Know Your Picture Characters Entry #104

September 22nd, 2012 by Wordsman

A. 兵马俑 B. 长城 C. 故宫 D. 黄鹤楼 E. 少林寺 F. 天坛 G. 颐和园

Okay, so it might take a few tries to really get back into the swing of things here.  The Wordsman has been busy with this and that the past few weeks.  But let’s see if we can gradually work our way from “once per season” to “once per month,” and then on to “once every couple weeks,” and maybe even better than that.

A has a definite martial feel to it, at least according to Theoman and Shirley (A Fan, despite his Wikipedic knowledge, got off track a little bit and ended up in the capital of Hubei Province).  That first one is a warrior, the second is a horse, and the third is . . . a kind of figure buried with the dead.  Oops.  Good idea, Theorley, but these warriors are more along the lines of motionless clay statues.  Welcome to the Terra Cotta Army, which some French guy called the Eighth Wonder of the World.  I guess he never got the chance to see King Kong.

A Fan comes the closest on B, as he cleverly knew (from Wiki, perhaps?) that the second character there can mean “city.”  But originally it meant a wall (as in the kind that goes around a city), and that first character means “long.”  So this is some sort of very long wall, apparently.  Not sure what that refers to.  Moving on . . .

Is C a home for birds?  Or Kung Fu masters?  Or is it intended to honor the heavens above?  We’ll give “closest” credit to Shirley on this one, as C is the former residence of the son of heaven, star of A Fan’s favorite movie, the 1987 Best Picture winner.

More consensus on D, as Theorley teamed up again to identify this as the Forbidden City (NOTE: no longer actually forbidden).  We’ll say that they’re close, because this is the Yellow Crane Tower.  The Yellow Crane Tower is not at all forbidden, but the elevator inside is supposed to be restricted to the elderly and the handicapped.  However, if your lovely assistant’s uncle knows a guy who knows a guy . . .

Not sure what sort of seasonal imagery Theoman spotted in E, as these characters mean “few,” “woods,” and “temple.”  Shirley had a good idea when she decided that the first one is a guy balancing on one foot, but instead of going for a clay guy (who are not known for their balance), she maybe should have tried to picture him as a monk instead.  You know, one of those monks from that temple.

Even though Theoman is technically correct (“The best kind of correct!”) in saying that F is the Temple to Heaven, we’re going to give credit to A Fan here for his statement that “We should all have a summer palace.”  Because really, we should.  Bonus points to Shirley for following his lead.

G seems to look an awful lot like the Great Wall, and even I can’t deny how many squares and rectangles there are in there, but don’t squares and rectangles deserve a Summer Palace too?  Doesn’t everyone?

So what exactly has the Wordsman been busy with?  Who can say?  But, for NO PARTICULAR REASON WHATSOEVER, let’s have a quiz about wedding words.  We’ve got some people (bride, groom, bridesmaids, groomsmen) and some things (the ring, the dress, and the ceremony).  You may notice that a lot of these words have characters in common with each other.  Well, you may do with that knowledge as you will, and at your own risk.

A。新娘 B。新郎 C。伴娘 D。伴郎 E。 婚礼 F。婚戒 G。婚纱

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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #103

August 13th, 2012 by Wordsman

A. 鸵鸟 B. 火烈鸟 C. 蝴蝶 D. 大熊猫 E. 天鹅 F. 大猩猩 G. 鲨鱼

Some of you may be wondering where the Wordsman has been hiding himself these past few weeks.  Then again, you may not.  Well, wondering or otherwise, he has been in China.  Why, you ask?  The answer should be obvious: he went to conduct research on kanji (or hanzi as they are called in Chinese) with his lovely assistant, and for no other reason whatsoever.  The Wordsman is nothing if not diligent.

But first, there is the outlying matter of the last challenge.  Do you even remember the last challenge?  This one was also in Chinese, and it was about animals.  You at least remember animals, right?  Those things with fur, scales, and feathers that move around and either look cute or kill each other?  If it’s been so long that you’ve even forgotten what animals are, I advise a trip to the local zoo.  If you’ve simply forgotten which animals were involved in the puzzle, or what your guesses were, I advise not blaming yourself.  After all, it has been . . . good lord, it’s been two whole months.  That’s summer vacation for you, I guess.

