The Kanji 酌釣的約是堤提題卓悼卑碑 Food (9)


A couple of months have passed since our last post on kanji that originated from an item related to food. (Thank you very much for your patience.) There is one more post I would like to add –“a ladle” or “a spoon” in a smaller size. A ladle is a long-handled utensil to scoop up food or liquid in a shallow cup on one end. I find it rather peculiar to think that such a domestic utensil created different shapes that survived in many kanji. But here they are, in the shapes of 勺是卓 and 卑.

History of Kanji 勺We begin our exploration with 勺 “ladle; dipper.” The shape 勺 in seal style shown on the right was a ladle with its cup filled with food or liquid – the short line in the middle was what was scooped up. It meant “a ladle” or “to scoop up or out.” As the shape came to be used phonetically in various kanji, a bushu 木 “wooden” was added to keep the original meaning – 杓. The kanji 杓 is a non-Joyo kanji, and is used in the word 柄杓 (“dipper; ladle” /hishaku/). A hishaku was indispensable to scoop up water in kitchen and at a water fountain, but it has become less used in the age of tap water. The kanji that contains 勺 we discuss here are 酌釣的約.

  1. The kanji 酌 “to serve wine; scoop out sake”

History of Kanji 酌We looked at the kanji 酌 quite recently in connection with the bushu 酉 “fermented liquid container.” In bronze ware style, in green, and seal style, in red, it comprised 酉 “a wine cask; fermented liquid container,” and 勺 “a ladle to scoop up,” which was also used phonetically for /shaku/. Together they meant “a ladle scooping up wine.” The kanji 酌 means “to serve wine; scoop up sake.”

The kun-yomi 酌む /kumu/ means “to pour,” and is in 酒を酌む “to have a drink (together)” /sake-o-kumu/) and 事情を酌む (to consider circumstances” /jijoo-o-kumu/). The on-yomi /shaku/ is in お酌する (“to pour sake; fill someone’s cup with sake” /o-shaku-suru/).

  1. The kanji 釣 “to fish; lure”

History of Kanji 釣The seal style writing had 金 “metal,” and the right side 勺 “a ladle” was used phonetically for /choo/. Together they meant “a fishing hook” to catch a fish and lift up. It is also used to mean “to lure.” The kanji 釣 means “to fish; lure.” <The composition of the kanji 釣: 金 and 勺>

The kun-yomi 釣り /tsuri/ means “angling; fishing“ and is in 釣り銭 (“change” /tsurisen/) and 釣り合い (“equilibrium; compatibility” /tsuriai/). The verb 釣る/tsuru/ also means “to allure; entice.” For the on-yomi /choo/, I cannot think of any useful word. The only time when I heard it in the on-yomi was in my college time, a very long time ago I must add, when a classmate of mine said that she was a member of 釣魚会 /choogyokai/ “anglers’ club.”

  1. The kanji 的 “accurate; target; having a characteristic of”

History of Kanji 的The seal style writing had 日 “the sun,” and 勺 was used phonetically for /teki/ to mean “bright.” Together they meant “bright.” Something bright stands out and becomes a precise target. The kanji 的 means “accurate; target; pertinent.” Adding 的 to a noun as an affix makes an adjective “having a characteristic of.” <The composition of the kanji 的: 白 and 勺>

The kun-yomi 的 /mato/ means “target.” The on-yomi /teki/ is in 日本的 (“having a characteristic of Japanese culture” /nihonteki-na/, 的確な (“accurate” /tekikaku-na/)  and 的中する (“to hit the mark” /tekichuu-suru/).

  1. The kanji 約 “to promise; cut back; summarize; about”

History of Kanji 約For the kanji 約 in seal style 糸 “a skein of threads” signified “to tie” and 勺 was used phonetically for /yaku/. Together tying something with a thread meant “to bind; promise.” Bundling things into one also gave the meaning “to summarize” and “about.” The kanji 約 means “to promise; cut back; summarize; about.” <The composition of the kanji 約: 糸 and 勺>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /yaku/ is in 約束する (“to promise” /yakusoku-suru/), 公約 (“campaign pledge” /kooyaku/), 約百メートル (“approximately 100 meter” /ya’ku hyakume’etoru/), 節約 (“economy; saving; thrift” /setsuyaku/) and 要約 (“summary; abstract” /yooyaku/).

The next shape for a ladle is 是. This shape too came to be used in other kanji phonetically. So a new kanji was created for its original meaning “ladle” by adding another “spoon” ヒ. The kanji 匙 (“spoon” /sa’ji/) is non-Joyo kanji, even though the word saji is a daily word, as in 小匙 (“teaspoon“ /kosaji/) and 大匙 (“tablespoon” /oosaji/). The expression 匙を投げる /sa’ji-o-nageru/ means “to give up in despair; throw in the towel.” The shape 是 is used phonetically in kanji 堤提題.

