From Round to Square (and back)

For The Emperor's Teacher, scroll down (↓) to "Topics." It's the management book that will rock the world (and break the vase, as you will see). Click or paste the following link for a recent profile of the project:

A new post appears every day at 12:05* (CDT). There's more, though. Take a look at the right-hand side of the page for over four years of material (2,000 posts and growing) from Seinfeld and country music to every single day of the Chinese lunar calendar...translated. Look here ↓ and explore a little. It will take you all the way down the page...from round to square (and back again).
*Occasionally I will leave a long post up for thirty-six hours, and post a shorter entry at noon the next day.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Prairie Ethnography (1)—Lutefisk Dinner

[a] With trimmings RF
I settled into the middle of the smooth, wooden pew. It was a clear, October Saturday in southern Wisconsin, and the Orfordville Lutheran Church was filled with a Sunday morning service-sized crowd. The altar area conveyed the calm, embracing theological narrative of Missouri Synod Lutheranism. Doves mingled with candelabra and pulpit, with just one (major) thing askew. Dwarfing the altar was a screen showing a slideshow of the church, its history, its Norwegian roots, and the heartbeat of life circulating the church calendar.

In the pews, people talked quietly in groups ranging from two to as many as a dozen. Every once in a while a comment—"...remember that summer?" "...that's Timmy from my Sunday School class; he must be in high school now"—would flutter from the flock. Autumnal sun flowed through stained glass. Everyone (and I mean everyone) clutched little tickets.

Under the church rafters, we were in queue. Every five, maybe ten, minutes the crowd quieted and listened as a slight man with a microphone intoned "...fourteen twenty-one through fourteen twenty-eight"; "is there a group of six ready?"; "do we have a single?...there's room for one more." At each prompt, clusters of gray hair ambled to the portal of promise. Above the door were the words Careful Steps.

[b] Sushi... RF
The sacred space above ground was merely the holding pen on this day. The real event was downstairs, in the basement. There, teeming energy and rumbling stomachs turned toward cranberries, meatballs, coffee, milk, drawn butter and the pièce(s) de résistance—lutefisk and lefse. It was the Orfordville Lutheran Church's annual Lutefisk Dinner, and Norwegians of a certain age drive from all around the countryside to pay $15 for unlimited helpings of lefse (a food most everyone likes) and a form of codfish that has been soaked in lye before being rinsed and processed for cooking. The culinary result is a plate that looks a little like the South Korean flag—mostly white, with dashes of cosmologically-patterned color to provide balance. Dominating the scene is a hunk of gelatinous ocean steak, all but wriggling in front of you.

It is an acquired taste.

One normally acquires this taste while growing up. The bar to appreciating this odd immigrant food is set so high that it is the truly exceptional eater who learns to eat it as an adult. Indeed, so odd is this culinary staple that it is not at all unusual for several children in the same family to be split on its merits. My own sister won't touch it, but I somehow took to the soft, gooey texture as though it were just another flavor in the Gerber's panaroma of flavors.

I have enjoyed it ever since, and took it for granted—as the growing Norwegian boy with the French surname on the banks of the Red River Valley—that lutefisk would grace every holiday table. That assumption held well into my twenties, and then I got busy. Certainly, there was no lutefisk to be found during the two years I spent in Taiwan after college, and there was precious little of it anywhere near the shores of Lake Michigan during my graduate studies. Off to my first job I went, in central Maine. There was plenty of seafood—even cod—but no one seemed to want to soak it in lye until it became a wiggly lump of fish flesh. I mean, they ate bottom feeders like lobsters, for Thor's sake.

[c] Gelatin RF
And then, in the late-1990s, I boarded the next ship for Wisconsin, and lutefisk started appearing in everyday vocabulary again. You see, there are plenty of Norwegians in the Midwest, and Wisconsin was one of the destinations for the first wave of settlers. My great grandmother was born in the Wisconsin countryside in the late-nineteenth century, and both my grandparents and parents grew up around the rich, fertile soil on the eastern border of North Dakota and the western border of Minnesota. Lutefisk dinners—almost always prepared at home—were the order of the (holi-)day.

Let's just say that times have changed, and there is not nearly as much home cooking of the ubiquitous codfish as in earlier days. In my personal history, I can trace the change to the early-1980s. The surprising thing is that I have found a good deal of agreement about that date (give or take a few years) when talking to lutefisk eaters of all ages. Every time that I ask the question "do you still make lutefisk at home?," I get answers that range from "sometimes" to "not at all anymore." When did the big change take place? About 1980.

