JOK Notebook

Unfurling a Glyph

While writing the hot-off-the-presses essay 1938 on 廊 (corridor; gallery), I came upon something that stumped me in a passage from Amazon Japan. How would you read the red bit:


In case you're curious about this sentence, it says that the author explores how Japanese people have lived, examining the room arrangements of their houses from different eras (Meiji, Taisho, and Showa), positing that the central corridor has been a heretofore unexplored theme, and studying the wisdom of each period. 

I'll let you think about the red part while I offer a sneak preview of the new essay:

It turns out that 時代々々 corresponds to 時代時代. The word 時代 (じだい: era) has been duplicated, creating the nuance of "each era." I don't remember ever having seen a repetition of the repetition kanji!

I always get a kick out of this little symbol. I find it as cute as an upturned nose, which it actually resembles! And I'm all the more charmed when I spot it in unexpected places.

Take, for example, this surname:

佐々木 (ささき)

The symbol appears smack in the middle. How would you like to have a symbol in your name? That's almost like Prince with his glyph!

By the way, there's a similar surname where the 々 doesn't even produce an exact repetition: 

佐々 (さっさ)

The next term looks as weird to me as 佐々木:

荒々しい (あらあらしい: rough, wild)

It seems that if a 々 belongs anywhere, it needs to go at the end of a word, as with 時々 (ときどき: sometimes) or this fun term from essay 1187 on 隅 (corner; inconspicuous place):

隅々 (すみずみ: every nook and cranny; everywhere)

The symbol does fall at the end of the following word from essay 1415 on 丈 (strong; measure (of length or height); only):

多士済々 (たしせいせい: galaxy of able people; collection of intellectuals)

Even so, this expression looks odd to me because I'm unaccustomed to seeing three kanji precede a 々. Kanjigen says that the 済済 means “many and magnificent" and that 多士済々 means “to have many (able) people, which is magnificent.”

Here's a way to use the term in a sentence:

Well, well well! This is quite a gathering of talent to have under one roof.

これだけ (this much); まあ (well); 人材 (じんさい: talented person); 一堂 (いちどう: same building); 集まる (あつまる: to gather); もんだ (a colloquial form of ものだ, where もの is a nominalizer)

Another interesting case comes from essay 1237 on 呉 (to give; (Kingdom of) Wu)):


If I saw this out of context (or possibly in context!), I would have no idea how to expand it. Here's the way it unfurls:

呉れ呉れも or 呉呉も (くれぐれも: being sure)

Most people write this entirely in hiragana, so they don't have to be unsure about a term for "being sure"!

Given all these substitutions, I would have expected to see one in this word:

肺病病み (はいびょうやみ: patient with pulmonary tuberculosis)

But that wouldn't be possible because each 病 carries a different yomi. The last half of the word, -病み (-やみ: lit. "being sick" but used to mean "sick person"), comes from the verb 病む (やむ: to be sick) and combines with 肺病 (はいびょう: lung disease, lung + disease). 

It struck me that many disease names must have similar duplications of 病, so I asked my proofreader if he knew of other examples. He said there really aren't any: "Theoretically one can say 性病病み (せいびょうやみ: person with an STD), but we usually prefer the suffix -持ち (-もち: having), as in 性病持ち (せいびょうもち)." This translates directly as "having an STD," but the Japanese use it to mean "person with an STD."

Well, STDs are a hard act to follow, and if I say any more, I'm at risk of repeating myself! 

Have a great weekend!


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