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.
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.
The kanji 酌 “to serve wine; scoop out sake”
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/).
The kanji 釣 “to fish; lure”
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.”
The kanji 的 “accurate; target; having a characteristic of”
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/).
The kanji 約 “to promise; cut back; summarize; about”
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.
The kanji 是 “this; right”
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/).
The kanji 提 “to carry; put forward something (by hand)”
The seal style writing comprised “hand,” which became 扌, 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/).
The kanji 堤 “bank; dike”
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/).
- The kanji 題 “title; topic; theme; question”
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.
The kanji 卓 “table; to stand out; table”
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/).
The kanji 悼 “to grieve; mourn”
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/).
The kanji 卑 “lowly; humble; crude; abject”
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/).
The kanji 碑 “stone monument; stone stele”
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]