JOK Notebook

Derogatory Dogs and Well-Respected Legs

I'm usually not drawn to long chains of kanji that lack interstitial hiragana. They indicate too little about how to break up the string into meaningful bits. However, the following phrase from a book's subtitle speaks to me because it's incredibly efficient. Can you figure out how this would translate:

儒仏問答     Confucianism + Buddhism + questions + answers

I'll give you a moment to consider the matter. In the meantime, here's a preview of the new essay on 儒 (Confucianism; scholar), which contains that phrase:

Okay, let's return to the phrase, now with a translation:

Dialogue About Confucianism and Buddhism

儒仏 (じゅぶつ: Confucianism and Buddhism);
問答 (もんどう: dialogue)

Aha, questions + answers = dialogue! How clever that is! 

I find the whole four-character string adorably compact!

Derogatory Dogs

Another gleaning from essay 1352 involves something that's usually adorable—dogs. However, it's not so adorable when people use 犬 or the non-Joyo 狗 (both "dog") as put-downs. That's the case in a word from the Verbal Logic Quiz (so I can't give it away here!), as well as in these terms:

犬死に (いぬじに: dying in vain) 

This has to do with dying without achieving one's goal or having a positive effect.

犬侍 (いぬざむらい: a depraved samurai) 

Specifically, this is a derogatory term for a samurai who doesn't conform to the bushido, the samurai code of chivalry.

喪家の狗 (そうかのいぬ: a dog ignored by a family in mourning; a starving dog; a lean, dispirited person)

How very specific the first definition is! And how clever the last one is as a figurative take on the neglected dog idea.

犬馬 (けんば: dogs and horses; lowly person; servant, "my humble self")

The first definition is quite literal, not derogatory. As for the last definition, you would use it when working for someone else and saying that you don't hate that kind of labor. This phrase would do the trick:

not to hate a dog’s or horse’s labor
        労 (ろう: labor); 厭わない (いとわない: not to begrudge) 

By likening yourself favorably to animals, which so often work for humans, you would indicate that you were okay with your situation.

Multiple Add-Ons

A last gleaning from essay 1352 has to do with these terms:

儒教 (じゅきょう: Confucianism)     Confucianism + religion name suffix
儒教的 (じゅきょうてき: Confucian)     Confucianism (1st 2 kanji) + adjectival suffix

As you can see, 儒教 lies inside 儒教的. And I could present the breakdown of the latter term in a different way, as follows:

儒教的 (じゅきょうてき: Confucian)
     Confucianism + religion name suffix + adjectival suffix

Look at that—two suffixes! I've come across this sort of structure a few times, and it always takes me by surprise. Here are other examples:

containing 12 packs

-包 (-ホウ: counter for packs); -入り (-いり: containing)

a few months later

-ヶ月 (-かげつ: counter for months); -後 (-ご: later)

It's also possible to have two prefixes in a word, particularly when it comes to the honorific 御- (ご- or お-):

御神宝 (ごしんぽう: sacred treasure)

御御籤 (おみくじ: slip of paper with a fortune; written oracle)

御神籤 (おみくじ: slip of paper with a fortune; written oracle)

The last two words (in which 籤 is non-Joyo) are alternate ways of rendering the same yomi in kanji.

All those examples involve religion, but that's not always the case:

御御足 (おみあし: legs) 

Those are some well-respected legs! (They usually belong to a woman.)

If the idea of two prefixes surprises you, consider that it's possible to have three! Check this out:

御御御付け (おみおつけ: miso soup)

That must be one hell of a batch of miso soup if it garners so much respect!

Have a great weekend!


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