Is it Ronald Wilson Reagan's fault?

Well, probably not (although I remain vigilant for clues from the repast). It seems that a little institution—always there, but never dominant until the 1980s—began to take the place of the home-style lutefisk dinner. It brings hungry Scandinavians together in a Durkheimian flurry of social and culinary energy that starts with lefse and ends with pie. Instead of grandma doing the soaking (in lye, remember), the rinsing (an absolutely necessary step, let us not forget), and the baking...other groups have picked up some of the preparatory slack. Now it is Lutheran churches and Sons of Norway posts that sponsor lutefisk dinners that reach out to hundreds (and occasionally over a thousand) hungry connoisseurs.

[d] Lye RF
It has become a mixture of business, fundraising, and community pride linked to a taste that will not die. The question of its future is another one, though. Will it trickle to a halt when my generation heads to that great plastic tub of lye in the sky? Let's not kid ourselves. The clienetele is distinctly, well, middle-aged, and getting up there would be a generous way of putting it. I asked several of the servers (well-brushed junior high school and high school students serving the church on an autumn weekend day) if they liked lutefisk. Nope.

While this might be a little bit of a "generational" thing, I suspect that lutefisk dinners are the last (several generation) stop on the train to oblivion. First, people stopped making it at home. In time, it is quite likely that it will give way to a fully-formed American identity that doesn't require "Norwegian" in front of it and doesn't recognize lye-soaked codfish as either staple or treat.

Still, I can't help but think of my academic roots in ethnography. In China and Japan, I see parallels to the situation, even as I sense that lutefisk can't compete with centuries-old Asian traditions. You see, I have been studying East Asian cultural traditions for almost thirty years now, and in Japan I keep hearing young people say that "Sumo (wrestling) is boring; it is for old people." In China, young people tell me that "Beijing opera is for old people; young people aren't interested in such things." Yet they just keep on going. I would think that the traditions would wear out if I only had my own ethnographic work and anecdotes to go on. That is why doing historical research is so useful to the ethnographer. Even thirty years can't begin to provide adequate perspective to ongoing, even iconic, cultural practices. Imagine my surprise, then, to read accounts in Japan and China from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries predicting the demise of sumo and opera. Young people in the 1890s (in both countries) scoffed at the "olden ways" of their elders. Yet the last time I checked the calendar it was 2011, and the practices just keep on cranking (with an organized crime scandal mixed in here and there for good measure).

[e] Stalking the wild lutefisk RF
So what do we make of lutefisk? Is it going to have the resilience of sumo wrestling and Beijing opera? Is it going to be a steady force of culinary culture on the Scandinavian-American prairie?

Nope. Probably not. If you are forty-five years old or more, just keep on eatin'. Lutefisk will stick to the ol' ribs during your lifetime. If you are in, say, your twenties, you had better get your field notebook ready and head out for some serious prairie research before the elusive fish is extinct.

I'll see you in Orfordville, Wisconsin on Saturday, October 27, 2012.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fieldnotes From History (11)—Spitfire

[a] Deep breath RF
Part of an occasional Round and Square series that follows the blog’s main theme (east meets west, round meets square, and past meets present), these snippets from my early fieldnotes are reproduced as they were written by hand—and then revised on an ancient desktop computer—during my first fieldwork stay in Taiwan (1985-1987).  All entries are the way that I left them when I returned to the United States in 1987—some nicely-stated and some embarrassing. I will allow myself an occasional comment when something makes me wince after a quarter century.

[b] Exhausted RF
The only thing that bothers me about this note (other than the lame "Gremlin" reference) is the seeming lightheartedness of it. I knew, even at the time, that I was trying to cover real anger and even worry (for myself and for the fate of my brethren) with accurate, though gross, observations. I'll stick to that here. These observations are accurate. I just can't remember being very amused by any of this.

—"Long Life" cigarettes were distinguished by two Chinese characters that connote long (human) life (長壽). Of course, it was always meant to be a play on the long nicotine "life" of each cigarette. 
—The American Motors Corporation came out with the Gremlin in 1970. The last new ones rolled off the line in 1977 (1978 model year). By 1985, they were all used...and unmemorable. 
—The sign I refer to below read 請勿随地吐痰
—The Western custom (if we might call it that) of blowing one's nose in public is highly problematic in Japan and throughout much of Asia. I was thinking in particular of Japan when I wrote those lines.

