JOK Notebook

Purity, Snazzy Dressers, and a Mended Lid for Every Cracked Pot

If I told you that 純粋 (じゅんすい) meant "pure" and asked you to translate the following title, how would you do it:


I'll provide the answer in a moment. First, here's an image of the book that brought this translation challenge into my life:

I included this image in the new essay 1455 on 粋 (cool, chic; refined; essence; pure), which you can find out about here:

Okay, here's the answer:

Pure People

もの (者: person)

The bit after 純粋 isn't the verb "to become" (なる) but rather the archaic suffix -なる, which corresponds to the -な trailing after contemporary -な adjectives. And as you can see, the もの isn't 物 (thing) but rather 者 (person). The hiragana here is trickier than the kanji! Sometimes I think people invented Japanese just to trip up nonnative speakers and to have a laugh at their expense!

Incidentally, the book is about top shogi players. The pentagons represent shogi pieces and bear the images of the four players who star in the book. I think someone overthought the cover design! Maybe in and of itself that evokes the theme of thinking very deeply about shogi patterns.

Speaking of patterns, something jumped out at me when I reread essay 1455. Much to my surprise, 装 appeared in two sample sentences and a sign:

1. 彼女、小粋な服装してるよね。
Her clothing has an understated charm.

Keyword featured: 小粋 (こいき: somehow stylish)
The 装 word: 服装 (ふくそう: attire)

2. 彼は展覧会に粋がって和装でやって来た。
He came to the exhibition in a kimono, trying to appear stylish (but not succeeding).

Keyword featured: 粋がる (いきがる: to try to appear stylish
The 装 word: 和装 (わそう: wearing a kimono)

3. 御料車の内外装は各時期の美術•工芸技術のをこらして製造され芸術性の高い豪華なものとなっています。
The interiors and exteriors of imperial carriages were carefully manufactured and crafted using the best artistic and industrial techniques of the time and are highly artistic and gorgeous.

Keyword featured: 粋 (すい: the best) 
The 装 word: 内外装 (ないがいそう: interior and exterior)

Each sentence features a different 粋-related word (in red), as well as a different  term (in blue), so the recurrences of 装 feel like a huge coincidence. And whereas the first two sentences are about clothing, the last is about the look of an imperial carriage! No wonder I was thrown off to see 装 in so many places.

But the uses of 装 are actually comparable and overlapping:

• In both 服装 and 和装, the latter kanji means "dress, outfit, attire, ornaments."

• In 内外装, the last kanji means "ornament; trim; to decorate."

One can think of the carriage as having been dressed up and given a snazzy look! So the 装 is actually more consistent across the three sentences than I realized.

In other matters, I was delighted this week when a very smart kanjiphile joined Joy o' Kanji and, in response to the registration question about what her favorite kanji is and why, added a fun new "brick" to the Great Wall of Kanji:

What a great shape 綴 has with its repeating components! I emailed her with a question about her entry, and in the course of our exchanges she said that 綴 appears in this great proverb:

A mended lid for a cracked pot 
There is a suitable spouse for everyone
Every Jack has his Jill

Preoccupied with other matters, I quickly glanced at the proverb and wondered what spelling had to do with it. What was “her” kanji doing in that saying? Will every bad speller eventually find another bad speller to marry?

No, it turns out that the non-Joyo 綴 leads a double life:

綴る (つづる:  (1) to spell; (2) write; compose; frame; (3) bind (e.g., documents); patch; sew together; stitch together)

綴じる (とじる: (1) to bind; to file; (2) top with egg (e.g., donburi))

The okurigana makes a world of difference! The proverb incorporates the second verb, 綴じる (とじる), which Breen defines as you see above. Drawing on another source, the 綴 enthusiast defined that verb as "to bind, sew, stitch (a book), to file; sew up; stitch together." Citing Kojien, she then said that 綴じ蓋 means "a mended lid." Thus, we have the vocabulary I've now added below:

A mended lid for a cracked pot 
There is a suitable spouse for everyone
Every Jack has his Jill

破れ鍋 (われなべ: cracked pot);
綴じ蓋 (とじぶた: mended lid)

Now I understand. If you want a crackpot spouse or a Jack who has cracked his crown, you can find one of your very own. Oh, wait, maybe that's not what the proverb is saying!

Catch you back here next time!


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