JOK Notebook

Muddy Tea and More

For me this week has been about instability. Several surprises, both pleasant and unpleasant, have jerked my mood around in all kinds of directions. (One surprise was when my yoga teacher uncharacteristically mentioned the goal of finding stability in a constantly changing world. What a coincidence!)

Unlike life, which offers far too many unpleasant surprises, kanji almost always provides enjoyable twists and turns. To that end, I'm going to share some recent discoveries in the form of a quiz. 

1. What do you think the following term could mean?

お茶を濁す (おちゃをにごす)     tea + to muddy, make cloudy

a. to be evasive
b. to ruin everything one touches
c. to be riddled with doubts
d. to complicate things unnecessarily

2. What do you think the verb in the following expression means?

破綻を来す (はたんをきたす: ______)     failure, bankruptcy (1st 2 kanji) + ____

a. to come quickly
b. to approach slowly
c. to arise
d. to provide a wallop

3. What do you suppose this phrase means?


春 (はる: spring); 訪れ (おとずれ: visit); 感じる (かんじる: to feel)

        a. to feel like spring is visiting
        b. to feel like visiting someone in the spring
        c. to feel young again    
        d. to be in love

4. What could the next phrase be about?

満ち欠け (みちかけ)     full + lacking

a. hunger
b. prosperity and poverty
c. abundant harvest and drought
d. the moon

5. What could the verb in the next sentence mean by itself?

They argued passionately.

彼ら (かれら: they); 気炎万丈 (きえんばんじょう: in high spirits); 
討論 (とうろん: discussion); 繰り広げる (くりひろげる: _____)

        a. to intensify
        b. to unfold
        c. to be toxic
        d. to interact    

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

Okay, here we go:

1.a. お茶を濁す (おちゃをにごす: tea + to muddy, make cloudy) means "(1) to be evasive" as well as "(2) speak ambiguously; prevaricate; (3) cook up a specious story to get out of an uncomfortable situation; (4) make do with." If one can read the future in the tea leaves, one can also screw with someone's mind by making the tea impossibly murky! 

Several etymology sites agree that this expression comes from the fact that some people who didn’t know the proper tea ceremony tried to fake it. They mixed tea powder with hot water and produced muddy matcha. 

2.c. The answer is "to arise." Here's the full expression:

破綻を来す (はたんをきたす: to cause to collapse)
     failure, bankruptcy (1st 2 kanji) + to arise

I’m not accustomed to seeing the common kanji 来 with this yomi or with this meaning. People mostly use 来す with negative nouns such as 破綻 (above) or 支障 (ししょう) or 障害 (しょうがい), both of which mean “obstacle, hindrance, impediment, difficulty.”

3.a. The phrase 春の訪れを感じる means "to feel like spring is visiting." But I shouldn't have defined the words separately because 春の訪れ means "the arrival of spring." You can use it to mean either that spring is coming or that it has arrived.

4.d. 満ち欠け (みちかけ: full + lacking) is about the moon! This term means "waxing and waning (of the moon)."

5.b. In the following sentence, the red word means "to unfold":

They argued passionately.

彼ら (かれら: they); 気炎万丈 (きえんばんじょう: in high spirits); 
討論 (とうろん: discussion); 繰り広げる (くりひろげる: to unfold)

You'll find this expression and this sentence in the new essay on 丈.

I hope the coming week unfolds in a stable way! Have a great weekend!



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