17 May 1985

Another problem is spit. There is no way to make this pleasant reading, and I would be ignoring everything around me if I omitted it. Almost everyone in Taipei over forty hacks, coughs, and spits up. There is a sign on all the buses that reads: “Please keep your bus clean. Refrain from spitting phlegm on the floor.”  So out the windows it goes. Bus drivers, store clerks, the man on the street: they cough and spit like a used Gremlin. Lungs are full of stuff, and getting it out is both a physical and cultural necessity (not unlike Western nose-blowing, which is seen as distinctly rude in many societies).

Further, many people smoke unfiltered, high-tar cigarettes by the pack. These cigarettes’ name is, ironically, “Long Life Cigarettes.” Taiwan (the rest of Asia is close behind) has one of the fastest-growing rates of lung cancer deaths in the world. The buses and motorcycles here spray a steady stream of black, almost palpably powdery, smoke. Bus drivers carry little Styrofoam cups to wheeze into. If I shut my eyes and focus on sound, there is a drumming refrain of rising phlegm balls—that familiar nasal, throaty grunt common to smokers and emphysematics. Sitting on the bus a few weeks ago, I closed my window just in time, when the bus driver, passing up his cup, began spitting into the open air. There was a strong lateral breeze, increasing my danger of being slapped in the face by a mesotheleomic gum ball.
[c] Palpable RF

Monday, November 28, 2011

Fieldnotes From History (10)—Transportation

Part of an occasional Round and Square series that follows the blog’s main theme (east meets west, round meets square, and past meets present), these snippets from my early fieldnotes are reproduced as they were written by hand—and then revised on an ancient desktop computer—during my first fieldwork stay in Taiwan (1985-1987).  All entries are the way that I left them when I returned to the United States in 1987—some nicely-stated and some embarrassing. Although the series began with my assumption that the entries can stand alone, I have found that separate comments and notes might help readers understand a world that is now, well, history. These are always separate from the original fieldnote.

[b] Driving RF
Clearly, I couldn't help trying to note at least a little bit of the humor in the transportation situation in Taipei back in 1985. All I can say is that my fieldnote voice in 1985 is a precursor of my blog voice a quarter century later (for better or worse). There is nothing, from my perspective, that is particularly problematic with using humor in fieldnotes. I am now curious to ask other fieldworkers about this issue, because I sense that it is more prevalent than I might have guessed. How could it be otherwise, in some ways. Being confused much of the time, half-hearing things and being expected to act correctly—such is the stuff of humor...or at least lame attempts at it (such as these musings).
The Rockford Files was a 1970s television drama starring James Garner, who never used stunt men for any of his own scenes.

17 May 1985
I have been a little frustrated by the sheer monotony of moving around Taipei. Buses take too long. I don’t want to buy a car, and wouldn’t even consider a motorcycle. Motorcycle drivers here scare me—they drive like stunt men on The Rockford Files, weaving in and out of cars in streets that resemble cattle drives more than traffic jams; even the most minor accidents cause severe cranial trauma. The air in Taipei is bad enough, but they ride behind buses, sucking in leaded exhaust fumes. Better to stay at home, hook up a bus exhaust I.V., and read a magazine. 

Don’t blame them, though. The reason people ride motorcycles is the buses. They are slow, bumpy, and crowded. Especially at rush hour, the drivers continue to admit new passengers until the rivets are ready to pop. Standing on the bus with my nose in someone’s armpit (and someone else’s in mine), I feel like we’re tuna packed in oil; it’s Chicken of the Sea all the way home.
[c] Crush RF

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hurtin', Leavin' and Longin' (30)—What Mattered Most

Click here to read the introduction to the Round and Square series "Hurtin', Leavin', and Longin'..."
[a] Path RF
I call it the historiography song. I hate to say that it is not a particularly great one, but I have included it here because it gets to the heart of bad history, a subject (as a history teacher) that is very close to my heart. You see, I get a whole bunch of students every autumn who say that they "hate history." To me, that would be like saying "I hate everything that happened as of a moment ago." Everything (you see) is history, even these words when you read them. Everything is in "the past"—even things happening right now (that particular point can be understood in an everyday sense and a deep, philosophical one).

