In this post we are going to look at the kanji 酒配酎酵酷酌酬醜酔醒酢酸 that contains 酉 “a rice wine cask.”
The common component 酉 here is not a Joyo kanji. In all of the ancient writings shown on the right – (a) in oracle bone style, in brown, (b) and (c) in bronze ware style, in green, and (d) seal style, in red, – was “a rice wine cask” or “a cask to keep fermented liquid in.” So all the kanji that we are going to look at pertain to “fermentation” at one stage of the history.
The writing 酉 is used in the 12 Chinese zodiac signs, but, as with the rest of the 12 zodiac signs, the kanji was chosen arbitrarily and had no relation to its meaning. By itself it is pronounced /tori/, and is in 酉年 (“the year of chicken” /toridoshi/). Just a reminder — The kanji for “west” 西 has one stroke fewer, and is not related to this kanji.
The kanji 酒 “alcohol beverage; rice wine; sake”
In oracle bone style (a), “a rice wine cask” was on the left and “water; liquid” on the right. In bronze ware style (b), (c) and (d) “a rice wine cask” was standing alone but the small dots in (c) were pointing out its contents rather than the cask as a container. Together they meant “rice wine.” In (e) in seal style “water; liquid” was separately added to a wine cask, possibly signifying that it was the liquid from which sake lees had been removed. The kanji 酒 means “rice wine; fermented drink; alcohol beverage.” <The composition of the kanji 酒: 氵and 酉>
The kun-yomi /sake/ means “Japanese rice wine; sake; alcohol beverage,” and is in 酒粕 (“sake lees” /sakekasu/), which is used for cooking as well. /-Zake/ is in 寝酒 (“nightcap” /nezake/), 甘酒 (“sweet sake lee drink” /amaza’ke/) and 居酒屋 (“pub; bar; tavern” /izakaya/). /Saka-/ is in 酒屋 (“liquor store; alcohol beverage shop” /sakaya/), 酒盛り (”drinking party; drinking bout” /sakamori/). The on-yomi /shu/ is in 日本酒 (“Japanese rice wine” /nihonshu/) and 葡萄酒 (“(grape) wine” /budo’oshu/).
The kanji 配 “to distribute; hand out; arrange”
(a) in oracle bone style, (b) and (c) in bronze ware style and (d) in seal style all comprised “a wine cask” on the left and “a squatting person looking at the cask.” He was waiting for rice wine to be handed out to him. It means “to hand out; deal.” In (d) in seal style and kanji 配, the person took the shape 己 “a squatting person; a person.” The kanji 配 means “to distribute; to hand out; to arrange.” <The composition of the kanji 配: 酉 and 己>
The kun-yomi 配る /kuba’ru/ means “to deliver; deal.” The on-yomi /hai/ is in 配達 (“delivery of goods/food” /haitatsu/), 配分する (“to allocate; distribute” /haibun-suru/), 手配する (“to arrange; provide for” /te’hai-suru/), 配当金 (“divined” /haitookin/). /-Pai/ is in 心配 (“worry” /shinpai/). /-Bai/ is in 軍配 (“an umpire’s fan” in a sumo match /gunbai/).
The kanji 酎 “distilled liquor; flavorful three-time filtered liquor”
The seal style writing comprised 酉 “a rice wine cask,” and 寸 “a hand,” which was used phonetically for /chuu/. Together they meant “flavorful wine that was filtered three times.” The kanji 酎 means “flavorful rice wine.” <The composition of the kanji 酎: 酉 and 寸>
There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /chuu/ is in 焼酎 (“white liquor; Japanese distilled liquor made of potato” /shoochu’u/).
The kanji 酵 “yeast; fermentation”
There is no ancient writing. The kanji 酵 had 酉 “a rice wine cask” on the left. The right side 孝 “filial duty” (with 耂, a bushu “old person”) was used phonetically for /koo/, perhaps suggesting a long time to ferment. Together they meant “yeast” that made fermented wine or “fermentation.” The kanji 酵 means “fermentation; yeast.” <The composition of the kanji 酵: 酉 and 孝 >
There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /koo/ is in 発酵する (“to ferment” /hakkoo-suru/), 酵母 (“yeast” /ko’obo/) and 酵素 (“enzyme” /ko’oso/).
The kanji 酷 “cruel”
The seal style writing comprised 酉 “a rice wine cask,” and 告, which was used phonetically for /koku/. Together they meant “intense taste of alcohol.” From that the kanji 酷 means “intense; cruel; harsh.” <The composition of the kanji 酷: 酉 and 告>
The kun-yomi 酷い /mugo’i/ means “cruel.” The on-yomi /koku/ is in 残酷な (“cruel; extremely harsh” /zankoku-na/), 酷暑 (“severe heat of summer” /ko’kusho/) and 酷使する (“to drive someone work hard; strain oneself” /ko’kushi-suru/).
The kanji 酌 “to serve wine; scoop out sake”
The seal style writing comprised 酉 “a rice wine cask,” and 勺 “a ladle scooping up,” which was used phonetically for /shaku/. Together they meant “a ladle scooping up wine.” The kanji 酌 means “to serve wine; scoop out sake.” <The composition of the kanji 酌: 酉 and 勺>
There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /shaku/ is in お酌する (“to fill someone else’s sake cup” /oshaku-suru/), 晩酌 (“evening dinner-time drink” /banshaku/), 媒酌人 (“matchmaker” at a wedding /baishakunin/) and 酌量 (“consideration” /shakuryoo/).
