JOK Notebook

Two Faces, Two Tongues, and Backed-Up Bashfulness

When I was writing the forthcoming essay 2031 on 羞 (to be shy; feel ashamed), I decided two things about the following sentence:

I think what's important is bashfulness backed up with education.

大切 (たいせつ: important); 教養 (きょうよう: education); 裏付ける (うらづける: to back, shown here in the past tense of its passive form, meaning "has been backed" or "was backed"); 含羞 (がんしゅう: bashfulness)

I realized both that I loved it and that it had to go (for reasons that escape me now). That's most unlike me. I have a terrible reluctance to cut anything in my texts! (The part about forgetting used to be very much out of character, too, but has become the norm. A thick fog has enshrouded my brain of late!)

Oh, I do remember why I cut this sentence. It's something that a man from Kyoto University actually said, and I haven't the slightest idea what he meant by it. Do you?! (My proofreader chimes in with this interpretation: "Be educated, but don't show off your intelligence.")

Anyway, I can now explore all the lovable aspects of this sentence, particularly two. 

1. The Charms of 裏付ける

I really like the following term:

裏付ける (うらづける: to support; endorse; substantiate)    

I always have a soft spot for melodic kun-kun combinations, but that's not why I'm taken with this word. Rather, it makes me imagine that someone has somehow affixed (付ける) support in a tangible form to another person's "other side" (裏)—namely, the back. That would be much kinder than the "Kick Me" signs that humans are more likely to attach there.

The definitions of 裏付ける, "to support; endorse; substantiate," strike me as so natural and intuitive that two things surprise me:

• Halpern says that 裏付ける actually breaks down as support, backing, proof +  to give, impart, direct (one's attention). Hmm ... I choose to ignore that! It just doesn't click for me as much as the breakdown I assumed this word had.

• I nearly forgot the second discovery just now (oh, my fricking brain!), but I've just retrieved it! The second source of amazement is that 裏付ける is one of the few 裏 words to have a positive connotation. Others often involve betrayal—that is back stabbing and the like. 

Consider this verb: 

裏切る (うらぎる: to betray; turn traitor to; double-cross)     back + to cut

This kun-kun duo doesn't sound as pleasing to my ear simply because the meaning is so grim. Slashing someone's back? Actually, judging by the following sentence from a friend's email, people can use this word rather lightly:  

I hope it won't betray your expectations.

期待 (きたい: expectations) 

She wrote this while attaching (付ける!) a photo of herself! She didn't want it to disappoint me in case I imagined her face a certain way and then had a very different impression when we met.

Speaking of faces, here's another 裏 term about betrayal:

裏のある人 (うらのあるひと: two-faced person (lit., person who has a “rear” side to the personality)     rear + person

This concept matches the English idiom "two-faced person" and the Roman concept of the two-faced god Janus, from which we supposedly get "January" (though Wikipedia seems to dispute this), a month that faces the past and future simultaneously. Despite the similarity to English, 裏のある人  doesn't look all that intuitive to me. If I saw it without a definition, I would think it meant "person with a rear"! 

It's coincidental that, in the dead center of January, I'm writing about January. Here's another coincidence: today I published essay 2045 on 羨 (envious, jealous; to covet), and it includes this Buddhist tenet about double-dealing:

Don't trick others

二枚舌 (にまいじた: double-dealing; duplicity); 使う (つかう: to use)

As you can see, the word for "double-dealing" involves a tongue (舌) counted twofold (二枚). The Japanese use -枚 when counting flat things. I've certainly heard people use -枚 with paper and cash, but who counts tongues?!

As long as we're counting in twos, here's a second coincidence. The kanji 羨む has kun readings that start with うらや and then continue from there. Because I found it difficult to remember these yomi (notice a theme?), I created a mnemonic that helped me all week. It associated the beginning of the うらや with 裏 (うら). So here we are, having come full circle.

2. Cultivating with 養

Speaking of where we are, I'm overdue to talk about another word I love in the original sentence. I could hold off till next week, but given the way things are going, I might forget!

We all could probably use a reminder of what that sentence was:

I think what's important is bashfulness backed up with education.

大切 (たいせつ: important); 教養 (きょうよう: education); 裏付ける (うらづける: to back, shown here in the past tense of its passive form, meaning "has been backed" or "was backed"); 含羞 (がんしゅう: bashfulness)

The kanji 養 played a central role in essay 1327 on 滋 (nourishing, nutritious; delicious). In particular, that essay focused quite a bit on 滋養 (じよう: nourishment). I commented there that I often see the near synonym 栄養 (えいよう: nutrition; nourishment) but never 滋養.

Before learning either of those words, I knew 養 in the context of farming, as in this term:

養殖 (ようしょく: raising; culture; cultivation)     raising + raising

By taking 養 and adding an animal, one can indicate what one is cultivating:

養鶏 (ようけい: raising chickens)  raising + chickens
養豚 (ようとん: raising pigs)   raising + pigs
養蚕 (ようさん: sericulture (cultivating silkworms)) raising + silkworms

With that context in mind, I felt like laughing when I saw this term in the sentence above:

教養 (きょうよう: education)

At first glance, education appears to be a matter of cultivating and nourishing kids as if they were farm products!

I had forgotten (surprise, surprise!) that I'd tucked the following terms away in my database:

養育 (よういく: bringing up; rearing; upbringing)
養子を取る (ようしをとる: to adopt a child)    

The kanji 養 primarily means "to foster," which has a few subsets, according to Halpern:

• to bring up, raise to maturity, rear, support, care for
• foster (parent), adopted
• to breed, raise (animals or plants), keep

Secondary definitions include "to foster one's intellect, cultivate one's mind, train, foster one's physical strength, cure." A tertiary definition is "nourishment."

That covers all the cases we saw. Nevertheless, I still feel a little giggly at the idea that silkworms, roses, chickens, and kids all qualify when it comes to cultivating with 養. It's an equal-opportunity kanji!

If you would like to cultivate your garden of kanji by focusing on 羨, here's the sneak preview of the newest essay:

As my friend said, "I hope it won't betray your expectations." 


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