After a little bit of linguistic and cultural translation, I realize that the students seem to be saying that they "hate the academic study of history, at least as it has been introduced to them up until now." Of course, they aren't really saying that, but it becomes apparent quickly when they light up over discussions of things that happened to the past. Birthday parties. Major world events they talked about all morning long in fourth grade. "Classic" sports contests on television (or the local gridiron). And let us not forget the handful of history teachers in junior high school and high school who are so inspirational and rigorous that their lucky students learn to love the study of the past.

No, they don't hate the past—at least not all of it. (I would rather not relive high school, but maybe that's just me).

[b] Forested RF
Even Henry Ford didn't hate the past, despite declaring that "history is bunk." Without "the past," he could not have accomplished anything (of course). He might have said that "Narrowly interpreted historical education does not reflect the lived experience of the vast majority of people in the world bunk," but that doesn't quite have the same ring to it. In fact, Ford said something like this throughout the rest of his life to explain precisely what he had meant by all that bunk. Leaving aside for now Ford's more prescient point (that looking backward presents philosophical and practical problems that can profoundly affect everything from personal business to political life and the fate of nations), we will turn to another phrase that can be attributed to a whole bunch of people.

                           History is just one damn(ed) thing after another.

Interesting. Even though everyone from Nietzsche to Churchill to Edna St. Vincent Millay is said to have said it, the phrase reverberates for those of us who have had to sit through dreadful history classes in junior high and high school. You know the kind. This (damned) thing happened. Then that (damned) thing happened. Worst of all, the teacher has not always considered that we listeners might be conflating the two events and casually making causal connections that may or may not be relevant (the Crimean War ended; some of the best statuary the world had ever seen began to appear in Europe).

Worst of all, the tired narrative of worn-out lists form the foundation (if I can use such a word) of the most dreadful kind of memorization exercises. Don't get me wrong. I think that memorization is far more important than most people understand—even memorizing
"names and dates." The problem is memorizing "one damn(ed) thing after another." That's bunk.

[c] Gone RF
And that is where today's song comes in. Ty Herndon is hurtin' as he sings it, to be sure. It has a little bit of the syrupy "new country" sound that leaves it short of the many wonderful songs we've considered so far in this series of Hurtin', Leavin', and Longin' posts. Still, the message is one I can't resist. If you just pay attention to the details, you will miss everything. You won't just miss the forest for the trees (as the cliché line tells us). No, it's much, much worse than that:
                          S/he'll be gone.

Chew on that (and say it "in country" as in S/he's gown). Take a listen to this week's lyrics and, as always, watch the video later. Even these lyrics need to be pondered to get the full historiographical effect.

     What Mattered Most
        Artist: Ty Herndon
        Songwriters: Gary Burr, Vince Melamed

I thought I knew the girl so well
If she was sad I couldn't tell
I missed the point, I missed the signs
So if she's gone the fault is mine
I know, I know
A whole lot of little things
And even though
I could list them one by one
She would still be gone


Her eyes are blue
Her hair is long
In '64
She was born in Baton Rouge
Her favorite song
Is "In My Life"
I memorized her every move
I knew her books, her car, her clothes
But I paid no attention
To what mattered most

I never asked, she never said

And when she cried I turned my head
She dreamed her dreams behind closed doors
That made them easy to ignore
And I know, I know
I missed the forest for the trees
And all I have to show
Oh when she walked out the door
Cold facts and nothing more

Repeat Chorus 2x

Before we move on to our East Asian poem for the week, think about some of the lines above. He knows, he knows...a whole lot of little things (memorized names, dates, and details). Good luck with that, Lover Boy. Memorizing layers of temporal detritus will get you nothin'...nowhere.

                        And all I have to show

                        Oh when she walked out the door
                        Cold facts and nothing more

[d] Bye RF
Could there be a better example of what history teachers like moi have been shouting at our classes for two decades now? (Well, yes...many are better, but this will do). For years, I have had to stress that, without the larger theoretical and interpretive picture, all "you" will have will be the "cold facts." These are worthless and, on top of it all, they are not even really "facts." There is no such thing, but that is another issue for another day.

How much clearer, though, could the message be here? S/he  walks right out the door because "you" can't understand how to interpret history. Now those stakes are real. If you blow it in one setting, your teacher gives you a B+. If you blow it in the "real" world, s/he will leave you, and "you" will be a crying, hollow shell of the person "you" once were.

Now that's history.

