Sinograms to delight and to potentially herald an end to zero productivity on my part

In Chinese, Language-matters, Sinograms on Tuesday 2nd January, 2007 by Guy

I know you love funky Chinese characters, and I still remember how impatient you are, so let’s get on with it:

(from here; linking from the character directly would introduce a misleading underline): a female rhinoceros, or the species rhinoceros indicus, or to be safe, a female specimen of the species rhinoceros indicus. Courtesy of a squirrel, who was aided by cojak.

(here, and almost nowhere else): “the profundity of the harem, the mysterious and profound of the forbidden palace, the flourishing and exuberant of the flame”, according to cojak. The possibility that this is a hoax, or at least a nonce-character, burns strongly in my paranoid loins. Assuming it is real (and can someone please explain how that is decided? Or even what it means?), the alleged radical is , which means ‘sweet’, and is one of the rarer radicals. We shall come across it again, I’m quite sure.

(here) is, according to this self-described “curious article”, the most complex character currently in use, and it means, tingo-esque-ly, a “sound obscured by a stuffed nose”, or a “stoppage of the nose to speak with a nasal twang” according to its allocated cojak page, which in my admittedly non-expert opinion seems to be a quite similar definition. It is written with 36 strokes of the brush — if a brush is to be the writing instrument of choice — which is, to quote an eminent contemporary academic, “rather a lot of strokes”.

, , and (respectively here, here, here and, hold it, here) respectively mean, according to the sometimes-unreliable cojak, “ill-tempered; naughty”, “jade; precious stone; gem”, “master, chief owner; host; lord” and “king, ruler; royal; surname”. I am viscerally thrilled by their similarity in appearance [acknowledged by the use of the last character to represent the second one when radicalised, what with the “king” sense never being used as radical] which bears no relation to their diversity of meanings. Now of course you could argue, and I’m certain you will, that this is a facile enjoyment, a childish reason to be excited, and proof positive of my unquenchable racism, for doesn’t the equivalent phenomenon happen in English and other languages written with alphabets (let alone those written with abjads!)? This is true, but I don’t care. Let me be pleased if I can’t help it. Please.

and (referenced here and here respectively) mean ‘seashell’ and ‘to see’ respectively [how striking that their English definitions sound similar too]. Their “traditional” variants are 貝 and 見. Isn’t that nice? They’re also radicals, delightfully.

and (here and here, here-fans): Yes, these characters are not identical, and neither are their pronounciations, though their meanings are mercifully similar, with the former meaning “pig”, and the latter meaning… “a shackled pig”. Isn’t it obvious? My feline source indicates that these devilish sinograms are no longer in use, but they could theoretically be sprung upon us in the name of Chinese, rather like an Irish parliamentarian insisting on his or her right to debate laws in Gaelic, so we have to be ready. Like the Irish parliamentarians who have to listen to the Gaelic. I think you get it now.

and (available for ogling over here and, hey!, here): These two have the same pronounciation [you did work out that you can find out how to pronounce any of the characters featured in this post by merely and utterly leaving the mouse cursor hanging over them for a moment or four? Well, how about now?], the same meaning (sweet, like their radical, , encountered earlier. I did warn you), and are, as you can possibly see, identical, apart from the minor dissimilarity of being the other way round to each other. My knowledgable, well-sourced and rather dishy source has informed me that only the latter one — yep, the one with the radical on the right — is in current usage, but who’s keeping count? Apart from these guys (and gals. And those in-between).

If you can’t see some of the characters, or if you’re wondering why I get so happy at discovering that squares are sinograms too, you need to make your computer understand Chinese. This isn’t as hard as making you understand Chinese, but it’s not so simple that I can help you. Use the power of google to aid you in your quest. Good luck soldier.


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