Know Your Picture Characters Entry #19

August 23rd, 2010 by Wordsman

A. 酸素 B. 水素 C. 炭素 D. 窒素 E. 弗素 F. 硼素

We had a couple contestants jump out quickly this week.  Dragon spotted a familiar character and immediately latched onto it, because really, what’s more familiar than oxygen?  She was promptly backed up by Theoman, who hinted that he was making use of his mysterious insider knowledge.  Surely it seemed that the puzzle was over before it even started!  Or was it?  Let’s take a look.

Dragon presumably recognized the first character in B from way back in the second edition of KYPC, the days of the week challenge.  She may or may not have remembered that it was the character for Wednesday (though why should she?  No one like Wednesday.  It’s essentially a second Monday).  What we can be sure of, however, is that Theoman identified its true meaning: water.  “Aha!” he thought to himself.  “Water is H2O.  The O stands for oxygen, and I’m pretty sure that H business is just filler, so this must mean oxygen!”

A well thought out, scientific approach, to be sure.  Yes, water, or as the Ancient Greeks called it, hydor, from which we get the prefix “hydro-” that we use in so many water-related words: hydroelectric, hydrate, and there’s one more I’m trying to remember . . . ah yes.  Hydrogen.  B is not the O; it’s the H.  Once again another good idea has not panned out for the readers, which just proves that we should always expect kanji to be cruel rather than kind.

The characters used to represent the chemical elements display a mix of those chosen for their meaning and those chosen for their sound.  C, carbon (see what I did there?), is an example of the former, with the first character meaning “coal.”  A Fan’s guess of E, on the other hand, is the latter, but unfortunately for him it does not sound anything like oxygen.  E is fusso, fluorine, with the first character meaning–you’re gonna love this–dollar.  Get it?  Because it’s a dollar sign?  It sounds silly, but that’s what my dictionary tells me.  And still others are unclear, such as D.  It means nitrogen, but it doesn’t sound like it (chisso), nor is the first character’s meaning obviously related: to plug up or obstruct.  Maybe if I knew more about chemistry that would make sense.

But let us all tip our caps to Shirley as she departs with head unbowed, for she has gone out on top.  Her answer of A was absolutely correct.  It is oxygen, sanso, the “acid element” (for, as I’m sure we are all aware, the name comes from the Greek oxys, referring to the sharp taste of acids).

Oh, and it appears that I have forgotten about boron, all the way over at the end.  And it doesn’t seem at all pleased about it, because my dictionary tells me that that character means “the sound of stones being struck together.”  Let’s just back away quickly and quietly, shall we?

Anyway, it’s time to announce the very first KYPC Homophone Challenge!  In previous weeks the list of choices were related by meaning or usage, but this week what they have in common is their pronunciation.  I have decided to do this to give you a sense of just how confusing kanji can be.  Every one of these words is pronounced kaisou, but they have the following range of meanings: attending a funeral; class, level, or stratum; grand opening; reminiscence; remodeling; and seaweed.  Choose whichever of these interests you most and try to pick it out.

A. 会葬 B. 改装 C. 回想 D. 開創 E. 階層 F. 海藻

Posted in Know Your Picture Characters | 2 Comments »

2 Responses

  1. Dragon Says:

    C is reminiscence. The first character is clearly a picture frame, which holds all those important memories that you reminisce about.

  2. Theoman Says:

    I’m totally lost here, but I suppose I should still guess. Therefore, I’ll say that the meanings actually go in the exact order you listed them above and see how many I get that way.

Leave a Comment

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.