How can we follow this with an East Asian lyric? Well, it shouldn't be too hard. Chinese, Japanese, and Korean thinkers spent a great deal of time thinking about thinking about the past. I have spent more time than usual looking for a poem, and have chosen a pair of poems by the versatile historian, poet, and administrator Ouyang Xiu (1007-1072). Each touches ever so slightly on our theme, and then takes it in a new direction.

      Ouyang Xiu 1007-1072)
      In Imitation of the "Jade Pavilion" Style, 
      Two Selections
                  A Song of "Hand-in-Hand"
          The sun sets on the dike where I walk,
          As I sing alone the song of "Hand-in-hand."
          Then I remember the one whose hand I once held,
          And everywhere I look, spring is radiant and green.

                    A Song of "Night After Night"
          The drifting clouds disgorge a bright moon,
          Its fleeting shadow darkens the jade staircase.
          A thousand li away we share the same reflection,
          But how can I let you know this heart night after night?
                                               —Translated by Irving Lo

[1]  Wu-chi Liu and Irving Yucheng Lo, Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry (Bloomington IN: Indiana University Press, 1974), 325.

Liu Wu-chi and Irving Yucheng Lo. Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry. Bloomington IN: Indiana University Press, 1974.
[e] Cached RF

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Kanji Mastery—Radical 93 (Cow/Ox)

[a] Pointed RF
Japan's major islands aren't particularly spacious by continental standards, and one will not find major pasturage anywhere but on Hokkaidō. Why, then, would one of the 214 lexical markers (the "radicals") found in Japanese characters have "cow," or "ox" among them? Well, because the Japanese writing system...comes from China. Please don't forget that. The Japanese borrowed the language wholesale (this is only a slight exaggeration) from China in the sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries, and then worked the materials into a truly distinctive (indeed, symphonic) blending of native culture and foreign borrowing. 

"Cow" came out in the wash, and has been a part of the language ever since. Even though Japan has never had major herds, it has become known for everything from Kobe beef to sukiyaki. Take a look at the etymology of the character.

[b] Cowpy RF
Radical 93
Chinese (Mandarin): niu2
Chinese (Cantonese): ngau4
Japanese (On reading): go, gyū
Japanese (Kun readings): ushi

Selections from The New Nelson Japanese-English Character Dictionary.
Radical 93
Ushi cow. At left: ushi hen. Nickname: Cow.

牛皮 ぎゅうひ          gyūhi              cowhide                   (cow + skin)

牛羊 ぎゅうよう      gyūyō             cows and sheep       (cow + sheep)
牛馬 ぎゅうば         gyūba             cows and horses      (cow + horse)
牛肉 ぎゅうにく      gyūniku          beef                          (cow + meat)
牛車 ぎゅうしゃ      gyūsha           oxcart                       (cow + cart)
牛舎 ぎゅうしゃ      gyūsha           cow barn/pen           (cow + shelter)
牛追 うしお(い)       ushio(i)           cattle herder             (cow + drive)
牛使 うしつか(い)   ushitsuka(i)     cattle herder             (cow + lead)
牛鍋 ぎゅうなべ      gyūnabe         sukiyaki                     (cow + pot)
牛糞 ぎゅうふん      gyūfun            cow manure              (cow + excrement)

The standard combinations above (and they certainly have their own kind of intellectual adhesion, as they bind together like Velcro) give way to compounds that require at least a little bit of contemplation.

牛蒡 ごうぼう         gobō                burdock                  (cow + burdock)
牛痘 ぎゅうとう      gyūtō               cowpox, vaccine    (cow + pox/smallpox)

牛疫 ぎゅうえき      gyūeki             rinderpest               (cow + epidemic)
牛飲 ぎゅういん      gyūin               drink like a cow       (cow + drink)

and, finally...gluttony:

牛飲馬食 ぎゅういんばしょく   gyūinbashoku    gluttony    (cow + drink + horse + eat)

[c] Focus RF
We'll conclude with a number of characters that have the element 牛 in them. Be sure to note the difference between the radical marker on the left side of many "ox/cow radical" characters and the normal form you have seen up until now. The left side element is called ushi hen, and should be clearly distinguished from the "hand" radical (number 64). 

Compare these two characters: 捕 and 特. The first character has the "hand" radical, while the second has the "cow" radical. Learn to distinguish these.