It came down to a head-to-head between Theoman and Shirley.  In A, he saw teeth, she saw cuteness (well, grudging cuteness, anyway).  In the end, they were both right, for A is the cutest, toothiest of all the birds: the ostrich.  However, they were both correct in the non-sarcastic sense on B, both linking the idea of fire with the shocking Flamingo.  And they teamed up again to track down the horrid butterfly at C.  Apparently the old adage should be changed to “Everyone suspects the butterfly.”  And they matched up again on D, identifying it as the mighty gorilla.  Unfortunately, this identification is wrong, though their answers did contain hints of truth.  Theoman is right that the first character means “big,” and the hairy arms reaching out to squeeze the life out of you from Shirley’s description could in fact belong to the Giant Panda (seriously, they’re bears, they’re not as cuddly as they look).  The “big” is to distinguish them from the “little” Panda, known in English as the Red Panda.

Our contestants finally disagreed at E, and it is here where Theoman pulled into the lead, picking the graceful (but mean) swan over the awkward (but even meaner?) ostrich.  Seriously, are there any really friendly birds?  Theoman couldn’t keep the streak going at F, though, because this is not some large yellow Sesame Street dweller, unless they’ve added a big yellow gorilla since I stopped watching the show.  We’re going to give the edge to Shirley on this one, because we think a gorilla would probably have an easier time trying to deal cards than trying to fly.  You know, like the ostrich.  They fly, right?  And, in conclusion, we’re not really sure where Theoman sees a tree in G, and even less sure where Shirley thinks she saw Natalie Portman, but it’s really a shark.

And now, finally, a new puzzle.  The result of painstaking research, this challenge will require you to identify various major tourist sites in China.  These include: a kung fu temple, a temple to heaven, a restricted-access city, a tower for a yellow bird (seriously, why does Big Bird keep almost coming up this week?), a palace for relaxing in the hottest season, a bunch of ancient clay dudes, and a rather large wall.  If you need any help, my gut tells me you’ve probably seen pictures of some or all of these places very recently.

A. 兵马俑 B. 长城 C. 故宫 D. 黄鹤楼 E. 少林寺 F. 天坛 G. 颐和园

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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #102

June 11th, 2012 by Wordsman

A. 秋の田の 仮庵の庵の 苫をあらみ

B. あしびきの 山鳥の尾の しだり尾の

C. 奥山に 紅葉踏みわけ 鳴く鹿の

D. 田子の浦に うち出でてみれば 白妙の

E. 春すぎて 夏来にけらし 白妙の

1. 声きく時ぞ 秋は悲しき

2. 富士の高嶺に 雪は降りつつ

3. ながながし夜を ひとりかも寝む

4. 衣ほすてふ 天の香具山

5. わが衣手は 露にぬれつつ

Well, I just finished a class on Japanese poetry, so I should be an expert in analyzing these things, right?  Let’s see what we’ve got:

A, our first opening, goes a little something like this:

Because the thatched roof
Of my temporary hut in the fields of autumn
Is so rough,

And here is how our contestants (all three of them, in fact) chose to finish it:

Snow is continuously falling
On the high peak of Fuji

They’re all technically wrong, but points to Shirley for likening it to “Dover Beach,” whose tone is most in tune with the original (try A-5 next time).

B is:

The dropping tail of the pheasant
Of the mountains, wearing your feet ever down
Is long, long

This time our contestants split opinions:


When I hear its voice
That is when I know autumn is saddest

A Fan:

Clothes are drying, I hear
On heavenly Mount Kagu


As is this night
Must I spend it sleeping alone?

Shirley’s poetic sense served her best here, but considering the content of the poem, Theoman’s analysis of the theme as “there is honor in suffering” is an intriguing one.


The deer
Walking through the fallen autumn leaves
Lets out a cry

Theoman decided to pair this one with the clothes drying, and A Fan gave the long, lonely night a shot.  Shirley, on the other hand, tried something new:

My sleeves are dampened
Over and over by the falling dew

But they’re all wrong.  C goes with 1: is there anything sadder than the cry of the deer?  I have no idea, actually.  If it wasn’t for Japanese poems, I wouldn’t even know that deer make sounds.  Credit to A Fan, because I’m pretty sure all those Kipling poems are really depressing.


When I go out
To Tago Bay and look back
The whitest

The whitest what, you ask?  Opinions varied.  Theoman and A Fan both thought it was “my sleeves,” a very reasonable thing to suspect, but Shirley went a little more abstract, attaching this adjective to “voice.”  None thought to link it to snow, though (2).  You know, snow?  That white stuff that falls from the sky?  At least Theoman has the humility to admit his mistake, while Shirley seems to be linking it to alcohol.


