The Joy o' Kanji Essays

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approximate
JOK: 1072
People caution against generalizing, but to hell with that! The kanji 概 invites us to speak in generalities. Learn to say "in general," "on the whole," and "as a rule." Find out how to make approximations and rough estimates. And get the big picture with terms for all types of overviews, including summaries of film plots, introductory courses, and concluding remarks at lectures.
hedge
JOK: 1073
Find out which 垣 expressions convey something juicy about human behavior and which ones pertain to actual hedges and fences. See how bamboo fences connect to fishing nets and ships. Discover what role 垣 plays in the oldest tanka and in common proverbs. Learn to read lots of surnames containing 垣, including that of a legendary equestrian, a politician, a linguist, and a sumo wrestler.
shell
JOK: 1075
The flexible 殻 can represent shells from the sea, from trees, and from animals. It also helps to describe people's personalities and can symbolize remnants. Though remnants may seem worthless, the Japanese know how to put many to good use. Find out what coffee grounds can do for you! Also learn a word with 殻 that has become popular since the big earthquake of March 2011.
seize
JOK: 1079
It might seem from the primary definition of 獲 and from its “animal” radical that this kanji is mainly for trapping wild animals, rounding up strays, chasing prey, and catching fish. You can certainly use 獲 in those ways, but this kanji also enables you to talk about acquiring languages, capturing an enemy’s equipment, winning literary prizes, getting ahold of busy people, and much more.
menacing
JOK: 1080
A country poses a threat by expanding its military presence. Cats arch their backs to menace dogs. A type of crab intimidates a sea anemone by lifting it overhead. Parents issue threats to study harder, managers threaten employees with dismissal, someone threatens to reveal an ex's secrets, and you might resort to threats to get money back. Learn to say all of this with 嚇!
harvest
JOK: 1081
Learn which words the Japanese use for harvesting apples, corn, and even pearls versus catching a haul of fish. Learn to say, "I got a lot out of that project," which uses "harvest" figuratively, and "Apple season will come soon," which doesn't. Get into the minds of advertisers who use 穫 to tout a product's freshness. And enjoy a bounty of harvest images, plus a memorable folktale.
mountain peak
JOK: 1082
See how Mount Fuji connects to a supercomputer that can save Japan. Find out how politicians hobbled science research for years. Discover a legend about how Fuji became taller than its rival. Learn to say, "Mount Yatsugatake is a range with eight peaks," "This dog is trained to save people in the mountains," "Mountain rescue teams are on standby," and "The mountaineer set out for the summit."
lagoon
JOK: 1084
Find out about an annual event with the unstated goal of coating all participants in mud! See why Japan's lagoons are vanishing while its tidelands are increasing. Learn about how the most famous Japanese "lagoon" is not a lagoon. Read about lagoon-based obsessions, famous writings about lagoons, and hidden aspects of Niigata Prefecture (e.g., that it is snowier than Hokkaido!).
hoarse
JOK: 1086
A few words with 喝 are about applauding people, and the rest are about crushing them! Discover the thread connecting terms about (1) cheering for performers and winners; (2) intimidation, threats, and extortion; and (3) a random shout that helps Zen priests achieve enlightenment. Also see how highly religious terms from Zen have made their way into a popular TV sports segment.
thirsty
JOK: 1087
This kanji is both about having insufficient amounts of things (whether water, money, love, or phosphorus) and thirsting for them physically or psychologically. Learn to say, “I’m hungry and thirsty,” “Eating spicy food makes you thirsty,” “I satisfied my craving for nature,” and “Our people thirst for independence.” Also find out which verb quenches thirst and learn how to paint with a dry brush.
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