The Joy o' Kanji Essays

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bell
JOK: 1414
Do you know the difference between a 鐘 and a 鈴? Hint: Each bell has a different religious affiliation! Do you know which parts of a bell are associated with dragons, colts, and breasts? Do you know how to eat a bell? Do you know why they ring temple bells 108 times? Do you know what it means to strike an alarm bell figuratively? Read the essay, and you'll soon know all of this!
stature
JOK: 1415
The simple-looking 丈 is a "coatrack" on which scads of meanings hang. Our kanji lies at the heart of 大丈夫 (okay), in terms conveying strength, and in several adverbs. Moreover, 丈 plays a key role in measurements of height (e.g., of people) and length (especially of clothes). Thanks to the last meaning, 丈 is in the name of an island famous for silks, drumming, and unreal beauty.
superfluous
JOK: 1416
Learn to joke around in Japanese and to say, “He was amused at my joke,” “I said so jokingly, but she got angry,” and “His joke eased the tension in the room.” Find out how to talk about excess verbiage, as with “This sentence is too wordy” and “I eliminated redundancies.” Discover terms for on-the-job uselessness and excess, as in “I’m swamped with unnecessary work.”
fold
JOK: 1419
Find out how 畳 can represent both rigid tatami mats and foldable items. See how the mats relate to cobblestones, sardines, wives, and bald priests. Learn to discuss room size in terms of these mats, even if the room contains none. Read about formerly X-rated restaurant waiting rooms. And discover why two famous directors dissed documentaries, despite having made them.
plot (of land)
JOK: 1421
Japan is rich in agriculture now, but it once faced severe food shortages. Find out how people ingeniously transformed volcanic soil into arable farmland. Learn to talk about soil figuratively (as fertile ground for innovations) or literally, saying things like "Plants take in water from the soil" (Hint: There's a way to say "water" other than 水!) Also see what makes hydrangea flowers blue or red!
lock
JOK: 1423
This kanji takes us into the worlds of both locks and pills. See a combination lock with hanzi instead of numbers, find out what "shrimp lock" and "tail lock" represent, and learn how the Japanese historically secured their homes. Also discover how pills can wear "clothing," read about a candy made to resemble medicine, and see why one pharmacist's book is revolutionary.
brew
JOK: 1425
If you went by the primary meaning of 醸 (brewing) or by the 'saké' radical, you'd have no idea why 醸 pops up in sentences about a house with a strange layout, sad violin playing, a chair that feels luxurious, political controversies, and so on. The essay shows why! It also explains terms related to brewing alcohol, as well as types of ginjo saké (and how it has become less flabby!).
spicy
JOK: 1432
This essay will make your mouth and eyes water! You'll encounter words for "spicy," "salty," and "mustard," plus a regional dish with shiso leaves rolled around chili peppers. You'll learn to order dry saké or vodka diluted with tomato juice. This essay even shows how to make kanji sandwiches with the 辛 radical. Good times! Oh, and it explores bitterness about life's hardships!
with child
JOK: 1436
Learn to say, "I'm pregnant," and find out how a man might question his connection to the matter. Learn to talk about fertility, pregnancy tests, and morning sickness. See how one manga artist managed to be pregnant for 17 months! Read about ceremonies in which doctors draw kanji (e.g., 犬: dog) on women's sashes. And discover a shrine that displays imagery of female genitalia.
fast
JOK: 1448
See how 迅 connects to thunder, lions, and the military, as well as swift action. Learn to say, “He promptly coped with the situation,” “The office staff worked quickly and efficiently to resolve the problem,” “If a serious crisis arose, the government would have to act swiftly,” and “The invading army, initially considered to have irresistible force, turned out to be unexpectedly weak.”
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