to the next two kanji, 制 and 製.
- The kanji 制 “to control; regulate”
In ten style for 制 the left side was exactly the same as that of 未, whose original meaning was “a tree growing strong.” The right side was “knife.” Together “trimming overgrowing limbs at the top with a knife or a pair of shears” meant “to put in order; control; regulate.” In kanji an extra short stroke was added to emphasize pruning. (In the last post in 朱 and 株, we saw a similar device of adding an extra short stroke on top left of a tree.) The right side became a bushu rittoo “vertical knife,” which is a bushu shape when 刀 “knife; sword” was placed on the right side of kanji. The kanji 制 means “to put in order; control; regulate.”
- The kanji 製
For the kanji 製, in ten style the top was pruning a tree with a pair of shears, which became the kanji 制 “to regulate.” A well-maintained tree signified something well-made. The bottom was “clothes” from “collar.” Together they signified “to make clothes.” The meaning extended to mean manufacturing a well-made product with precision. The kanji 製 means “to manufacture products of even quality; product; made in.”
The next four kanji 果課裸菓 share the same shape 果.
- The kanji 果 “fruit; end; to perish”
In bronze ware style, it was a tree with berries or fruits on top.The oddly elongated wtiting (b) may be due to a particular stylistic effect. It meant “nut; fruit; berry.” It also meant something that came to fruition, thus, “results.” In ten style (c) the dots were lost. In Japan this writing also meant “to perish; end.” Could it be because fruits and berries perish very quickly? The kanji means “fruit; result; outcome; to perish; end; carry out.”
The kun-yomi /kuda/ is in 果物 (“fruit” /kuda’mono/). Another kun-yomi 果て /hate/ means “end; result,” and in the verb 果てる (“to perish; die; be exhausted ” /hate’ru/). The on-yomi /ka/ is in 果実 (“fruit; fruition” /ka’jitsu/) and 結果 (“result” /kekka/).
- The kanji 課 “to impose; section; study subject”
For the kanji 課, in ten style the left side 言 was a bushu gonben “word; language.” The right side 果 was used phonetically for /ka/ to mean “to use; try.” Together they originally signified administering an employment exam. An applicant studied the materials and the examiner gave the test. An official examined the fee or levy, so it also extended to mean “charge.” The kanji 課 means “section of study; lesson; to charge; impose.”
There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ka/ is in 課する (“to levy; impose; assess” /kasu’ru/), 課目 (“subject of study” /kamoku/), 第三課 (“lesson 3” /da’i sa’nka/), 課題 (“assignment; question; problem” /kadai/), 課税 (“taxation”/kazee/) and 課長 (“section manager” /kachoo/).
- The kanji 裸 “bare; naked”
For the kanji 裸, in the ten style writing 果 was phonetically used for /ka/, which was placed inside 衣 “clothes.” In the development of kanji, the shape of a component stayed in tact, not splitting up to allow other shape in between. There are some exceptions. 衣belonged to those exceptions, showing the back and front of a collar separately in some kanji. (The kanji 裏 “back; wrong side” is another example.) The role of 果 is not very clear in 裸 but some scholars think that smooth skin of a fruit and a body could be the connection. A body without clothes meant “bare; naked.”
The kun-yomi /hadaka/ means “naked; bare.” The on-yomi /ra/ is in 裸体 (“bare body” /ratai/), 全裸 (“completely naked” /zenra/) and 赤裸々な (“unvarnished; frank” /sekirara-na/).
- The kanji 菓 “sweets”
There is no ancient writing sample for the kanji 菓. Fruit was eaten as something sweet. The original writing for fruit, 果, came to have a wider meaning as discussed in 10, and a new kanji was created to mean “sweets” by adding a bushu kusakanmuri “plant; grass.” In Japan it originally meant “fruit processed with sugar,” and came to mean sweets that were made with bean or rice powder and sugar. The kanji 菓 means “sweets.”
There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ka/ is in お菓子 (“snack; sweets” /oka’shi/). /-Ga/ is in 和菓子 (“Japanese-style sweets” /waga’shi/) and 洋菓子 (“western-style sweets” /yooga’shi/) and 生菓子 (“Japanese unbaked sweets” /namaga’shi/).
There are more kanji that contain a shape that originated from a tree. We will look at those before we start looking at kanji with a bushu kihen “tree; wooden” in the next post. [July 17, 2016]