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 鈴銘鎖鋭鈍釣鑑鏡釜鎌兼鉱録-かねへん(2)


This is the second post on kanji that have a bushu kanehen 金 “metal.” We are going to look at the kanji 鈴銘鎖鋭鈍釣監鑑鏡釜鎌兼鉱録.

  1. The kanji 鈴 “bell; chime”

History of Kanji 鈴For the kanji 鈴, the bronze ware style writings, (a) and (b) in green, in ten style writing, (c) in red, had 金 “metal” on the left. On the right side was a person under a roof bending his back low or kneeling, which would become the kanji 令 “order,” used phonetically for /ree/. (a) had a prayer box in front of this person, suggesting that he was praying. A metal object that called for a god was a “bell.” The kanji (d) is in Mincho style whereas (e) is in textbook writing style. In the last post we also looked at another kanji that meant “bell; chime” – the kanji 鐘. The kanji 鐘 /kane/ is a bigger bell and 鈴 /suzu/ is a small bell, both of which called for the attention of a god.

The kun-yomi 鈴 /suzu/ means “(small) bell.” The on-yomi /re’e/ is in 予鈴 (“first bell; warning bell” /yoree/). Another on-yomi /ri’n/ is in 風鈴 (“wind chime” /huurin/), 呼び鈴 (“bell (to get an attention); doorbell” /yobirin/).

  1. The kanji 銘 “to inscribe”

History of Kanji 銘For the kanji 銘, in bronze ware style and ten style the left side was 金 “metal.” The right side was 名 “name” and was used phonetically for /me’e/. From “name inscribed in bronze” it meant “to inscribe.” What was inscribed in metal/bronze was important names and words, and in Japanese it also means “famed.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /me’e/ is in 銘柄 (“brand; stock issue” /meegara/), 感銘 (“profound impression” /kanmee/), 正真正銘の (“true; genuine; authentic” /shooshinshoomee-no/) and 肝に銘じる (“to engrave advice on one’s heart; take to heart” /kimo’-ni meejiru/).

  1. The kanji 鎖 “chain; links”

History of Kanji 鎖For the kanji 鎖, in ten style the left side was “metal” and the right side was small cowry shells (貝) strung together (the top), and was also used phonetically for /sa/. Together they meant “chain” and “being closed by a chain.”

The kun-yomi 鎖 /kusari/ means “chain; link.” The on-yomi /sa/ is in 連鎖 (“chain; links” /rensa/), 封鎖 (“blockage” /fuusa/), 閉鎖 (“closing; chutdown” /heesa/) and 鎖国 (“national seclusion” /sakoku/).

  1. The kanji 鋭 “sharp”

History of Kanji 鋭For the kanji 鋭, the ten style writing had “metal” on the left side, and the right side was used phonetically. Setsumon also gave the left one, in purple, as its old writing, 古文 /kobun/. The left writing was a scene of a fire burning high in a kiln or furnace (on the left) to make a sharp sword or knife. The kanji 鋭 means “sharp.”

The kun-yomi 鋭い /surudo’i/ means “sharp.” The on-yomi /e’e/ is in 鋭利な (“sharp” /e’eri-na/), 鋭角 (“acute angle” /e’ekaku/) and 精鋭 (“the best pick of; elite” /seeee/).

  1. The kanji 鈍 “blunt; dull; slow”

History of Kanji 鈍For the kanji 鈍, the left side 金 was “metal,” and the right side 屯 was used phonetically. History of Kanji 純屯 came from a fringe of woven fabric that was tied in a knot. We can see what 屯 looked like in bronze style writings of the kanji 純 “pure”(from tufts of pure silk) shown on the right. The roundness of a knot signified “not sharp.” Together they meant “dull; blunt; slow.”
The kun-yomi /nibu’i/ means “dull.” The on-yomi /do’n/ is in 鈍感 (“insensibility; thick-skinned” /donkan/), 鈍行 (“a slow train; local train” /donkoo/), 鈍化する (“to become blunt; slow down” /do’nka-suru/) and 鈍器 (“blunt object” /do’nki/).

  1. The kanji 釣 “to fish; change”

History of Kanji 釣For the kanji 釣, the right side was 勺. 勺 was a “ladle,” something that scooped up (the dot was what was scooped up), or was a hook shape. 金 “metal” and 勺 “to scoop out; hook” together meant “to fish.” The kun-yomi 釣る /tsuru/ means “to fish; lure,” and is in 釣り (“fishing” /tsuri/) and 釣り合う “to match; equilibrate.” It is also used in words お釣り (“change money” /otsuri/) and 釣り銭 (“change money” /tsurisen/). お釣り is what a merchant gives back to a customer to make up the balance betwee goods and payment and how it came to be used for this meaning is not clear. お釣り is what a merchant gives back to a customer to make up the balance betwee goods and payment.

  1. The kanji 鑑 “model; mirror” and 監 “to observe; monitor”

The kanji 鑑 consists of 金, a bushu kanehen, and the kanji 監. So, let us look at 監 before 鑑.

The kanji 監 “to watch carefully; observe; monitor”

History of Kanji 監The oracle bone style writing for the kanji 監 was a vivid description of a person with a watchful eye kneeling down over a basin. In bronze ware style it became clearer that the basin had water – the extra short stroke right below the eye indicated water. Together they signified someone looking at himself carefully in the reflection of water. From that the kanji 監 meant “to watch carefully; observe; monitor.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ka’n/ is in 監督 (“manager; supervisor; supervision” /kantoku/), 監視カメラ (“surveillance camera” /kanshika’mera/) and 監獄 (“prison; jail” /kangoku/).