 ロウ                        RŌ                                     prison, jail, hardness
 ボク                       BOKU                                 shepherd, care for, raise
 ブツ, モツ, もの     BUTSU, MOTSU, mono     thing, object, matter
 セイ, いけにえ       SEI, ikenie                          sacrifice, offering, gift 
 とく                       toku                                     special, especially
 ケン, ひく    KEN, hi(ku)                        draw, pull, haul, tug 
[d] Radical RF

Friday, November 25, 2011

Kanji Mastery—Radical 41 (Inch)

[a] Inching RF
This little character packs a serious punch in the Sino-Japanese lexical arena. Meaning "inch," at least according to traditional Japanese measurements, this "radical" has found its way into at least a dozen centrally important words in Japanese. It is not every character that has its own folk story, either, but this one does. As you will see in the combinations below, it is often used in rather imprecise, everyday, or "cultural measurements," such as a "brief letter" or "a little bit." A careful study of the character combinations using "inch" will give you a good sense of how various kanji "fit" together.

Radical 41
Chinese (Mandarin): cun1
Chinese (Cantonese):xxx
Japanese (On reading): スン sun
Japanese (Kun readings): n/a

Selections from The New Nelson Japanese-English Character Dictionary.
Radical 41
Sun (the Japanese inch). At right: sunzukuri. Nickname: Inch.

寸土 すんど          sundo          an inch of land                 (inch + land)

寸分 すんぶん      sunbun        a bit, a little                       (inch + part)
寸言 すんげん      sungen        brief but signicant words  (inch + speech)
寸前 すんぜん      sunzen        just before                        (inch + before)
寸進 すんしん      sunshin       inching along (progress)  (inch + enter)
寸時 すんじ          sunji           a moment, a minute          (inch + time)
寸書 すんしょ      sunsho       note, short letter                (inch + writing)
寸劇 すんげき      sungeki      dramatic sketch                 (inch + drama)
寸簡 すんかん      sunkan       brief note, short letter        (inch + simple)

The character combinations above are fairly straightforward. Those below are just a little bit more "daring" when it comes to interpretation.

寸忠  すんちゅう  sunchuu      my loyalty (humble)            (inch + loyalty)
寸志  すんし         sunshi         small token of appreciation (inch + aim)
寸鉄  すんてつ     suntetsu      small weapon; pithy saying (inch + iron/metal)
寸陰  すんいん     sun'in          a moment, a minute             (inch + "yin")
寸切り すんぎり     sungi(ri)      a straight cut                         (inch + cut)

[c] Measurement RF
Finally, I have added a brief (寸) list of the combinations in which this characters "is radical." A full dictionary (such as The New Nelson Japanese-English Character Dictionary, from which these examples are drawn, will show the enormous range of combinations possible with any one radical, either on its own or as a part of larger characters. If you are not aware that Japanese characters have gone through a number of "simplifications" from the forms originally borrowed from China, note the versions in the brackets.

           ジ, てら                       JI, tera                       temple
寿 []  ス, ジュ, ことぶく       SU, JU; kotobu(ku)    longevity, age, congratulations 
 [タイ                             TAI                             the opposite, antonym, facing
            フウ, ホウ                    FUU, HOO                seal; sealing, closing; block
    []  セン, もっぱら            SEN, moppa(ra)        mainly, solely; specialty
   []  ショウ, はた, まさに   SHOO, hata, masa ni  commander, general; again
            シャ, いる, さす           SHA, iru, sasu           archery shooting; shine upon
            ジン, たずねる, ひる    JIN, tazu(neru), hiro   fathom, look for, inquire
            ソン, たっとぶ             SON, tatto(bu)            value, honor, reverence
            ドウ, みちびく             DOU, michibi(ku)        leading; guide, lead, conduct 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Kanji Mastery—Radical 148 (Horn)

[a] 角突合 RF
This versatile little character is hardly in the top dozen of the major "radicals" in Sino-Japanese. It might not even make it into the top one-hundred, so why would I bother to include it this early in the "kanji mastery" process? Well, the "horn radical" packs a great number of useful interpretive matters into the several dozen character combinations it shows in the dictionary over a space of just three pages. I would argue that, if you can begin to master the interpretive assumptions behind this character (look it up—Radical 148), you will be well on your way to understanding how Kanji "work."

