Column #96 Kanji Clinic, The Japan Times, April 15, 2009
"These kanji have literally gone to the dogs"


Despite tough economic times, many dog owners in Japan still shell out big yen to pamper their pooches: Delectable ƒhƒbƒO‚¨‚â‚ (dogguoyatsu, dog snacks), perky Œ¢—m•ž (inuyoufuku, dog clothing), and outings to the Œ¢‚Ì”ü—e‰@ (inu no biyouin, dog beauty salon) are de rigueur for the coddled ˆ¤Œ¢ (aiken, beloved dog).

In stark contrast, in ancient China, when the pictograph representing "dog" was first scrawled out, canines were generally worked to death and then eaten. The kanji ”R (mo-eru, burn), printed on household garbage bags and public trash cans in Japan, pictures the flesh (“÷) of a dog (Œ¢) roasting on one fire (‰Î) on the left and another on the bottom right (four dots).

The modern character ΢ (inu, KEN) is a vastly simplified version of the original, which pictured a dog standing on its hind legs barking. The shape and meaning of ΢can be easily remembered if you think of a dog as a large (Ԍ) animal with a floppy ear (the dot at the top right of the character).

΢, written on the left side of characters, serves as a component in a variety of general use kanji. Here are some canine-kanji divided into their comprising components, with a mnemonic provided for remembering the shape and meaning of each:

“Æ (DOKU, alone): A dog () infested with fleas (’Ž, insect) is masterless, or alone.
‹¶ (KYOU, insane): A king (‰¤) who behaves like a dog () is insane.
–Ù (MOKU, silent): A black (•) dog (Œ¢) slips silently and unseen into the dark of night.
– (GOKU, prison): A prison is guarded by two barking (Œ¾, speaking) dogs (, Œ¢).
Ӯ (HAN, crime): A wild dog () attacks the person on the right, sitting on the ground with his upper body slumped over, the victim of a canine crime.
Σ (KEN, donate): South (ғ)-of-the-border dogs (΢), chihuahuas, are donated by Mexico to North Americans as a goodwill gesture.


(Note: Stories from your imagination often serve as better mnemonics than kanji etymologies because: 1) many characters have been simplified and miscopied since they were first created; and 2) components were often chosen for their phonetic--as opposed to semantic--value). (Read more on this topic).

When written as , Œ¢ also has the conceptually related meaning of gbeast,h which explains why animals such as monkeys (‰Ž, saru), foxes (ŒÏ, kitsune), cats (”L, neko), and wolves (˜T, ookami) feature this component. Go figure, the Big, Bad Wolf (˜T) is written with the kanji-component meaning ggoodh (—Ç yo-i). ”L (neko, cat) is the beast () with whiskers resembling rice seedlings (•c nae).

Some kanji compound words with Œ¢ as a comprising character are identical to English expressions: A Œ¢Ž˜ (inuzamurai, dog/samurai, disgraced samurai) has ggone to the dogsh; Œ¢Ž€‚É (inujini, dog/death) is gto die like a dogh; and Œ¢Ž• (kenshi, dog/teeth) are gcanine teeth.h People at loggerheads in Japan, though, are compared to dogs and monkeys (Œ¢‰Ž, kenen, dog/monkey) instead of fighting cats and dogs.

Before Japanese pet stores became flooded with expensive designer dogs, breed names were typically followed by Œ¢ (KEN), as in ƒRƒŠ[Œ¢ (koriiken, collie), but these days, the likes of ƒS[ƒ‹ƒfƒ“ƒŒƒgƒŠ[ƒo[ (goorudenretoriibaa, golden retriever) sound more exotic to the Japanese ear without gkenh attached. ƒhƒbƒO (doggu, dog) is also increasingly replacing Œ¢ in words like ƒhƒbƒOƒJƒtƒF (doggukafe, dog cafe) and ƒhƒbƒOƒgƒŒ[ƒjƒ“ƒO (doggutoreeningu, dog training).

Doggie diapers, massages, psychiatrists... noble canines ’‰Œ¢ƒnƒ`Œö (chuukenhachikou, faithful/dog/Hachiko, Shibuya Station Hachiko) and –¼Œ¢ƒ‰ƒbƒV[(meikenrasshii, renowned/dog/Lassie, Lassie) must be turning over in their graves at all this sissy Beautiful Dog Life business.

Explore kanji-learning materials that employ component analysis.
New to KanjiClinic.com? Start reading archived columns here. (Column #1, "Don't despair--you can put an end to kanji chaos")


QUIZ
Match the following compound words comprised of kanji containing dog-components with their English meanings/Japanese pronunciations. Answers are below.

1. ’n– (Earth/prison)
2. bˆã (beast/doctor)
3. ‹¶Œ¢•a (insane/dog/disease)
4. ”L”w (cat/back)
5. •‰‚¯Œ¢ (be defeated/dog)
6. –ÒŒ¢(fierce/dog)
7. —ÂŽt(hunting/master)
8. ‰Â”R (possible/burn)

a.combustible (kanen)
b.stooped back (nekoze)
c.rabies (kyoukenbyou)
d.ferocious dog (mouken)
e.hell (jigoku)
f.veterinarian (juui)
g.total loser (makeinu)
h.hunter (ryoushi)

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

Home Previous Columns Book Reviews Other Articles Reader Response Links