  1. The kanji 是 “this; right”

History of Kanji 是I must admit that the old writing (a), (b) and (c) in bronze was style does not appeal to me as a spoon, but many scholars agree that it was a spoon. So, I try. The top was a cup part of a dipper and the bottom was a decorative handle. It was borrowed to mean “this,” pointing the correct thing, thus “right.” The kanji 是 means “this; right.” <The composition of the kanji 是: 日 and the bottom of 定>

The kun-yomi /kore/ “this” is not a Joyo kanji reading. The on-yomi /ze/ is in 是非 in two different accents and meanings– When pronounced as an unaccented word /zehi/), it means “right and wrong,” as in 是非を問う (“to question the propriety” /zehi-o-to’u/), whereas an accented word /ze’hi/ means “by some means or other.” It is also in 是非もなく (“unavoidable; inevitable” /zehimona’ku/) and 社是 (“motto of a company; guiding precepts of a company” /sha’ze/).

  1. The kanji 提 “to carry; put forward something (by hand)”

History of Kanji 提The seal style writing comprised “hand,” which became , a bushu tehen “an act that one does using a hand,” and 是, used phonetically for /tee/. Together they meant “to carry in hand; put forward something (by hand).” <The composition of the kanji 提: 扌 and 是>

The kun-yomi /sage‘ru/ means “to carry in hand” and 手提げ (“handbag” /tesage’/). The on-yomi /tee/ is in 提出物 (“work to be submitted” /teeshutsu’butsu/) and 問題提起 する (“to institute; start; raise” /mondaite’eki-suru/).

  1. The kanji 堤 “bank; dike”

History of Kanji 堤The seal style writing comprised 土 “soil; ground,” and 是, which was used phonetically for /tee/ to mean “to stagnate.” Together they meant “a pile of dirt that stayed; dike; bank.” The kanji 堤 means “bank; dike.”  <The composition of the kanji 堤: 土 and 是>

The kun-yomi 堤 /tsutsumi’/ means “bank,” and is in 川堤 (“riverbank; riverside” /kawazu’tsumi/). The on-yomi /tee/ is in 堤防 (“bank; dike; levee” /teeboo/) and 防波堤 (“breakwater; seawall” /boohatee/).

  1. The kanji 題 “title; topic; theme; question”

History of Kanji 題The left side of the seal style writing (是) was used phonetically for /dai/ to mean “to put forward.” The right side (頁) originally meant “the head of an official with a formal hat.” One would put “title or topic” at the very beginning at the top, thus it also meant “topic; title; question.” The kanji 題 means “title; topic; theme; question.” <The composition of the kanji 題: 是 and 頁>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /da’i/ is in 題 and 題名 (“title; name” /da’i/ and /daimee/) and 課題 (“subject; topic” /kadai/).

Two more 卓 and 卑 are below.

  1. The kanji 卓 “table; to stand out; table”

History of Kanji 卓The origin of the kanji 卓 is obscure. But some scholars explain that the top of the writing in bronze ware style and Old style, in purple, and seal style was ヒ “a spoon” and that below that was “a large spoon.” A large spoon stood out and meant “to stand out.” Another view takes the top to be “a person” and 早 “early; to lead,” together signifying a person leading “to stand out.” It is also used to mean “a table.” The kanji 卓 means “to stand out; table.”  <The composition of the kanji 卓: ト and 早>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /taku/ is in 食卓 (“dining table” /shokutaku/), 卓上扇風機 (“table-top fan” /takujoo-senpu’uki/) and 卓越する (“to excel in; surpass” /takuetsu-suru/).

  1. The kanji 悼 “to grieve; mourn”

History of Kanji 悼The seal style writing comprised 忄 “heart” and 卓, which was used phonetically for /too/. The kanji 悼 means “to grieve; mourn.” <The composition of the kanji 悼: 忄 and 卓>

The kun-yomi 悼む /ita’mu/ means “to grieve; mourn.” The on-yomi /too/ is in 哀悼 (“grief; mourning” /aitoo/) and 追悼演説 (“memorial address; funeral oration” /tsuitooe’nzetsu/).