History of Kanji 鑑Now let us look at the kanji 鑑. The bronze ware style writing (a) was the same as 監 above, whereas in (b) “metal” was added. Together metal and one looking at one’s own reflection meant “mirror.” It also meant something that one heeded as a shining model.

The kun-yomi 鑑 /kagami’/ means “mirror; model,” as in the expression ~を鑑とする (“to take ~ as one’s model” /~o kagami’to-suru/) in one’s ethics and action. The on-yomi /ka’n/ is in 鑑別する (“to discriminate; differentiate” /kanbetsu-suru/), 鑑定 (“expert judgment; appraisal” /kantee/) and 年鑑 (“yearbook; almanac” /nenkan/).

  1. The kanji 鏡 “mirror”

History of Kanji 鏡For the kanji 鏡, the right side 竟 was used phonetically for /kyo’o/ to signify “shape; scene.” With the left side 金 “metal” together, they meant “mirror.”

The kun-yomi /kagami’/ means “mirror.” The on-yomi /kyo’o/ is in 双眼鏡 (“binocular” /soogankyoo/), 老眼鏡 (“reading eye glasses” /roogankyoo/). Customarily a pair of eye glasses /me’gane/ is written as 眼鏡. The expression おめがねに適う (お眼鏡に適う) /o-megane-ni kana’u/ means “to suit your discerning eye or taste.”

  1. The kanji 釜 “rice cooker; pot”

History of Kanji 釜The kanji 釜 looks a little strange. It looks like the kanji 父 “father” and 金 “metal” coalesced into one. In bronze ware style, (a) had metal on the left. The right side was a hand holding a stick, which originally signified a “measuring tool.” What the left side of (b) signified is not clear to me. Setsumon gave two writings (c) and (d). (c) reflected the bronze ware style, which also became the kanji (e). The left side of (e) was a cooking pot or food storage, and the right side was used phonetically. The kanji 釜 meant “iron cooking pot.”

History of Kanji 父父 and 釜 — The kanji 釜 does not appear to be related to the meaning of “father” (父). On reflection, however, the origin of the kanji 父 also came from “a hand holding a stick to lead the family,” as shown on the right. So it looks like that both  父 and 釜 had “hand holding something” in their origins.

The kun-yomi 釜 /kama/ means “cooking pot: rice cooker,” and is in 茶釜 “an iron teakettle (used in the tea ceremony)” /chagama/) — a rather specialized object, nonetheless an important object in Japanese culture.

  1. The kanji 鎌 “sickle” and 兼 “to serve both”

The kanji 鎌 consists of a bushu kanehen 金 and the kanji 兼. So, let us look at the kanji 兼 first.

History of Kanji 兼The kanji 兼 — The ten style writing of 兼 had “two rice plants” (禾) held by “side-way hand” in the middle. Holding two in one hand meant “to have both.”

The kun-yomi 兼ねる /kane’ru/ means “to combine two things; possess both; serve both.” The on-yomi /ke’n/ is in 兼任 (“holding two offices” /kenning/) and 兼用 (“serving both purposes” /ken-yoo/).

History of Kanji 鎌Now let us look at the kanji 鎌.  In ten style the left side 金 “metal” and the right side 兼 “two rice plants held by hand.” Together they signified a metal tool that one used to cut rice plants, a “sickle.”

The kun-yomi /ka’ma/ means “sickle.” The on-yomi /re’n/ is not commonly used in Japanese. Did you notice that the two word were different in the location of the word accent?  They are pronunced as 釜がある /kama-ga a’ru/ “There is a rice cooking pot.” and 鎌がある /ka’ma-ga aru/ “There is a sickle.”

Other Joyo kanji that contain 兼 include 謙 as in 謙譲語 (“humble style word” /kenjoogo/) and 嫌 “dislike” as in 嫌い (“to dislike” /kirai/).

  1. The kanji 鉱 “ore”

History of Kanji 鉱The kanji 鉱 had the kyujitai 鑛, and the right side was used phonetically for /ko’o/. In ten style the left side was 石 “rock” rather than 金. In the kanji 礦 it has 金. 礦 and 鑛 were used interchangeably before for “ore,” –a solid rock from which metal is extracted. The writing in purple on the left is interpreted as two persons protecting an area that had valuable ore. The kanji 鉱 means “ore.”

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 鉱石 (“ore; mineral” /ko’oseki/), 炭鉱 (“coal mine” /tankoo/) and 溶鉱炉 (“smelting blast furnace” /yooko’oro/).

  1. The kanji 録 “record”

History of Kanji 録The right side of the kanji 録 was used phonetically for /roku/. Setsumon explained it as “the color of bronze (金の色),” which was bluish green. (Related to this, the kanji 緑 “green,” whose on-yomi is /roku/ or /ryoku/, shared the same right side component.)  The inscription on bronze ware gave the meaning “to record” (Shirakawa).

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /ro’ku/ is in 記録 (“record” /kiroku/), 議事録 (“minutes of a meeting” /giji’roku/), 録音 (“sound recording” /rokuon/) and ビデオ録画 (“video recording” /bideoro’kuga/).

There are several more Joyo kanji that contain a bushu kanehen, including 錯 “to mix; error,” 錦 “brocade; pretty cloth,” 錬 “to refine; kneed,” 鍋 “cooking pot” and 銃 “firearms; gun.”

With this post we leave the topic of inanimate objects in nature. In the next post we will start looking at kanji that originated from animals and plants in nature. Thank you for your reading. -Noriko [July 2, 2016]