Spring has passed
And summer, it seems, has come
The whitest

Yes, that’s right, the third line of poem-starters D and E are identical.  Iiiiidentical.  So how to differentiate the two?  Well, by the season, of course.  Not gonna get much snow in summer.  No, in summer you use the heat to dry clothes.  Shirley understands that.  Our other contestants, on the other hand, decided to sleep alone (well, I suppose it would be cooler), or to listen to “white voices” and then become sad (someone’s been reading too much Kipling).  Still, Theoman got perhaps the most important part: no matter what they say, secretly, all–and I do mean all–poetry is about “something about love.”  So points to him, and points to A Fan for enriching us with a poem about some dead kid, and to Shirley for actually knowing the most about Japanese poetry (which should have been painfully obvious the moment she mentioned cherry trees).

Okay, I admit it: that was kind of hard.  Lucky for you, the lovely assistant has swooped in to save the day with an easy challenge: animals.

What?  You say we’ve already done animals?  Well, you ain’t done these animals.  These ain’t yer common households dogs and cats, kids.  Things are about to get dangerous.  Look!  There’s a shark!  And a gorilla and a panda (they look cute, but brother, you don’t want to mess with them.  And yes, I am talking about gorillas here).  And what about birds?  You ever see that movie, The Birds? I haven’t, but it still scares the hell out of me, which is why I keep my distance from all the swans, ostriches, and flamingos running around.  But that’s not the worst of it.  This challenge contains the most dangerous animal of them all.

Because no one ever suspects . . . the butterfly!

A. 鸵鸟 B. 火烈鸟 C. 蝴蝶 D. 大熊猫 E. 天鹅 F. 大猩猩 G. 鲨鱼

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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #101

May 29th, 2012 by Wordsman

A. 百人一首 B. 百科事典 C. 八百屋 D. 百花繚乱

E. 三百代言 F. 百姓読み G. 百尺竿頭 H. 百日咳

Alright, I suppose it’s time to get cracking on this again.

Theoman recognized a lot of kanji here.  But was it enough to help him out?  Let’s see.  He starts off strong, at least: A is the Hyakunin Isshu, the collection of “One Hundred People, One Poem (apiece),” believed to be put together by perhaps the greatest medieval authority on Japanese poetry some time in the 13th century.  And B is, well, sort of right.  It does represent the highest achievement . . . if you’re Denis Diderot, that is.  This “dictionary of a hundred subjects” is in fact an encyclopedia.  Unfortunately, the identification of C as “something with 800 pages” is clearly wrong, because, as everyone knows, when they were first making encyclopedias, there were no pages.  Pages had not been invented yet.  Books were written on scrolls.  Also, encyclopedias were very short, because there was nothing to put in them.  I mean, come on, they didn’t even have TV.  Also, there is the minor matter of the last character in C meaning “shop.”  This is the greengrocer, because there are precisely 800 kinds of fruits and vegetables.  Go ahead.  Count them.  And the second character in D is a flower, giving D the meaning “a hundred flowers twisted into chaos.”  Without further comment, we will note that this means a gathering of beautiful women and move on.

But Theoman wasn’t done with just the top row.  The final character in E is in fact a “word” (I should know, right?), and as we all know, words are the favorite tool of the unscrupulous lawyer.  They use three hundred of them, and then they throw in that third character, which has a lot of different possible interpretations and I’m not sure what it means here.  Again, clearly a lawyer’s work.  Theoman’s kanji knowledge betrayed him again in F, because that second character doesn’t really have much to do with women despite having that radical in there: this is a “family name,” one of the “hundred names,” which in Chinese is a way to refer to the peasants.  And, because what works for China works for Japan (and even when it doesn’t, they do it anyway), they borrowed it over.  F is a “peasant’s reading,” because, as we all know, peasants have strange ways of reading kanji (though not nearly as strange as those of KYPC participants).  I hope Theoman didn’t really think that G, the ultimate achievement, is being an unscrupulous lawyer.  No, the greatest achievement is “the top of a hundred-foot bamboo pole.”  Yes.  The pinnacle of civilization, that.  But seriously, the greatest achievement is bookending a list of KYPC items with correct answers, which is what Theoman did this week.  H, the “hundred days’ cough,” is whooping cough.  That’s an awful lot of whooping.

And then A Fan came in and threw everything into chaos.  First he tried to use a poetry collection as an encyclopedia; turns out, the true nature of pretty much everything in the world is either “melancholy” or “longing.”  Sometimes it’s both.  Then he went to the actual encyclopedia looking for beautiful women, which is . . . a non-traditional approach, I suppose.  Then he caught whooping cough at the greengrocer’s, tried to use a group of beautiful women as an encyclopedia, and asked an unscrupulous lawyer to give him a reading on something.  Quite the remarkable day, all in all.

