The Joy o' Kanji Essays

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equal
JOK: 1473
The equals symbol lies at the heart of 斉, which factors into words about equality, symmetry, and proportion (e.g., "She has a well-proportioned figure."). The most important bit of 斉 vocabulary means "simultaneous." With this word you can say that an audience bursts into laughter together or that birds break into song at the same time. Meanwhile, a negative prefix turns a 斉 compound into a term for "asymmetry," one of the seven principles of wabi-sabi. Also find out when 斉 serves as a radical or component in other characters.
animal sacrifice
JOK: 1474
Parents often make sacrifices to give children a good education. Find out how to say that, and then discover how maternal self-sacrifice may be harmful. See which term for “war victim” is right, depending on what the person experienced. Learn to say, “I must help her at any cost” and “She worked at the expense of her health,” as well as jargon for being a sacrificial lamb in the consumer world.
die
JOK: 1475
Japanese perceptions of death emerge in this essay. The kanji in certain terms imply that a dying person is going far away or will be gone forever. Somehow “early + life” means “early death.” People refer so casually to the “world of the dead” that that phrase ends up in ordinary sentences like “I can’t believe it’s been six years since my dad died.” And one book urges the elderly to die at home alone.
reject
JOK: 1480
Learn to talk about rejecting suggestions and plans, and find out how to say, "They dismissed his criticism as hypocrisy." Read about campaigns against Japanese goods, and study Japanese Wikipedia passages about the North American history of banning Asian immigrants. Discover which sports Japan encouraged and disallowed during wartime. Bonus: study space science!
ancient; old
JOK: 1481
Discover how calling something "old-fashioned" in Japanese can be an insult or a compliment. Learn to say that the recent past feels like ancient history. Also learn to say "I used to be a different person," "Hollywood isn't what it used to be," and "That was then and this is now." Find out how although 昔 can currently mean "decade," it once meant a time span as long as 66 years!
ships
JOK: 1483
Learn to talk about missing eyes and limbs, as in “Shigeru Mizuki was a manga artist with one arm.” By extension, the “one of a pair” sense of 隻 enables you to say, “There's no trace of the enemy” and “He never misses any of his teacher's words.” Also learn to discuss ships with 隻, saying, “Don't risk putting all the cargo in one ship” and “Some ships are sailing on the sea.”
trace
JOK: 1485
Discover why Sun Yat-sen’s handwriting mattered to the Japanese, and find out how they feel about the look of razor stubble and harvested fields. Also see why a Nagoya well contained gold, how ruins relate to one generation, and what “crow footprints” represent. Learn to say, “We found footprints in the sand,” “There is no sign of life on Mars,” and “Each era has left its mark.”
bungling
JOK: 1487
With 拙, you can condemn art as crude, writing as unsophisticated, foreign policy as unskillful, and yourself as incompetent. But 拙 isn’t only about impossibly high standards. The essay shows that speed sometimes matters more than good results. Of course, maybe others won't see your shoddy work that way. Conveniently, the essay also teaches you to say, “I’m screwed!”
stealth
JOK: 1488
By reading about everything from art heists to kleptomania, learn to say that a person is suspected of theft, is charged with theft, and is guilty of theft. Find out what there is to steal from Japanese temples and how such thefts have played out internationally. See whether or not the Japanese have traditionally protected their property and whether or not thievery has been an issue in Japan.
hermit
JOK: 1490
Coming from an ancient Taoist context, 仙 blurs the line between what's real and fictional. It refers to a human who has become immortal with magical powers, as seen in Japanese folktales and art. People use 仙 in more grounded ways when discussing geniuses and oddballs. Find out why 仙 is in the name of a major Japanese city, one that pops up in the names of some beef dishes.
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