JOK Notebook

Kanji Distraction

For a lot of reasons lately, I've needed to distract myself from reality. A Quick Quiz is a great way of doing that! So let's lose ourselves in kanji.

1. What could this word mean:

目撃者 (もくげきしゃ)     eye + to hit an object + person

a. someone hard-hit by an emotion
b. victim of a crime
c. witness
d. physically abusive person

2. What might this word mean:

封筒 (ふうとう)     seal + tube-shaped encasement

a. pipe used in plumbing
b. the Internet
c. an anatomical part
d. envelope

3. The word 腑に落ちない (ふにおちない: organ + not dropping) literally means "(something) not dropping into one’s organs." What does it mean figuratively:

a. not convinced
b. unrefined state, unpolished    
c. ill-fitting, inappropriate
d. unaware

I'll block the answers with a preview of the newest essay:

Okay, here we go.

1.c. 目撃者 (もくげきしゃ: eye + to hit an object + person) means "witness." Kanjigen says we should understand 目撃 (もくげき: witnessing; observing; sighting) as "directly meeting the eye." When a person witnesses a crime or accident, for example, the scene meets that person's eyes.

I was intrigued recently to find 撃 in three very different words. Aside from 目撃者, I encountered these two in essay 2018 on 柵 (fence with spaced slats):

撃退 (げきたい: repelling)     to attack + to cause to retreat

衝撃 (しょうげき: shock)     to collide + to strike

The essay included 撃退 in a photo caption about repelling wild boars with an electric fence. As for 衝撃, it appeared in advertising copy in this phrase:

Unbelievable price

価格 (かかく: price)

Can we say that that price provokes sticker shock or has shock value?!

2.d. 封筒 (ふうとう: seal + tube-shaped encasement) means "envelope."

Were envelopes shaped like tubes at some point, maybe when people wrote on scrolls?

My researcher had no luck confirming why 筒 is in this word. He notes that Kojien and Nihon Kokugo Dai-Jiten say that 封筒 refers not only to envelopes but also to the box-shaped 状箱 (じょうばこ), a box to hold letters and documents. In fact, it seems that 状箱 may have been the primary definition of 封筒. If so, there goes my scroll theory!

3.a. 腑に落ちない (ふにおちない: organ + not dropping) literally means "(something) not dropping into one’s organs" and figuratively means "not convinced."

Note that the phrase is in the negative form, which is how people use it. Also, the first kanji is non-Joyo.

Dictionaries don't indicate the etymology of this expression, but my proofreader understands it this way: If you eat something and the food travels down to your stomach, that's 腑に落ちる (ふにおちる: (for food) to drop into the organs). By contrast, 腑に落ちない indicates that food doesn’t sit right in the stomach, creating discomfort. This sense of the phrase has broadened to include ideas that don't sit right in a person's mind!

Have a great weekend!


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