But it’s time for new challenges.  Remember that poetry collection?  Well, there’s a popular game in Japan where one person reads the first half of one of the poems from it, and then people try to grab a card that has the second half written on it (all one hundred cards are scattered on a table or on the floor).  I thought we could take a stab at it.  First I’ll list the first halves of the first five poems from the collection, and then their ends.  You just have to match them.  Also, you have to tell me what the poem is about.  Remember, there is no wrong way to interpret a poem, so be creative!

A. 秋の田の 仮庵の庵の 苫をあらみ

B. あしびきの 山鳥の尾の しだり尾の

C. 奥山に 紅葉踏みわけ 鳴く鹿の

D. 田子の浦に うち出でてみれば 白妙の

E. 春すぎて 夏来にけらし 白妙の

1. 声きく時ぞ 秋は悲しき

2. 富士の高嶺に 雪は降りつつ

3. ながながし夜を ひとりかも寝む

4. 衣ほすてふ 天の香具山

5. わが衣手は 露にぬれつつ

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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #100

May 12th, 2012 by Wordsman

A. 子 B. 王 C. 刀 D. 水

E. 山 F. 口 G. 人 H. 女

Clearly all that stuff about being busy was just to throw you guys off.  Obviously the real reason KYPC was slow in appearing this week was because we were busy preparing for the 100th Installment! That’s right, KYPC is only the second feature on this site to survive to the extent of 100 entries.  And, of course, you know, we had to wait for an appropriately auspicious day, so that’s why it did not appear at the expected time (if there even is such a thing for this feature anymore).  Yes, that makes sense.  Lateness blame successfully avoided!

Theoman kicked things off well, not by getting a right answer, but by creating an answer that is in fact better than the so-called “correct” one.  For what could be a more appropriate representation of “responsibility” than the eternal image of the Sword of Damocles, the knife hanging over the head of the king?  Sadly, the only “real” kanji that makes use of this particular combination–plus a couple other parts thrown in for good measure–is one meaning “lapis lazuli.”  We also must give him credit for his correct answer, snapping up H, the woman, and A, her child, and putting them together where they belong; everyone likes that, right?  (Lovely Assistant’s Note: In Chinese, this character simply means “good,” and the parts originally depicted a son and a daughter, because that’s the best combination to have.)  Finally, while putting together D and E doesn’t give you a swamp, it does give you a character meaning “fishing with a net,” and well, some people would probably say that’s better than a swamp.  Some people probably like to fish with a net in a swamp.  It takes all kinds.

Shirley picked up two and a half correct answers (we’re assuming she meant to identify F as the mouth, and the half point is for calling H, the woman, a girl child).  B, unfortunately, isn’t a mountain “because it’s there,” but then again I’m sure there are some people who feel the same way about kings, which is what B is.  As a matter of fact, she reversed B and E, presumably because she’s been listening to too much Grieg.  So those aren’t bad, but on the other hand, she seems to be frightened of children (A) . . . or at least male children.  I wonder why that could be . . .

A Fan, as usual, brings us to the silver screen, but this time rather than simply reminding us about movies, he’s helping us to reimagine them.  Like the classic scene in which Dundee shows us how cool he is by saying, “That’s not a child.  This is a child.”  Or the new, horror-movie version of The King and I, in which Yul Brynner’s head is nothing but a mouth.  Or the alternate version of The Lord of the Rings in which Mount Doom is actually a person, which makes it significantly harder to throw rings into it.  On the other hand, some of his reinventions weren’t that far off the mark.  At D we see poor Randy, unable to move, lying in water (hey, snow is just frozen water).  At E we have half of the iceberg (“ice mountain” in kanji) that was struck by that boat in the famous movie, A Night to Remember.  Also, I am legally obligated to point out that his identification of H as “woman” is 100% correct, and that I can even kind of see the witch riding the broomstick in it now.

Okay, time for the educational part.  A=Child, B= King, C=Knife, D=Water, E=Mountain, F=Mouth, G=Person, H=Woman.  Woman+Child=Like, Person+King=Responsibility, Water+Knife+Mouth=Swamp (don’t ask), Person+Mountain=Wizard (you ever heard of a wizard who lived someplace normal?)

But now the main event.  For this challenge, we’re going to look at things that all contain the character that means 100.  You remember what it looks like, right?  Of course you do.  It looks like this:

But that’s just when it’s by itself.  When you give it a few friends, it can get up to all kinds of mischief.  What kinds, you ask?  Well, let’s see.  We’ve got an unscrupulous lawyer, a greengrocer, an encyclopedia, a gathering of beautiful women, the highest possible level of achievement, a famous poetry collection featuring one poem each from 100 famous poets, a nonstandard way of reading a kanji, and whooping cough.  Sounds like a good start to a movie to me (though even if it didn’t, we know A Fan would still turn it into one).

