RADICAL NOTES

188. The "Bone" Radical: 骨

I like the look of the "bone" radical 骨. It's a tidy stack of strokes—and of bones! Henshall says in his newer edition that the shape etymologically combines 月 (flesh) with the top part, which represents "occipital bone." Collectively, these halves yield "skull" and by extension "bone."

The only English name for the 骨 radical is "bone." The Japanese radical name ほね comes from the Joyo kun-yomi of the autonomous 骨 kanji:

骨 (867: bone; frame; spirit, grit)

How perfectand completely coincidental—that the romanized ほね (namely, hone) and "bone" look so much alike. In fact, the hone yomi becomes bone in 背骨 (せぼね: spine)!

Whereas ほね works as a radical name for the 骨 kanji itself, ほねへん is more suitable for these two:

髄 (1463: marrow; essence)

(1979: corpse; skeleton)

In both characters the radical is on the left, which is what the -へん of ほねへん indicates. (For more on this, see Radical Terms and read about Position 1 in the "Radical Positions" section.) 

Just like that, we've encountered all three Joyo kanji with an on-duty 骨 radical. By the way, this 10-stroke shape has no variants.

Photo Credit: Eve Kushner

The right side of this sign introduces a useful word, the name of a common treatment in Japan:

整体 (せいたい: seitai, a therapy that combines osteopathy, massage, and chiropractic and that is based on Chinese and Japanese traditions)

The トータル promises a total-body treatment, so why does the left side narrow the focus considerably with this word:

骨盤 (こつばん: pelvis)

And what's going on with サロン? A pelvis salon?!

My proofreader says that the pelvis is considered the most important body part to focus on in seitai therapy. Although he's not quite sure about this サロン, he guesses that it simply means "place," as in "place for seitai." 

Photo Credit:
Eve Kushner

This segment of a menu initially confused me. Soft (軟) bone (骨)? How could that be edible, much less appealing? Ah, here's what the word means:

軟骨 (なんこつ: (1) cartilage; (2) (chicken) cartilage)

The first definition is anatomical. The second meaning is culinary, referring to chicken cartilage (which is to say "gristle") that people usually deep-fry.

Of course soft bone means "cartilage"! It makes sense once you know the definition! 

Dem Bones

Inspired by 軟骨, I searched for other fun terms featuring our 骨 radical, and they weren't hard to find. Check out these great words that end with 髄 (1463: marrow; essence):

真髄 or 神髄 (しんずい: essence; quintessence; spirit; soul; heart; pith; pith and marrow)     true + essence

脳髄 (のうずい: brain)     brain + essence

It's hard to believe that a word for "brain" contains the "bone" radical. 

And look what happens when you combine 骨 with the two ほねへん kanji:

骨髄 (こつずい: (1) bone marrow; (2) true spirit; one's mind)     bone + marrrow; essence

骸骨 (がいこつ: skeleton)     skeleton + bone

The word 骨髄 has a dazzling array of meanings, though people now use it almost exclusively as "marrow." The idea behind the secondary senses must be that the marrow, which lies at the core of the bone and is untainted, represents the truth.

In the latter case we have a bone sandwich! More edible bones!

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