Know Your Picture Characters Entry #9

June 14th, 2010 by Wordsman

The KYPC Champion of the Week award goes to Shirley, for being the only one to correctly identify anything this time around: F is indeed a mountain.  Unfortunately, the correct answer (which, just in case anyone wasn’t sure, was “lake”) was D, the only character not to be mentioned by anyone.

A. 川 B. 島 C. 原 D. 湖 E. 森 F. 山

A is a river, which means that when Shirley thought of waves she had the right idea but the wrong axis of orientation.  B is an island, which you can tell because it has F, the character for mountain, tucked away in the bottom there, and islands are kind of like mountains on the ocean floor.  And the rest of the character is a bird, so you can picture the image of an island surrounded by gulls.  And you can remember that the rest of the character means “bird” because, as we discussed in a previous entry, it looks like a dinosaur, and dinosaurs evolved into birds.  That may seem like a lot just to remember “island,” but sometimes the best kanji mnemonics are the most convoluted.

Anyway, C represents not the drainage pond in the cloverleaf loops but the field that used to be there before they decided to put in a freeway.  D is our lake, which offers little in the way of obvious explanation.  You may recognize the moon on the right, which could evoke the image of moonlight reflecting off a calm lake surface.  Or it may symbolize the vaguely crescent-shaped Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest freshwater lake.  E, sadly, is neither three water boatmen nor three acrobatic water skiers but three trees, and hence, a forest.  And F is the mountain, who, in typical mountain fashion, does very little to disguise his presence.

But enough of this small-time stuff.  It’s time to take on geography on a much grander scale.  Now we’re going to deal with countries.  In Japanese, the majority of foreign countries are referred to by names that use Japanese syllables to approximate their sounds: the U.S. is amerika, Mexico is mekishiko, and so on.  Today they are written with katakana, characters which have a sound but no meaning, but originally they used kanji.  These were ateji, kanji used for their sound rather than their meaning (Chinese, which has nothing but picture characters, uses a similar process to represent foreign names).  So, the meanings of the characters don’t have anything to do with the countries themselves . . . or do they?

While kanji are no longer used to write out countries’ full names, often times one of the old characters (typically the first one) has survived as a way of referring to the nation with which it was paired.  This is all just a long way of saying: find France.

A. 加 B. 独 C. 仏 D. 米 E. 蘭 F. 露

Posted in Know Your Picture Characters | 6 Comments »

6 Responses

  1. Dragon Says:

    All right. C has three lines coming up from that point in the bottom (two of which have other lines on top of them for reasons I can’t quite identify). The French flag is divided into three sections. Some might point out that this is not an entirely unique quality among the world’s flags, and I remind these people that there were three ideals of the French revolution: Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite (I don’t know how to put accents on them). Plus there are probably other times the number three shows up in French history. Case closed.

  2. A Fan Says:

    Trick Question:

    They’re ALL France.

    A is two rude French pedestrians bumping into each other on the sidewalk.

    B is a German tank pushing through the Ardennes on its way to conquer France (remember that Japan was an ally of Germany).

    C is part of a caricature of DeGaulle (that’s his nose on the right).

    D, a recent addition, is every Frenchman’s reaction when Steve Green let in that goal against the US.

    E is the Eiffel tower while they were still building it.

    F is the finsished Eiffel Tower.

    (If I had to pick one, though, it would be F).

  3. Theoman Says:

    Yeah, I am totally lost here. I’m going with B because to me, it looks the most like it might sound like “f”.

  4. Shirley Says:

    Can this be worked out by someone who has no idea how the characters sound in Japanese? I certainly can’t, so I have to go with the not so sly hint “Or do they?” Alas, this doesn’t really help. Oh well…. The first character could be an F that has lost something in translation. The second character could be Europe. Not that it looks a whole lot like Europe. France is in the western part of Europe. So, C.

  5. Shirley Says:

    I’m trying to leave another comment. I hope this works out. I have not allowed myself to read other comments until I write my own,since I began to worry that Dragon was influencing me too much. But in re Dragon’s comment,everybody knows that Gaul is the ancient name for Gaul and that omnes Gaulia est devisis in partes tres, so that further reinforces Dragon. I don’t pretend to remember how that was spelled in Latin, so ignore the spelling.

  6. Shirley Says:

    How many extra comments am I allowed? OF COURSE I meant to say that Gaul was an ancient name for France. I trust that anybody intellegant enough to read this delightful blog would be able to recognize that, but wanted to set the record straight.

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