The Joy o' Kanji Essays

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put between
JOK: 1165
Find out why several places are called Fusabami, what it means to "discuss something across a table," and what to call attacks from two sides. Learn how one powerful verb can refer to sandwiching something or to filling that sandwich. Discover ways to talk about fingers slammed in doors, houses facing each other, hearsay, interruptions, and meddling (or "sticking your beak in"!).
narrow
JOK: 1166
The word 'narrow' makes me think of 'skinny,' as in the delightfully named diet book Skinny Bitch. But skinny isn't what you'll find with 狭, even though it means 'narrow.' The Japanese associate 狭 with crowdedness. Learn various words for cramped spaces, from a tiny apartment to a clogged artery. We'll even cover narrow-mindedness and narrow interpretations of words. You'll get the skinny on all of it!
fear
JOK: 1167
Discover the link between courtesy and extortion. Learn to talk about widespread panic, formidable talent, and possible accidents. Find out how to make requests sound timid, not pushy. See how one term means everything from 'Sorry, but can you ...' to 'I'm impressed!' to 'Thank you'! And learn about the 恐 associated with dinosaurs, moas, おそらく, and かしこ (in women's letters).
surprised
JOK: 1172
Find out what this means to a Japanese person: "Right now I'm so surprised that my feelings are like a bluefin tuna from the shelf.' Also learn to say these things: "Much to my surprise, the door opened without a sound," "Everyone marveled at her courage," "The most precious thing in life is wonder," "I didn't mean to surprise you," and "His stupid answer surprised everybody."
dawn
JOK: 1174
Although あかつき sounds like “red moon,” it doesn’t mean that. Learn the etymology of this yomi. Find out how dawn connects to success and enlightenment and how to say such things as “When completed, this building will be the world’s tallest.” Learn the Japanese for “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” Read about a fascinating artist and an architect with 暁 in their names.
axe
JOK: 1176
The kanji 斤 originally meant 'ax' and now means 'loaf (of bread).' En route from one definition to another, it acquired yet another meaning: 600 grams. Find out how the Japanese came to associate one kanji with such disparate things! Also learn about 斤 as a radical and as a very common component.
koto
JOK: 1178
The koto (Japanese zither) connects to dragons, blindness, class differences, rice paddies, marriage, and an important myth. Find out why one needs to read each 琴 in 琴の琴 with different yomi. See which natural feature in Japan was named after a type of 琴, and learn about hidden kotos in the garden. Also discover certain Japanese words that always pull on people's heartstrings.
discreet
JOK: 1180
Learn about a New Year’s greeting that you’ll read but not hear. See what it means when 謹製 is stamped on products in red. Find out how to talk about being conscientious and careful (e.g., with words) or conversely indiscreet (in oh so many ways!). Read about stay-at-home orders that long preceded our current era, as well as respectful terms to include in formal letters.
gallop
JOK: 1183
Most terms with 駆 will leave you breathless. It lies at the heart of words for "footrace," "rushing in at the last minute," and "pioneer" (one who has raced ahead of the pack). You'll learn to say, "He ran up the stairs panting," "Her desire to be a doctor spurred her on," and "He was driven by revenge." Find out why signs about Cinderella hang in Japanese subway stations!
accidentally
JOK: 1185
See how the disparate definitions of 偶 converge on one theme. Learn to discuss chance occurrences (e.g., "I happened to be in London then"). Find out about dogus, the otherworldly figurines that the ancient Japanese created, and see why people compare these statues to the Inuits. Also learn to talk about your idols, whether you adore Haruki Murakami or a North Korean dictator.
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