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Monday, February 20, 2012

Kanji Mastery—Radical 139 (色 Color)

[a] Winding color RF
You might think that a radical that goes by the name of "color" would have a brilliant array of character combinations associated with it—a veritable kaleidoscope of changing language images. It does...sort of. There are two page-long columns of combinations for the modest graph 色, and they even stretch well onto a third. As you will see below, they run the gamut from one-to-one synonym combinations (色糸; colored thread) to especially vibrant stretches of juxtaposition (色男; paramour).
[b] Hue-cry RF
On the other hand, this character has not spawned much of a brood when it comes to language family. It is as though the racy definitions (just take a look below if you doubt this) for this simple, six-stroke character* have sapped its very vitality. Like the protagonist of a famous Chinese novel—Ximen Qing—色 has a pathetic little brood. The only character that boasts 色 as its linguistic parent is the legitimate but only-child 艶. You will see its kinship linkage on the right side of the character. That's it, though. This character element apparently never read (or misunderstood) Richard Dawkins, and cast its seeds widely without almost anything coming to fruition. 
*Follow these brief steps: a) "copy" the character 色  b) click on the stroke order link here, c) paste 色 into the search box and click "get diagram."

[c] Harmonizing RF
This is truly one of the few places in the Sino-Japanese lexicon in which the parent is wildly talented, diverse, and successful—with enormous influence in the larger society—yet has a pretty paltry record back at the ol' homestead. Imagine this little language scene. When the parent comes home from a busy day of dressing colorfully (色尽くめ) and harmonizing the colors (色の調和) of the world, s/he sees this picture. There, a single, charming figure (艶姿) sits alone before the frosted glass (艶消し硝子) of the hearth, holding a polishing cloth (艶布巾) while rubbing and polishing (艶拭きする) the fixtures with a beaming countenance (艶色). In the distance, a street troubadour (艶歌師) sings a love tale (艶物) of woe about a parent without fortune in love (艶福) who has given its child a remarkably paltry inheritance.

色 is a lot like that.
Radical 139
Chinese (Mandarin): se4 (shai3, she4)
Chinese (Cantonese): sik1
Japanese (On): ショク、シキ SHOKU, SHIKI
Japanese (Kun): いろ iro
Korean: 빛 색
Selections from The New Nelson Japanese-English Character Dictionary.
Radical 139
[e] Threads RF
Iro color. Nickname: Color.

Iro color, tint, tinge; complexion; countenance, look; sensual pleasure; sweetheart; charms; fall colors; embellishment; slight concession; kind.
Iro(meku) color, be tinged, liven, become active, be stirred; begin to waver (in battle).
Iro(zuku) color, color up.  Iro(ppoi), iro(mekashii) amorous, fascinating, seductive.

That's a handful, to say the least, and it is only the "header" definition. What follows is no fewer than eighty-five combinations with 色 beginning the word. We will start by definitions that deal straightforwardly with various colors of meaning before shading into more subtle definitions below.

色白 いろじろ       irojiro         light complexion; white     (color+white)
色止 いろどめ       irodo(me)  color fixing                         (color+stop)
色分 いろわけ       irowa(ke)   coloring; classfication        (color+part)
色灯 しきとう       shikitou      colored lamp                     (color+lantern)
色絵 いろえ           iroe            color picture                      (color+image)
色絹 いろぎぬ       iroginu       colored silk                        (color+silk thread)
色摺 いろずり       irozuri        color printing                      (color+rub/print)   
色様々の いろさまざまの   irosamazama   multicolored  (color+same-same)

O.k. Those are some of the basic combinations. Let's add a little bit of love, dislike, and sensuality to the mix. Take a look at how these combinations contrast with those above.

色好 いろごのみ       irogono(mi)       sensuality, lust              (love+attraction)
色目 いろめ              irome                amorous glance            (love+eye)
色里 いろざと          irozato               red-light district             (love+place)
色事 いろごと          irogoto               love affair/scene           (love+affair/matter)
色恋 いろこい          irokoi                 love, sentiment              (love+in love)
色道 しきどう          shikidou            sexual passion               (love+road)
色情 しきじょう      shikijyou            sexual passion; lust       (love+passion)
色話 いろばなし      irobanashi         love story; love talk        (love+talk)
色敵 いろがたき      irogataki            love rival                         (love+enemy)
色慾 しきよく         shikiyoku           sexual passion; lust        (love+lust)
色魔 しきま             shikima             libertine, philanderer       (love+demon)

[f] Chromatic RF

If you worked your way through the list, you surely saw that "color" shades into love...and this word set. Remember that I have only given you a small sense of the range of words associated with 色. There are many more "color" words (such as dyed leather, 色革) and "love" phrases (such as sex mania, 色狂). Let's finish our look at combinations with even further distances beyond the love colors of this character. We'll look at a set of two- and three-character phrases that push the meaning a little further.

色消し  いろけしな     iroke(shi/shina)   achromatism; prosaic  (color+erase)
色気違い いろきちがい irokichiga(i)         sex mania                    (love+air+contravene)
色収差  いろしゅうさ irosyuusa     chromatic abberation   (color+receive+difference)
色気付く いろけずく      irokezu(ku)        arrive at puberty          (love+air+deliver)
色眼鏡  いろめがね      iromegane        colored glasses; prejudice  (color+glasses)
色盛り  いろざかり      irozaka(ri)         female maturity            (love+abundance)
色即是空 しきこぜくう  shikigozekuu     the vanity of all things
This last phrase is a quintessentially Buddhist concept used in a wide variety of works throughout Japanese history. The characters denote a kind of chromatic/love vacuity that indicts everything (by extension) from elaborate dress and coiffure to sexual passion and even the love of worldly things.
***  ***
After all of that, however, there are exactly two characters in which 色 is radical. Two, and one of those is a variant form...of the other one. In other words, there is one character (beyond 色 itself) with this radical. Here "it“ is. This character appears in many combinations relating to "love speech," such as love letter (艶文), love talk (艶言), and love rumor (艶聞), to name just a few.

 エン     EN     Luster, glaze, polish; charm. Many indigenous Japanese words are 
                               also associated with this character, such as nama(meku) to be 
                               charming, colorful, and of excellent quality.
 エン     EN     Traditional form of the character above.
[g] Vibrant RF

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