  1. The kanji 卑 “lowly; humble; crude; abject”

History of Kanji 卑The top of the writing in bronze ware style and seal style was “a spoon with a handle,” and the bottom was “a left hand.” One view is that a left hand holding a spoon somehow meant “someone who did lowly work.” The kanji 卑 means “lowly; humble; crude; abject.” If you compare the kyuji, in blue, and the shinji closely, there is a difference – In the kyuji the vertical line in the center goes through bending toward left, reflecting the handle of a spoon bending in seal style. In kanji it became separated as a short stroke.

The kun-yomi 卑しい /iyashi’i/ means “crude; vulgar; low.” The on-yomi /hi/ is in 卑屈な (“servile; lack of moral courage” /hikkutsu-na/), 卑下する (“to deprecate oneself; have a low opinion on” /hi’ga-suru/), 卑近な例 (“familiar example” /hikin-na-re’e/) and 卑怯な (“coward; mean” /hi’kyoo-na/).

  1. The kanji 碑 “stone monument; stone stele”

History of Kanji 碑The seal style comprised 石 “rock; stone,” and 卑, used phonetically for /hi/ to mean “upright.” Together they meant “a stone that stood straight up.” The kanji 碑 means “stone monument; stone stele.” <The composition of the kanji 碑: 石 and 卑>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /hi/ is in 石碑 (“stone monument; stela” /sekihi/) and 碑銘 (“monument inscription” /himee/).

We have had nine posts on kanji that originated from food preparation. It included food on a raised bowl with a lid (食), a steamer (曽), a pot on a kitchen stove (甚), a three-legged clay grain storage (鬲), a fermented liquid container (酉), various scales to measure grain (量料升良), a bowl or vessel (皿), and a ladle and a spoon (勺是卓卑). For the next area of kanji origin I am thinking about tools and containers. Thank you very much for your reading.  — Noriko  [December 3, 2017]

The Kanji 糸糾約絵紀継絶絹紡—itohen “thread”


With this post we are going to start kanji that is related to thread, binding, weaving, cloth, etc., in connection with 糸 “thread.” We will see that when 糸 is used as a component, it is rarely used for phonetic value but it adds the meaning that pertains to characteristics of thread, such as continuity and binding. The kanji this week are 糸糾約絵紀継絶絹紡.

  1. The kanji 糸 “thread”

History of Kanji 糸For the kanji 糸, (a) in oracle bone style, in brown, and (b) and (c), in bronze ware style, in green, had two or three silkworm cocoons strung together with filaments coming out at two ends. An alternative view is that it was a skein of raw silk threads.  It meant “thread.” The two round shapes in (d) in seal style, in red, became the shape that had two 糸side by side in (e) in kyuji, in blue. In shinji (f) it became a single skein of threads. The kanji 糸 meant “thread.”

The kun-yomi 糸 /i’to/ means “thread,” and is in 糸口 (“the end of a thread; clue” /ito’guchi), ミシン糸 (“sewing machine thread” /mishin-i’to/), 毛糸 (“yarn” /keeto/) and 生糸 (“raw silk” /ki’ito/). The on-yomi /shi/ is in the expression 一糸乱れず (“in perfect order” /i’sshi-midare’zu/).

  1. The kanji 糾 “to entwine; investigate; scrutinize”

History of Kanji 糾The seal style writing of the kanji 糾 had “thread” on the left. The right side was two ropes that were twisted or entwined, and was used phonetically for /kyuu/. Threads that were twisted or entwined also signified to lump things together or to make things right. The kanji 糾 meant “to twist something; entwine; investigate; scrutinize.”  When糸 is used as a bushu on the left side it is called a bushu itohen.

The kun-yomi 糾す /tadasu/ means “inspect; scrutinize.” The on-yomi /kyuu/ is in 紛糾 (“to become entangled; be thrown into confusion” /hunkyuu-suru/), 糾明する (“to examine closely” /kyuumee-suru/) and 糾弾する (“to denounce” /kyuudan-suru/).

  1. The kanji 約 “promise; abridge”

History of Kanji 約The seal style writing of the kanji 約 is comprised of 糸 “thread” and 勺 “ladle scooping up something,” which was used phonetically for /shaku; yaku/. Together binding with threads what was raised meant “to promise.” Binding things in a bundle also gave the meaning to shorten or cut back. The kanji 約meant “to promise; shorten; cut back.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /yaku/ is in 約束 (“promise” /yakusoku/), 予約 (“reservation” /yoyaku/), 条約 (“treaty” /jooyaku/), 要約 (“summary” /yooyaku/) and 節約する (“to cut down; curtail” /setsuyaku-suru).