A. 百人一首 B. 百科事典 C. 八百屋 D. 百花繚乱

E. 三百代言 F. 百姓読み G. 百尺竿頭 H. 百日咳

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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #99

May 2nd, 2012 by Wordsman

A. 田 B. 心 C. 金 D. 隹

E. 立 F. 日 G. 木 H. 里

Is the whole greater than the sum of its parts?  Well, let’s see what kind of wholes turned up.

Seeking to recreate a bell, Theoman put together ‘metal’ and ‘bird’ and ended up with . . . a drill.  Well, they both make noise, certainly, though one of them is typically seen as more pleasant than the other.  The idea of a ‘mind-tree’ was very close to ‘think,’ but he didn’t quite get there–you need to stick an eye in there as well (this is not, however, the same character for ‘think’ that I had intended).  A sun and a village, with an extra line tossed in for good measure, make ‘quantity,’ presumably referring to the large quantity of sun in Sun Village, which is the main reason people like it so much.  Standing in a rice field sure seemed like a lock for ‘gather,’ but the character I was thinking of was gather in the sense of ‘assemble’ rather than ‘harvest.’  So you put birds on top of a tree, because that’s where birds assemble.  Turns out, if you stand on top of a rice field, and add a tail, you get . . . a dragon.  Go figure.

Shirley put B, D, and E together and came up with a pretty good ‘idea’ . . . that is, if you assume that she must have accidentally typed D instead of F.  Heart-bird-stand doesn’t get you much, but stand-sun-heart is an idea, alright.  I’ll make sure to give you guys a stone to work with in the future so you can take care of these birds more efficiently.

A Fan thinks he can make me look silly by making references to a bunch of movies I haven’t seen, but I still know a thing or two.  I remember the octopus scene from Deer Hunter.  At least, I assume there must have been an octopus scene, because that’s what A Fan built with his ‘stand,’ ‘rice field,’ and ‘sun’ (okay, to be fair, you have to stick in a few other parts as well to get an octopus, but with that combo, no other kanji comes closer).  Then again, if he had just left out that field, he could have made some real ‘noise.’  He could have also achieved a similar effect by putting together a bell, which, by his logic, is a combination of Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, and about one-third of Deer Hunter.  Which leads us to the inevitable question: are these movies really that different from each other?

So, to review:

To build a bell: ‘stand’ on a ‘village,’ with ‘metal’ on the left
To build a thought: ‘rice field’ over ‘heart/mind’
To build a sound: ‘stand’ on the ‘sun’ (that’d better have you making some sound, anyway)
To build a gathering: ‘bird’ on top of ‘tree’

I realize that was a bit hard, so let’s make the challenge slightly different this time.  I’m still going to give you a bunch of kanji parts and their meanings, but I’m not going to tell you which is which.  We’re going to assume that Theoman already knows what most of these are, anyway, so assembly will be his job: give me responsibility, a wizard, to like, and a swamp.  A Fan and Shirley can choose to attempt this as well, or they can take on the simpler (?) task of identifying the pieces: a person, a knife, a mouth, a woman, a child, a mountain, a king, and water.

A. 子 B. 王 C. 刀 D. 水

E. 山 F. 口 G. 人 H. 女

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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #98

April 25th, 2012 by Wordsman

A. 喬治·沃克·布什 B. 比爾·克林顿 C. 理查德·尼克森

D. 林登·约翰逊 E. 本杰明·哈里森 F. 湯瑪斯·傑佛遜

Yup, it’s Wednesday again.  Let it never be said that the pleas of my readers fall on deaf ears.  That’s assuming, of course, that I would have been ready to get this out on Monday anyway.

Theoman returned to his old friend, logic.  And why not?  From a logical perspective, A was so obvious.  It has to be LBJ, because he’s the only one with three names.  Well, three full names, certainly.  I mean, the “W” in George W. Bush is just a letter, right?  It doesn’t stand for . . . oh wait, no, that was Truman.  The W is for Walker, which means that the A is for Bush.  But surely logic wouldn’t fail him a second time!  These characters are intended to represent sounds, so if you see two names ending with the same sound and two answers ending with the same character, you must have a match!  Because there are only two presidents on this list whose names end with “-son” . . . no, no, don’t be ridiculous, “Nixon” is spelled with an “x,” so it’s not . . . oh.  I guess it is.  Theoman still had a 50-50 shot at Benjamin Harrison, and you would have thought that after logic failed him luck would swoop in to pick him back up, but that’s not the way it works, apparently.  However, youthful sentimentality and 100% subjective observation paid off in the end: he found Clinton, whom A Fan called great and Shirley called attractive, at B.  You know, B for Bill.

