A new word

13 05 2010

I was driving to work today and I spotted the following kanji on a flag: 山火事注意

I knew all the kanji, but not what they meant together. The last two (注意 – Chuui) mean caution and are currently my favorite kanji because I can read them and find them everywhere*. The three before them mean: mountain (山), fire (火), and thing (事). So be cautious of mountain fire things?

While I liked that translation, I was quite sure it was wrong and very much wanted to know what they had paired with my favorite kanji.

Giving it my own translation seemed to work well because when I made it to the office and sat down at a computer, I was able to look it up. I typed in the readings for all of those things to get each kanji within the word (it’s like a compound word in English – textbook, crossroad, backpack, etc).

What did it say? According to jisho.org, it means brushfire. So be cautious of brushfires. Makes sense.

Today I learned a new word and all because I gave it some crazy translation to remember it long enough to get to a dictionary to find it. Both definitions are now stuck in my head.

Guess what happened on the way home from work this time? That’s right, I found it on several more signs, but I previously hadn’t known what it was.

I like learning new words.

*Everywhere in this case includes (but is not limited to): my shower door handle, my toilet seat, my microwave, my stove, train doors, road signs and warning labels. It’s fun because I see these two hard kanji that I’d probably make a mess of if I tried to write them and I can read them!

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6 responses

14 05 2010
BandonRandon

I’m scared of fire mountain things. My first thought was “volcano” but I suppose bushfires are just as scary. It’s wierd that the word “thing” would be in there. I would thing “mountain fire” would suffice. Then again, I’m no linguist and don’t know any Japanese.

14 05 2010
beckywithasmile

My friend who speaks a bit more Japanese thought the same thing. I guess volcano didn’t even occur to me because I don’t think of the area where I live as a place with a lot of volcanoes. And the sign had fire on it – making me think it was literally talking about fire.

It is strange that it has “thing” in it, but this particular “thing” kanji is used as the second half of the kanji in job as well. I don’t understand the why behind using it in many places, but I do aim to understand it’s meaning.

According to jisho.org, it means the following: 1. thing; matter; fact; circumstances; business; reason; experience. 2. individual concrete phenomenon (as opposed to a general principle)

Maybe there’s a better definition than thing?

14 05 2010
Claire

Actually, volcano is the reverse. Fire, then mountain. I hate when kanji mean different things when you switch them around.

As for the definition of koto- it’s any abstract thing. Like if you said, “That thing we were talking about” it would be koto, but if you said “that thing you were eating,” it would be mono.

14 05 2010
beckywithasmile

The reverse? That is confusing! It would be hard to survive in Japan if you were dyslexic.

Thanks for helping clear up the koto definition. I still find it a bit confusing, but it makes a bit more sense. I think when Genki finally teaches me it, it will make even more sense, with your pre-teaching definition :)

13 07 2010
tokyo5

火 is fire but usually in the “contained fire” sense.
An unwanted, out-of-control fire (burning house, etc) is 「火事」 (pronounced “kaji”).

“Volcano” is 「火山」 (“ka-zan”).

So, this isn’t technically a case of two words with reverse kanji…but there are many cases of that.
For example, 「花火」 is “fireworks” and 「火花」 is “a spark”.

http://tokyo5.wordpress.com

13 07 2010
beckywithasmile

Hmm . . . interesting. Thanks for the clarification.

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