Kanji Clinic #67 The Japan Times February 24, 2005
"Brrrrr...These wintry kanji will give you chills"


The lack of central heating in Japanese houses may be economically and ecologically sound, but if you happen to be a (samugariya, person overly sensitive to cold) like me, you will have to do some serious bundling up indoors during the winter. My shoeless feet, rendered virtual blocks of X (koori, ice) by the stone-cold floor, provided the inspiration for today's column.

Let's take a look at the shapes of kanji related to "cold," and some of the compound words comprised of these chilly characters.
Many of the general-use kanji representing concepts associated with gcoldh feature the ice radical, which is written when it appears on the left side of characters. In this form, it is visually similar to the water radical, , minus one gdroph at the top. When the ice radical pops up at the bottom of characters, however, as it does in the kanji representing the current season, ~ (fuyu, winter), the second stroke runs parallel to the first.

Several millennia ago, when it was first created in China, the kanji representing giceh was written with a river on the right side and two l-shapes, one on top of the other, on the left to represent the cracks in a frozen river. These crack shapes eventually evolved into the ice radical we use today. The modern kanji for ice, X, is comprised of (water) with a dot on the upper left side, the dot being a further simplification of .


One of the most commonly used general-use characters featuring the ice radical is (tsumetai is one of its many pronunciations). One meaning of is gchilly,h used to describe cold liquids, surfaces, air, etc., as well as the personalities of people who are thought to be heartless (i.e., coldhearted). The on (Chinese) pronunciation of , rei, is the first character in two frustratingly similar-sounding words, ① (reizouko, chilly-put away-storage chamber, grefrigeratorh) and its companion, Ⓚ (reitouko, chilly-freeze-storage chamber, gfreezerh).

The second character in Ⓚ (freezer), (freeze), also features the ice radical. Look for this kanji on Japanese road signs reading (touketsu chuui, Freeze Warning). By the way, less frigid general-use character (suzushii, cool) features the water-radical, , instead of frozen-solid .

(samui, cold weather) is comprised of the roof of a building at the top, plants piled up in the middle, and ice at the bottom. is thought to be a reference to the custom in ancient China of binding straw to the outside of a house to insulate it against the cold of winter.

Another character that means gcold,h z (rin), formerly relatively obscure, was pulled out of deep freeze last year when it became the second most popular name for baby girls in Japan.@If she hasnft already, at least one tot called z (Rin-chan, Little Miss Cold) should be making an appearance in your neighborhood before too long.

Finally, some general-use characters that appear to feature the ice radical, such as (tsugi, next), are in fact pretenders. A little kanji detective work reveals that the component on the left side of is derived from the character (two) and not from cracks in a frozen river.

Ifm off now to thaw my feet in a steaming hot bath, my sole salvation during these tooth-chattering Japanese winter months.

I hope you will enjoy the kanji compound word quiz below. Each word features a character containing the ice radical. One key word in English has been provided for each character, and answers are at the end of the column.

QUIZ
1.XJ (ice-rain) 2.~ (winter-sleep) 3.劦 (big-cold) 4. (hot water-cool down) 5.XR (ice-mountain) 6.ĘF~ (summer-furnace-winter-fan) 7. (freeze-injury) 8.X (ice-column)

a.icicle, hyouchuu
b.hail, hisame
c.iceberg, hyouzan
d.frostbite, toushou
e.midwinter, daikan
f.hibernation, toumin
g.useless things, karotousen
h.after-bath chill, yuzame


Check out new Reader Response and Popular Kanji Words 2005.

ANSWERS 1.b 2.f 3.e 4.h.5.c 6.g 7.d 8. a

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