A Fan sat right down in his director’s chair and, as usual, immediately began casting.  We don’t doubt that John Travolta would have made an intriguing Thomas Jefferson, or that Philip Baker Hall could have handled the role of Dubya.  We are also very curious to see a TV series that features Walter Cronkite as George Washington, Mario Cuomo as Martin van Buren, Billy Graham as James Garfield, and Colin Powell as Taft.  As usual, A Fan impresses more with his capacity for tangential thought than with his accuracy, though he did manage to track down LBJ at D (presumably by shouting “Hey, Hey!”)  Also, John Adams was the best character in 1776, but he couldn’t compare to Morley Safer’s Adams in The American President.

Shirley continued the trend of each participant getting one answer correct, though she may be disappointed to learn that her intuition served her best at A, George Walker Bush.  But her descriptions weren’t all so far off.  She called C, the one that looks good in the beginning but troubled at the end, LBJ, but couldn’t that description apply equally well to Nixon?  F, the cute one, may not be Bill Clinton, but Thomas Jefferson was certainly a looker in his day as well, or so 1776 would have us believe.  Also, he played the violin.

E is Benjamin Harrison, a shining example of the Era of Forgettable Presidents (1865-1901).  I wonder why he was included in this quiz . . .

I’m giving my lovely assistant the week off, so we’re back to Japanese this time around.  This week we’re going to try something different.  I’m sure you’re all tired of simply passively picking characters; wouldn’t you rather create some of your own?  Don’t worry, there won’t be too much creativity involved: I’ll give you the parts, and you simply have to put them together.  Here is a list of kanji parts that have the following meanings (in order): rice field, heart/mind, metal, bird, stand, sun, tree, and village.

A. 田 B. 心 C. 金 D. 隹

E. 立 F. 日 G. 木 H. 里

Of course, you are more than welcome to create any sort of combination, with whatever meaning you choose to assign to it.  But for those who like something to shoot for, you can try to build me characters with the following meanings: bell, think, sound, and gather.

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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #97

April 18th, 2012 by Wordsman

A. 阿不思·鄧不利多 B. 芙蓉·德拉库尔 C. 哈利·波特 D. 赫敏·格兰杰

E. 罗恩·韦斯利 F. 西弗勒斯·斯内普 G. 汤姆·里德尔

Apologies again for not getting this out until Wednesday.  I’m certainly not winning any awards for consistency this month.

Theoman had a good idea, but unfortunately it was thrown off by a few discrepancies between the Chinese versions of the books and the English ones, such as the fact that the Chinese Book 1 is pretty much entirely about Fleur Delacour, or that Harry himself doesn’t actually appear until Book 5.  Hmm . . . my lovely assistant appears to be telling me that I’m making things up again.  On a more serious note, doesn’t Dumbledore appear before Harry anyway?  Still, despite his handicaps, Theoman managed to stumble across Hermione at D.  In conclusion, the spell checker’s seeming capriciousness can be explained by the fact that “Severus” is the name of a Roman emperor and “Albus” isn’t, and by the fact that “Hermione” is a name invented by J.K. Rowling that had never existed previously.

Shirley, as far as I know, has never read the books, but she knows her stereotypes well, spotting Hermione, the smart one, at D and Ron, the sidekick, at E (raise your hand if you kind of wish Ron had been kicked in the side a little more in the books).  I, personally, also feel inclined to give her credit for identifying Severus Snape (F) as the most heroic character in the books, and also for pointing out that Harry Potter (C) is basically just a pretty boy.  And if we’re thinking about the movies, calling Dumbledore (A) the mean teacher might not even be that far off, though we agree with A Fan that he got slightly better after he died (we’re assuming here that A Fan was referring to the death of the character, not the actor).

A Fan, shockingly, decided to turn the conversation to movies.  He makes a good point about Alan Rickman, though he seems to have him cast as Fleur Delacour (B), which I might call a curious choice.  Daniel Radcliffe, on the other hand, would have made a much better Dumbledore than Michael Gambon.  Alan Rickman would have, too, for that matter.  Or Bruce Willis.  Or anyone else from the cast of Die Hard.  But I digress.  A Fan almost correctly identified E as Ron Weasley, but then he seemed to be saying that Rupert Grint grew up to be a pretty okay actor, so I can only assume he was thinking of someone else and simply got confused.  And the duel between Harry and Voldemort was ruined by sunspots.

G is Tom Riddle.  Wasn’t he basically just misunderstood?