Let's take a look at the etymology of the character, followed by a few combinations. By all means, check out the following sites for useful information on the character:

Radical 148
[b] Horns? RF
Chinese (Mandarin): jiao3 (jue2)
Chinese (Cantonese):gok3 (luk6)
Japanese (On reading): ショク shoku
Japanese (Kun readings): ふ(れる), さわ(る), ふ(れ), わわ(り)

Selections from The New Nelson Japanese-English Character Dictionary.
Radical 148
Tsuno horn. At left: tsuno hen. Nickname: Horn.

KAKU angle; corner; square; squared timber; target
kado corner; angle; edge; angularity; harshness
kaku(na) square, four-cornered
tsuno horn, antlers; feeler, tentacle
tsuno(gumu) sprout 
sumi corner, nook

角石 かくいし         kakuishi               square stone               (square + stone)          
店 かどみせ            kadomise             corner store                 (corner + store)
角字 かくじ             kakuji                  square characters       (square + character)
角柱 かくちゅう      kakuchuu            square pillar (prism)    (square + post)
角形 かくがた         kakugata             square shape               (square + image)
角叉 つのまた         tsunomata           points on antlers          (horn + tip/prong)
角笛 つのぶえ         tsunobue             bugle, trumpet              (horn + bamboo flute)
角帽 かくぼう         kakubou              square college cap       (square + hat/cap)
角力 すもう            sumou                 sumo; wrestler              (corner + strength)   
角革 かどがわ        kadogawa            corner leather (book)    (corner + leather)

The combinations above contain more-or-less "straightforward" kanji combinations. I have saved a few for the space below that take at least a step or two beyond the obvious. Character combinations are filled with possibilities, and surprises (mild and otherwise) are just around...the corner (角).
[c] Hornblower RF
角突き つのつ(き)   tsunotsu(ki)     
bullfight; wrangling    (horn + contention)

角通  かくつう      kakutsuu         
an expert on sumo    (corner + penetrate)

角袖  かくそで     kakusode         
plain clothes officer   (square + sleeve)

角突合 つのつきあい  tsunotsu(ki)a(i)  
 bickering, wrangling (horn + contend + link)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Kanji Mastery—Radical 112 (Stone)

[a] Rockface RF
Hard, obdurate, unyielding. These are some of the qualities of the "stone" or "rock" radical—number 112 in a classic series of 214 lexical markers in written Chinese or, for our purposes, Sino-Japanese. The word combinations below will give you a sense of the kinds of connections that this character has inspired in all aspects of life and practice.

Let's take a look at the etymology of the character, followed by a few combinations. By all means, check out the following sites for useful information on the character:

Radical 112
Chinese (Mandarin): shi2  (Cantonese): sek6
[b] Bridgestone RF
Japanese (on): セキ, シャク seki, shaku  (kun):いし, こく

Selections from The New Nelson Japanese-English Character Dictionary.
Ishi stone. At left: ishi hen. Nickname: Stone.

ishi stone, pebble, rock; jewel; the go playing stones.
koku 4.96 bushels; ten cubic feet (of lumber)

石工 いしく              ishiku               workman, craftsman      (stone + work)
石火    せっか                  sekka                flint fire; flash                 (stone + fire)
石弓 いしゆみ               ishiyumi             crossbow, catapult        (stone + bow)
石川    いしかわ               ishikawa            river with stony bottom (stone + river)
石匠    しきしょう           sekishyou          stone mason                 (stone + craftsman)
石道    いしみち               ishimichi            stone road                     (stone + path)
石門    いしもん               ishimon              stone gate                    (stone + gate)
石橋    いしばし*              ishibashi            stone bridge                 (stone + bridge)
石切    いしき(り)             ishiki(ri)              quarrying                     (stone + cut)
石臼    いし うす              ishi usu               stone mill                     (stone + mortar)
* Also (せっこう)
**Also (せっきょう)

And then we have a cluster of other combinations that remind us that not all language is neutral or suited to the tastes of "modern" readers. The nature of all life is that it is historical and cultural. The dictionary (all dictionaries) is chock full of terms that hearken back to darker times. If you have been reading the news, you will quickly see that every one of these terms remains relevant in some parts of the world. "Stone" carries with it more than merely lexical or phonetic baggage, and I replicate some of the more harrowing terms here without further comment.

石女       うまずめ             umazume           barren woman             (stone + woman)
石婦       せきふ                 sekifu                 barren woman             (stone + wife)
石打  いしう(ち)          ishiu(chi)             stoning                        (stone + beating)
石合戦 いしがっせん     ishigassen          fighting with stones      (stone + unite + war)
[c] Rockwall RF