RADICAL NOTES

66. The "Strike" Radical: 攴 and 攵

You may associate the "strike" radical most closely with this common kanji:

教 (101: teaching; religion)

The right side means "strike," making one wonder about the role of beatings in both school and religion! This character does indeed have to do with corporal punishment. According to Henshall in his newer edition (the source of all etymologies in this Radical Note), the 攵 in 教 represents "a hand holding a stick," meaning "strike, beat, compel." That is, this radical relates to schools where instructors taught by coercive methods. By extension, the ancient Chinese came to use 教 for "teach." The other components in an earlier shape of the character include "roof crossbeams" (representing a building) on the upper left and "child" on the lower left.

Just as 攵 lies on the right in 教, that's where our radical is in the following 13 Joyo kanji in which it is also on duty:

数 (151: number; several; to count)

放 (391: to release; leave as is; toss away)

改 (435: to change, redo; examine)

救 (456: to rescue; salvation)

散 (492: to scatter; break apart; unrestrained; random; disorder)

敗 (562: to be defeated; fail; rot)

故 (668: deceased, old; incident, affair; intentional; reason)

政 (724: political administration, government; politics; management)

敵 (756: enemy, opponent; revenge; to resist)

敬 (846: respect; to revere)

敢 (1106: to dare to do; brave; (not) particularly; (not) at all)

敏 (1746: agile)

敷 (1756: to spread; pave)

In one more Joyo kanji, this on-duty radical is instead on the upper right:

整 (328: to arrange)

In this case, says Henshall, we need to perceive the whole top component as a unit, one meaning "arrange properly."

Whenever our radical is on duty in Joyo characters, it appears with the 攵 shape. What a surprise, then, to learn that 攵 is the variant form. Here's how it works:

parent: 攴 

variant: 攵 

Either way, the radical has four strokes.

Photo Credit: Eve Kushner

We need to read this old-style Tokyo sign from right to left, finding these characters:

研数専門学校
Kensu Technical School

研数 (けんすう: name of a school);
専門学校 (せんもんがっこう: technical school)

The 数 (151: number) appears in its old form, so 攴 lies on the right side instead of 攵. Both 研 and 学 have antiquated shapes here, as well.

What Is Radical 66 Called?

The English names of our radical are straightforward. As an autonomous and non-Joyo kanji, 攴 means "to hit." Thus, it's quite logical that one English name is the "strike" radical and that "hit" and "tap" are two alternatives. 

I will say that the nickname "folding chair" threw me off until I realized that the shape resembles a director's chair as viewed from the side! 

The Japanese names are more complicated and abundant. Because the 攴 kanji can carry the yomi ボク and ホク, those readings surface in most of these names:

ぼく ぼくにょう ぼくづくり とまた のぶん

I've compiled this list from various sources; Nelson lists ぼく first, whereas Kanjigen doesn't include that name at all. 

In ぼくづくり, the -づくり suffix tells us that a radical is on the right side of a kanji. As for -にょう, that's the name for a surrounding enclosure such as the 鬼 in 魅 (to bewitch). When does 攵 ever surround another component? I have found no good answers, so this name apparently never applies. To learn about these and similar suffixes, see "Radical Terms" and look at the Radical Names section.

The last two names for our radical require some explanation:

• People refer to 攴 as とまた because the shape looks as if it combines ト (と) with 又 (また: again). That wouldn't work for 攵.

• The name のぶん comes from perceiving 攵 as a mashup of ノ (の) + 文 (ぶん) and applies only to 攵, not 攴.

Which Radicals Does 攴/攵 Resemble?

Speaking of 又 and 文, those happen to be autonomous radicals that look somewhat similar to 攴/攵. Be sure to distinguish radical 66 from all of these:

radical 29: 又 ("again") 

radical 34: 夂 ("winter")

radical 35: 夊 ("go slowly")

radical 65: 支 ("branch")

radical 67: 文 ("literature")

radical 88: 父 ("father")

Photo Credit: Eve Kushner

I'm intrigued by the contrast between the messy writing at the top and the tidy list below. The larger writing on this Osaka sign consists of these words:

がんこ (頑固: stubborn)

壽司 (すし: sushi), where the non-Joyo 壽 is standing in for 寿

Although がんこ comes from 頑固, implying that the chefs at this restaurant are quite stubborn about making delicious sushi without compromising on anything, がんこ is just a name here. One most likely voices the すし, reading the name as がんこずし.

The usual rendering of "sushi" heads off the black words in the lower line:

寿司 (すし: sushi)

和食 (わしょく: Japanese food)

個室 (こしき: private room)

お座敷 (おざしき: tatami room)

The last term ends with 敷 (1756: to spread; pave), which has a logical etymology. Henshall says that our radical means "beat with stick" in this context. The left side, which is the phonetic and maybe also a semantic, contributes the associated sense "spread out." Overall, then, 敷 means "beat (something) with stick to spread it out." Imagine making your bed that way!

Why Is 攴/攵 in Various Kanji?

Thus far, the presence of 攴/攵 in these characters has made sense. Here's another example of that ilk:

敵 (756: enemy, opponent; revenge; to resist)

This character combines the radical (strike) with the left side, a phonetic with the associated sense "hit/confront equally." Thus, the whole thing means "those who strike each other." 

In two more characters the radical has to do with beating away supernatural forces:

放 (391: to release; leave as is; toss away)

This 攵 means "hit with a stick." The left side has a disputed function and meaning. In one interesting interpretation the left side represents an "exposed corpse," and the whole thing means "corpse being beaten in a ritual to drive out evil spirits." No matter what, the overall sense is "beat with a stick and chase away," leading to other definitions, such as "emit" and "release."

改 (435: to change, redo; examine)

Many scholars interpret 改 as "hand holding stick" (攵) + "demon" (the associated sense of the left side when it had the form 巳), giving "drive out demons." In ancient China, people practiced that ritual to usher in a new season. But several researchers instead see 改 as "person chastising a child"; in some scripts, 巳 and 子 look extremely similar. Anyway, "change, reform" is an extended usage of the whole character.

Originally, our radical didn't actually exist in at least two characters:

敢 (1106: to dare to do; brave; (not) particularly; (not) at all)

敏 (1746: agile)

In both cases, the right side was once 又.

Photo Credit: Eve Kushner

Did you know olives had enemies? I learned that in a display on the Inland Sea island Shodoshima, where olives are an important crop.

At the tail end of the large writing, our radical appears in 敵 (756: enemy). That kanji constitutes half of 天敵 (てんてき: natural enemy), as in オリーブの天敵 (the enemy of the olive). The first line, オリーブアナアキゾウムシ, translates as "olive weevil." Here's the next bit:

日本だけに生息する
(It) lives only in Japan

日本 (にほん: Japan); 生息 (せいそく: living)

Photo Credit: Eve Kushner

This sign about cleaning up after one's dog includes our radical in two kanji, both in the second line: 

放 (391: to release; leave as is; toss away)

散 (492: to scatter; break apart; unrestrained; random; disorder)

They appear in these words, respectively:

放置 (ほうち: leaving as is);

散歩 (さんぽ: walk)

Here's the sentence in question:

フンの放置やノーリードでの散歩は条例違反です。
Not picking up poop and having an unleashed animal
while walking a dog are violations of the municipal ordinance.

フン (feces); ノーリード (unleashed, lit. “no lead”);
条例 (じょうれい: municipal ordinance);
違反 (いはん: violation)

The sign starts by advising you to “abide by” (守る, まもる) manners and goes on to say that pet owners should carry poop home with them.

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