Remember that part in the first book when someone made a flag that said “POTTER FOR PRESIDENT,” and it didn’t make any sense, because why would kids from England want to be president?  Well, after that not-at-all tenuous segue, the puzzle provided for this week by my lovely assistant is about U.S. presidents.  I know we did presidents once before, but there are two key differences: 1. these are in Chinese, and therefore actually mean something to someone other than me, and 2. these are not merely the first presidents but are in fact the greatest presidents, each one of them the absolute best at what he did.  We have the president who opened up relations with the most Chinas (well, communist Chinas, anyway; Richard Nixon).  We have the only president to share a last name with a president who was impeached and not be impeached himself (LBJ).  We have the president who survived the most pretzel-induced choking incidents (George W. Bush; isn’t it funny how that joke never gets old?).  We have the president who was the best saxophone player (Bill Clinton; little-known-fact: John Adams also played the saxophone, but he was terrible at it, primarily because it wasn’t invented until twenty years after he died).  We have the president who holds the record for most high schools named after him in western Bloomington, MN (Thomas Jefferson).  And, finally, we have the president who holds the record for greatest percentage increase in length of term from the previous president of the same last name (Benjamin Harrison, whose time in office was approximately 4600% longer than William Henry Harrison’s).

A. 喬治·沃克·布什 B. 比爾·克林顿 C. 理查德·尼克森

D. 林登·约翰逊 E. 本杰明·哈里森 F. 湯瑪斯·傑佛遜

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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #96

April 9th, 2012 by Wordsman

A. 芝士蛋糕 B. 酸辣湯 C. 冰淇淋 D. 鍋貼 E. 三明治 F. 罗非鱼

G. 華夫餅

Is it still Monday?  Excellent.

We’re going to mix it up a little and go choice by choice this time rather than person by person.  Why?  Because I said so, that’s why.

A is, perhaps, either waffles, Hot and Sour Soup, or ice cream.  Seems to have kind of a desserty feel, except for the Hot and Sour Soup.  Analysis of the meanings of the characters gives us: a lawn, a gentleman (sorry, Theoman, it’s the other one again.  “Earth” is short on top and long on the bottom), something having to do with bugs, and something having to do with rice.  Clearly this is ice cream: the gentleman is lounging on his lawn, swatting lazily at bugs, and eating ice cream . . . but, since he’s lactose intolerant, it’s actually rice cream.  See how logical that was?  Also, A Fan said it was ice cream, and he gave the best reason.

What’s that, lovely assistant?  A is actually “cheesecake”?  I don’t even know what I’m talking about?  Oh dear . . . sorry, A Fan.  I fought for ya.  Although I suppose I did say it was desserty.

Well, let’s see if we have better luck with B, a mix of ice cream, potstickers, and tilapia.  This particular combination can only mean that we are on Iron Chef, where Tilapia Potsticker Ice Cream is not only a popular creation, it was even the secret ingredient once (I’m pretty sure that’s true).  Now, as we all know, the coolest Iron Chef was Chen Ken’ichi, who was Iron Chef Chinese, which means that B must be the most Chinese-sounding of the answers.  Obviously, then, this is waffles.  Just kidding.  It’s Hot and Sour Soup.  See?  That first character means sour, and the last one means soup, because it’s water standing next to the sun.  That’s how I make soup at least.

My lovely assistant confirms that this time I’m actually right, so let’s move on.

In C, Theoman thinks he sees water.  In fact, he sees it not once, not twice, but thrice.  Clearly there’s a whole lot of water going on here, as is reflected in the answers of tilapia, tilapia, and Hot and Sour Soup.  But do you know what’s even more watery than water?  That’s right: ice!  Ice is solid water, and as everyone knows, the solid versions of things are always denser than the liquid ones, so this is ice cream.  Shirley’s little man had enough sense to give up on fishing and go grab a cone instead.

D is short, sweet, dense, and shaped like a waffle iron (?).  A careful analysis of the characters reveals one meaning “pot” and one meaning “to stick.”  As I have no idea how to interpret this, I will move on to E.

While I agree with Shirley that E has a somewhat cold feel, it’s Theoman and A Fan who are on the right track this time around.  If there’s a better way to represent the prototypical sandwich than that first character there, I don’t wanna hear it.  And those latter characters are just thrown in for fun, I guess.  For the coldness, presumably, since sandwiches can be cold . . . or hot (did we have an argument about this in Scattergories once?)

In the name of sanity, I should also point out that the first character in E is the number three, which is pronounced “san.”

Theoman has the best justification for F, based on his use of the word “pointy,” but it’s not quite enough.  Nor was the process of elimination successful.  Nope, here we have St. Peter’s fish, one of the hundred or so species called tilapia.  In Theoman’s defense, it could very well end up in a bowl with a spoon.  In Shirley’s, you could maybe even eat it covered with syrup, though personally I like it with white pepper and just a little bit of soy sauce.