The kanji 酬 “reply; reward; fee”
In seal style (a) and (b) had 酉 “a rice wine cask” on the left. The right side of (a), 寿 (the kyuji 壽) “long life; auspicious,” was used phonetically for /shuu/. Together they originally meant “to offer a drink of wine to a guest.” Later it meant “to reply; reward.” In (b) 壽 was replaced by the phonetically same 州 /shuu/. The kanji 酬 is also used for “fee.” <The composition of the kanji 酬: 酉 and 州>
The kun-yomi 酬いる /mukui’ru; mukuiru/ means “to reward.” The on-yomi /shuu/ is in 応酬する (“to make a sharp retort; reply” /ooshuu-suru/) and 報酬 (“reward; fee” /hooshuu/).
The kanji 醜 “ugly”
The seal style writing comprised 酉 “a rice wine cask,” which was used phonetically for /shuu/. The right side was 鬼 “spirit of a deceased; ghost,” which had a frightfully ugly face and ム “a floating spirit.” Together they meant “ugly; mean-spirited; shameful.” <The composition of the kanji 醜: 酉 and 鬼>
The kun-yomi /miniku’i/ means “ugly; shameful.” The on-yomi /shuu/ is in 醜聞 (“scandal; malicious gossip” /shuubun/) and 醜悪な (“unsightly” /shuuaku-na/).
The kanji 酔 “to become drunk; be intoxicated”
The seal style writing comprised 酉 “a rice wine cask,” and 卒 “to end,” which was used phonetically for /sui/. Together they meant “to drink rice wine to finish off” – thus “to be drunk.” The kyuji 醉, in blue, reflected seal style, but in shinji 酔 the right side 卒 was replaced by 卆. The kanji 酔 means “to become drunk; get inebriated on sake; be intoxicated.” <The composition of the kanji 酔: 酉 and 卆>
The kun-yomi 酔う /yo’u/ means “to become drunk; become intoxicated,” and is in 船酔い (“seasickness” /hunayoi/), and 酔っ払い (“a drunken man; drunk” /yopparai/). The on-yomi /sui/ is in 心酔する (“to adore; be fascinated by” /shinsui-suru/), 酔狂な (“eccentric; whimsical” /su’ikyoo-na/), 麻酔 (“anesthesia” /masui/) and 陶酔する (“to be intoxicated; be fascinated” /toosui-suru/).
The kanji 醒 “to awaken; have clear awareness”
The seal style writing comprised 酉 “a rice wine cask,” and 星, which was used phonetically for /see/. Together they meant “to sober up from being drunk,” that is “to awaken; have clear awareness.” The kanji 醒 means “to awaken; have clear awareness.” <The composition of the kanji 醒: 酉and 星>
The kun-yomi 醒める /same’ru/ means “to become awake.” The on-yomi /see/ is in 覚醒剤 (“psychostimulant; stimulant drug” /kakuse’ezai/). It is a strange use of this kanji.
The kanji 酢 “vinegar”
The two bronze ware style writings had “a cask of fermented liquid” (酉), and 乍, which was used phonetically for /saku/ to mean “something past,” which is related to the kanji 昨. Rice wine that went bad is vinegar. The kanji 酢 means “vinegar.” <The composition of the kanji 醒: 酉 and 星>
The kun-yomi 酢 /su/ means “vinegar,” 酢豚 (“sweet and sour pork” /su’buta/) and is in 酢の物 (“a vinegared dish” /suno’mono/). The on-yomi /saku/ is in 酢酸 (“acetic acid” /sakusan/).
The kanji 酸 “sour; acid”
The seal style writing comprised 酉 “a wine cask,” and 夋, which was used phonetically for /san/ to mean “sour.” When wine goes bad it becomes sour. The kanji means “acidic; sour.” <The composition of the kanji 酸: 酉 and 夋>
The kun-yomi 酸っぱい /suppa/i/ means “sour” and is in 甘酸っぱい (/amazuppa’i/ “sweet and sour”). The on-yomi /san/ is in 酸素 (“oxygen” /sa’nso/), 酸性 (“acidity” /sansee/), 塩酸 (“hydrochloric acid” /ensan/), 酸化する(“to oxidize” /sanka-suru/), 炭酸飲料水 (“carbonated drink” /tansan-inryo’osui/) and 乳酸菌 (“lactic acid bacteria” /nyuusankin/).
Among the kanji we did not look at in this post include 醤油 (“soy sauce” /shooyu’/), which is a seasoning liquid that was made of soy beans with yeast (酵母), and the kyuji 醫 for 医, which had 酉 at the bottom as sake to cleanse an arrow wound. We have also looked at 醸 “fermentation” in an earlier post.
When we look at any of the kanji 酒配酎酵酷酌酬醜酔醒酢酸 in isolation, it may appear to have a complex shape. Once we understand the meaning of the common component 酉, however, it reduces our task to just focusing on the other component, which is likely a component we have studied already in other kanji. So, it becomes a matter of comparing simpler shapes and adding “fermentation” to it. That is the advantage of learning kanji by common components, or bushu in a larger sense. — Sorry for my pitch. I know that our regular readers need no such reminder. The old habit of a classroom teacher stating the obvious is hard to lose. Thank you very much for your reading. -Noriko [September 9, 2017]