The Joy o' Kanji Essays

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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!
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.
folding fan
JOK: 1492
You might be envisioning a handheld fan as a dainty item held by a dainty woman, but war commanders used to hold fans, and fans have served as weapons! Far from being confined to a genteel world, 扇 plays a role in words about instigating trouble. Learn about two shapes of fans and see how they influence animal and plant names, as well as descriptions of many everyday objects.
step
JOK: 1495
This kanji is for people who like to take action! Our character appears in the titles of "practical manuals" and books that offer "practical training." By studying 践, you'll learn to say, "Actions speak louder than words," "He used Western knowledge in a Japanese way," "Anyone can put it into practice," 'It's important to combine theory with practice,' and "He carried out his duty."
push open
JOK: 1496
Manners are paramount in Japan, and 挨 has to do with the right words said at the right time (though it originally represented rude behavior!). See how 挨 relates to greeting and parting from others, apologies, expressions of sympathy, speeches, the yakuza, visiting relatives, Zen dialogues, writing letters, and more. Also learn why you might give toilet paper as a gift!
recommend
JOK: 1499
People typically use this kanji to recommend things (e.g., restaurants, books, and hotels) or people (e.g., for positions). But 薦 also has connections to everything from saké barrels, straw mats, and wall coverings to Shinto rituals, flute-playing priests, and beggars, as well as the sacrum, wild rice, and azuki beans. This essay explores the relationships between these disparate themes!
mend
JOK: 1504
Learn to talk about smoothing over a gaffe, making excuses, and keeping up appearances. Find out how to say, “Show me clothes you think will look good on me,” “He got dressed quickly,” and “I had my mother mend this sweater.” Consider whether the Japanese view of mending has Shinto underpinnings. And see how a mushroom relates to darning and how beans relate to cloth!
pair
JOK: 1513
This photo-studded essay will have you seeing double! You'll learn which items in Japan are countable in pairs. On the flip side, you'll also see which sorts of entities have been deemed "peerless" (that is, not a pair). One expresses that idea with a negated form of 双. You'll encounter words for "twin" and "mutual," as well as sentences such as this: "He is as great a poet as ever lived."
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