  1. The kanji 絵 “painting; picture”

History of Kanji 絵The seal style writing of the kanji絵 had 糸 “thread” and 會 “steamer with a lid.” A lid meets the steamer tightly, thus meant “to meet,” and it was also used phonetically for /kai/. Both sides together pulling threads of various color together originally signified brocade or embroidered cloth. Later it came to be used to mean “painting.” The kyuji 繪, which reflected seal style, was simplified to 絵, just as the kanji會 was replaced by 会 in shinji. The kanji 絵 meant “painting; picture.”

The kun-yomi 絵 /e/ means “picture; painting,” and is in 浮世絵 (“ukiyoe print” /ukiyo‘e/) and 絵文字 (“emoticon; emoji” /emoji/), a new word that seems to have been accepted in electronics communication nowadays.  The on-yomi /kai/ is in 絵画 (“painting; picture” /ka’iga/).

  1. The kanji 紀 “beginning; to chronicle”

History of Kanji 紀己, the bronze ware style writing for the kanji 紀, was phonetically /ki/, and has been given various interpretations — a tool used for spinning threads; a crooked end of a thread or rope; a motion in which a person in a crouched position was about to get up, etc. In seal style 糸 “thread” was added on the left to clarify the meaning. Gathering threads into one signified a beginning of a long-lasting event – thus, “to begin.” Making a chronicle of events was like gathering different lines of events into one – thus, “to chronicle.” The kanji 紀 meant “to begin; chronicle.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ki/ is in 紀元 (“starting point of years” /ki’gen/), 紀元前 (“before Christ; before common era” /kige’nzen/), 世紀 (“century” /se’eki/) and 風紀 (“public moral” /hu’uki/).

  1. The kanji 継 “to succeed; inherit: continue”

History of Kanji 継For the kanji 継, the bronze ware style writing had a pair of skeins of threads on two separate levels with a line in-between. That line signified that the threads were cut short (幺). In seal style another thread 糸 was added on the left, and together they signified “a thread (on the left) connecting the threads that are cut.” The four 幺 in kyuji was replaced by 米 in shinji.  The kanji 継 meant “to succeed; inherit: continue.”

The kun-yomi 継ぐ /tsugu/ means “to succeed; inherit,” and is in 受け継ぐ (“to follow; inherit” /uketsugu/) and 引き継ぎ (“taking over; transfer of (control)” /hikitsugi/). The on-yomi /kee/ is in 継続する (“to continue” /keezoku-suru/) and テレビ中継 (“television broadcast” /terebichu’ukee/).

  1. The kanji 絶 “to cut; die out”

History of Kanji 絶RThe bronze ware style writing of the kanji 絶 was similar to 継 in 6– a pair of skeins of threads on two shelves to mean “short thread” The Old style, in purple, was the same as the right side of the kanji 継, except that it was a flip-side. In seal style the right side (色) was added and used phonetically for /zee; zetsu/. The top of 色 had a knife (刀). Together they meant “to cut; die out.”

The kun-yomi 絶える /tae’ru/ means “to die out,” and is in 絶え間なく (“constantly; perpetually; endlessly” /taemana’ku/).  The on-yomi /ze’tsu/ is in 絶滅 (“extinction; eradication” /zetsumetsu/), 断絶 (“severance; extinction” /danzetsu/), and /zet-/ is in 絶対に(“absolutely” /zettai-ni/).

History of Kanji 断The combination of “four skeins of short threads” and “knife” reminds us of another kanji 断 in the earlier discussion. [December 6, 2016]  The kanji 断 in seal style had a hand axe (斤), a more powerful sharp object- thus, the kanji 断 meant “to cut drastically.”

  1. The kanji 絹 “silk”

History of Kanji 絹The writing in light color (time unknown) and seal style writing had 糸 on the left, and the right side was used phonetically for /ken/. The top of the right side was generally viewed as a round silkworm. The kanji 絹 meant “silk.”

The kun-yomi 絹 /ki’nu/ means “silk” and is in 絹豆腐 (“tofu of fine texture” /kinudo’ohu/).  The on-yomi /ken/ is in 人絹 (“imitation silk; rayon” /jinken/), a word somewhat outdated because レーヨン is used.

  1. The kanji 紡 “to spin”

History of Kanji 紡The seal style of the kanji 紡 had 糸 “skein of thread” and 方 for a phonetic /hoo; boo/.  The kanji 紡 meant “to spin.”

The kun-yomi /tsumugu/ means “to spin.” The on-yomi /boo/ is in 紡績業 “the spinning and weaving industry; textile manufacturing” /booseki’gyoo/) and 紡織機 (“spinning and weaving machine; spindles and looms” /booshoku’ki; boosho’kkuki/.)

We are going to continue with the kanji that have a bushu itohen in the next post.  Thank you very much for your reading.  – Noriko [March 12, 2017]