And, last but not least, we have the cheesecake sandwich.  Man, those French really know how to cook.  Sadly, to the detriment of our tongues but the benefit of all our arteries, there is no such thing as a cheesecake sandwich.  There is, however, such a thing as a waffle, so life isn’t all bad.

And now for this week we have characters from the Harry Potter series.  Included in this list are Ron Weasley, Fleur Delacour, Hermione Granger, Harry Potter, Tom Riddle, Albus Dumbledore, and Severus Snape.  Or, for those less familiar with the series, we have the Loyal Sidekick, the Pretty One, the Smart One, the Hero, the Villain, the Old Wise Guy, and the Mean Teacher.

A. 阿不思·鄧不利多 B. 芙蓉·德拉库尔 C. 哈利·波特 D. 赫敏·格兰杰

E. 罗恩·韦斯利 F. 西弗勒斯·斯内普 G. 汤姆·里德尔

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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #95

April 4th, 2012 by Wordsman

A. 北京 B. 广州 C. 香港 D. 上海 E. 深圳 F. 天津

April Fool’s!  You were expecting this on Monday, weren’t you?  And you thought that This Day in History would appear on Wednesday, because that’s what I said it would do from now on.  Boy, I sure fooled you!  (By the way, this is totally something I had planned entirely in advance, and not at all an excuse I am making up on the spot to justify a rather large amount of forgetfulness on my part.  And hey, only one person responded to last week’s challenge, so I’m not the only forgetful one around here.  But I’m sure you all probably had better reasons for not getting to it than I do for not doing my job.)

Ahem.  Anyway, as a continuation of the “joke,” TDiH may continue to appear on Tuesdays for the rest of the month.  KYPC should hopefully go back to Mondays, though.  Hopefully.

But that’s enough of bureaucracy.  Let’s get to the characters.  Since Theoman was the only one to attempt the challenge this week, we will get to focus on him, taking apart every one of his errors in excruciating detail.  No, no, Theoman, you don’t have to thank me.

Theoman actually recognized a character in A.  Unfortunately, he recognized the wrong one.  While a greater knowledge of Chinese geography may have helped him to interpret the meaning of the “north” there, the clues I provided should have been enough to get him there if he knew the second one.  He may have recognized it as also appearing in Tokyo, but I don’t think he recalled its meaning: capital.  That’s right, this is Beijing, which is in fact located in northern China, for what little good that did you.  In the future, you can probably find maps of China that don’t have characters on them, but man, Google is so much easier.

Guangzhou and Hong Kong have been reversed (in reality they are B and C, respectively).  So Theoman was close on these two.  And, for that matter, Guangzhou and Hong Kong are themselves pretty close to each other (unlike you participants, I have no need to submit to any kind of map taboos).  But he came even closer on the next one.  Defying all logic, his attempt to make an interlingual pun was entirely successful: D is Shanghai (literally, it is “above the sea”).  Based on this success, I hope he continues to use this sort of strategy in the future; even if it’s not correct (which it probably won’t be), it should be good for laughs.

His correct identification of F as Tianjin, on the other hand, was entirely logical and therefore boring.  That first character, meaning “sky” or “heaven,” is pronounced “ten” in Japanese and “tian” in Chinese.  But, as I’m sure you all can guess, this strategy won’t save you all the time.  For example, if we used the more standard Japanese pronunciations of the characters in A (Beijing), it would come out sounding something like “hokkyou.”  But, because this is a famous place, there is a special irregular reading for this word, so it comes out as “pekin.”  Remember when Beijing was called Peking?  I know you guys were there.  We ate all that duck?  Man, good times.

Maybe the reason for the limited participation last time around was geography.  Maybe geography’s not as popular as I thought it was (read: “as it should be”).  But I know something that is: food.  Also, I have a special announcement: this week’s puzzle was put together not by the Wordsman but by his lovely assistant.  His lovely assistant has the advantage of actually knowing Chinese characters (that is, as they are used in China; hanzi as opposed to kanji); the Wordsman, of course, simply dinks around on the internet and pretends that he does.  He probably would have no idea that the following words mean sandwich, waffle, ice cream, cheesecake, hot and sour soup, potstickers, and tilapia.

Now, this list of foods may seem somewhat random at first, but there’s method to the madness.  The Wordsman’s lovely assistant is quite smart, after all.  She’s also–have I mentioned this yet?–lovely.

A. 芝士蛋糕 B. 酸辣湯 C. 冰淇淋 D. 鍋貼 E. 三明治 F. 罗非鱼 G. 華夫餅

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