The Joy o' Kanji Essays

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disconcerted
JOK: 1259
With 慌 we can talk about someone who is late, careless, or flustered. The same kanji helps us discuss mass panic about the economy or about an earthquake. See how the kun-yomi zooms in on the individual and how the on-yomi relates to the public. Learn to say, “The question threw him off,” “One needn’t panic,” and “Because he acts hastily, he’s likely to jump to conclusions.”
wring (out)
JOK: 1261
The 絞 kanji affords access to practical devices, such as juice squeezers and garlic presses. This kanji also introduces us to Japanese tie-dyeing. But 絞 really comes to life with its figurative uses, enabling us to put the screws on someone, squeeze money out of people, zero in on something, weed out applicants, and rack our brains. See what it means to strangle slowly with a silk cord.
magnificent
JOK: 1271
Certain people stand out because they have strength of character, courage, free spirits, and loads of talent. We also tend to notice wealthy and powerful sorts, as well as the luxurious places they enjoy. Knowing 豪 gives us copious ways of talking about such people and places. It also pops up in words for “heavy drinker,” “torrential rain,” and “Australia.”
marriage
JOK: 1278
This essay puts a finger on the pulse of current anxieties about finding a spouse in an "herbivore" nation. Quizzes reveal just how many types of marriage and divorce there can be. Photos showcase picture brides and Shinto weddings. The essay abounds in terms related to engagements, fancy or toned-down ceremonies, shotgun weddings, honeymoons, and anniversary gifts.
navy blue
JOK: 1279
Discover how dark blue connects to the police and navy. Find out why a term for “dyer” includes 紺, what it means for dyers to “wear white,” and where Dyers Alley is. Learn about great kinds of blue kasuri, find out how horned blue demons differ from other types, see what you get when eggplant mixes with dark blue, and learn the origins of “Prussian blue” and “ultramarine.”
soul
JOK: 1280
As you can see from terms such as 大和魂 (the Japanese spirit), 言霊 (the soul of language), and 士魂商才 (having a samurai's spirit and a merchant's business sense), matters of the soul and spirit are important in Japan. Learn to talk about putting your heart and soul into something, plus kanji as the soul of Japan. Also find out how to welcome back dead spirits on o-Bon.
groundbreaking
JOK: 1281
Japan wouldn't be what it is if people hadn't labored to cultivate the land, making it suitable for agriculture and human habitation. Learn how the Japanese use 墾 to represent that major effort, and find out how to combine 墾 with just a few common kanji so you can talk about lands both tamed and wild. Find out how one term can mean both "cultivated land" and its opposite.
tempt
JOK: 1284
With 唆 you can make trouble and influence people. The influence may be as mild as offering a suggestion, arousing a sense of adventure, or whetting someone’s appetite. But the kanji also relates to all of the following acts: inciting one’s kids to be terrorists, persuading people to commit crimes, abetting a prison escape, and tempting someone sexually.
superintend
JOK: 1288
From the head of the haiku society to Prime Minister Abe, 宰 enables you to talk about the person in charge. By reading about 宰 in this essay, you'll also learn about an ancient, powerful organization that shaped Japanese culture, a great man who ran Japan after the war, and a fascinating writer whose personal life was such a mess that it'll make you feel good about yours!
plant
JOK: 1289
The Japanese excel at farming. Find out what they're up to with organic and pesticide-free cultivation, particularly since 2011, when the Tohoku disasters made people anxious about food safety. See where the Japanese have experimented with growing olives. Learn how to coax secrets out of bonsai. And read plot summaries from the TV show "Weeds” about growing marijuana!
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