Know Your Picture Characters Entry #21

September 6th, 2010 by Wordsman

A. 海王星 B. 火星 C. 金星 D. 地球 E. 冥王星 F. 木星

There’s an awful lot of mystery this week, most of it orbiting E.  Theoman says it’s Pluto, but he won’t say why.  Dragon thinks it’s Pluto, but she doesn’t know why.  She cites the box at the center of the first character as representing the former planet, which is an intriguing theory, as the very same box appears at the top of the third character.  Are there, in fact, two Plutos?  Perhaps this is a subtle reference to the fact that Pluto’s moon Charon is much larger relative to its planet than a typical satellite, a fact cited by some astronomers who argue that Pluto and Charon should both be considered dwarf planets rather than the latter being the former’s moon.  Whether this reference is made merely by Dragon or by the Ancient Chinese remains to be seen (though the fact that Charon was discovered in 1978 AD makes the second possibility somewhat less likely).

And let’s not forget A Fan, who believes that the last character in A, B, C, E, and F indicates a real planet, and that D therefore must be Pluto, the dwarf planet.  An interesting hypothesis, especially considering that D is his (presumed) home planet of Earth.  Someone must not have a lot of planetary patriotism.

The eight (formerly nine) planets represent a combination of naming systems.  Excluding Earth (whose name just means “ball of earth”), the first five planets correspond to the five classical elements.  If any of these characters looked familiar, it’s because they’re also the ones used to name most of the days of the week.  Mercury (not on the list) is the water planet, Venus (C) is the metal planet, Mars (B) is the fire planet, Jupiter (F), is the wood planet, and Saturn (not on the list) is the dirt planet.  And if you think that Saturn got the short end of that unnatural, five-pronged stick, I guess that’s something we’ll have to worry about when they invade us in a century or two.

The remaining planets, however, have names that correspond to their English ones.  Neptune, for example, was named for the Roman god of the oceans, so its Japanese name (A) is the “sea king planet.”  And now, as you have presumably noticed, E is the only choice left, so it must be correct.  Tada!  But, if you want to believe that language is based on something more than simple process of elimination, you could see that it shares the same second character as A, and that it therefore represents the lord of the underworld, Pluto.  Personally, I would have lobbied for “cartoon dog planet,” but I guess now that it’s no longer a planet anyway, the point is moot.

Also of interest is the fact that the final character, on its own, means star.  This presumably helps explain why the other planets, which appear much like stars to the naked eye, were named differently from Earth, which even ancient peoples could pretty easily tell was made of, well, earth.

I’m having a little trouble thinking of a clever transition here, so I’m just going to blurt out a word and you’re going to follow: shogi!  Shogi is a game sometimes known as “Japanese chess” because it uses a checkered board, a set of pieces that move in different ways, and it ends when someone pins down the king.  The pieces are commonly referred to in English by names that reflect their similarity to chess pieces, though these often have nothing to do with the meanings of their Japanese names.  But let’s give it the old college try anyway, shall we?  See if you can pick out the bishop.

A. 角行 B. 香車 C. 銀将 D. 桂馬 E. 飛車 F. 歩兵

Posted in Know Your Picture Characters | 3 Comments »

3 Responses

  1. Dragon Says:

    I know nothing about chess (or shogi, for that matter) but the answer is still clear to me. Look at all the crosses in the left character of D! Clearly this represents the bishop, the holy man.

    Next week, can we do that giant version of shogi and try to pick out the Eastern Golden Fire Dragon Musk Ox or whatever those pieces were called?

    (By the way, I tried to submit a comment like this a couple times this morning, but the website seemed to be malfunctioning or something and nothing happened. So sorry if they somehow got delayed and this comment shows up three times tomorrow.)

  2. TheomanZero Says:

    Well, I recognize the character for “wheel” in both B & E, so I’m guessing one of them is bishop and the other is rook, wince they both move long distances in straight lines. I don’t know what the character for “diagonal” is, but I’ll go with E because the first character is more complicated in that one.
    (By the way, I did happen to know that the outermost planets contained the character for “king”. I didn’t say it because I didn’t want to influence other people’s guesses.)

  3. A Fan Says:

    So we are supposed to find the “bishop” that isn’t really a bishop in Japanese (and the Japanese presumably didn’t even have bishops).

    That’s easy: E, because I’ve noticed that the right answer is always E (at least for the last week or so).

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