|Amusingly Obscure Kanji - 5/6
||[May. 6th, 2005|11:50 am]
Kanji of the Day
(RI / kozato(i))
So, I thought I'd do weekly entries focusing on kanji that are sort of fun to know without necessarily being the sort of kanji that you need to know. Sometimes, random knowledge can be cool!
This kanji above is very near and dear to me (some of you probably recognize it already and are shaking your heads in disdain). This is the character to which I owe my namesake, Rikoshi.
Sensei shall now tell you a story.
Ever since I began studying Japanese, I've been a total kanji nut. I've always been fascinated by them, and I think that the way that Chinese characters made the transition into Japanese has led to some really nifty 'tricks' that one can do with kanji. Sometimes, out of boredom, or even just intentionally, I would sift through lists of kanji and check out ones that caught my eye.
This character above was one such character. At its base is 利 ri, which means 'advantageous' or 'beneficial' (it also means 'interest' in a monetary sense). The radical on the left is 忄 risshin-ben; this is an adapted version of the character 心 kokoro, and it signifies things having to do with 'heart' or 'emotion.'
As soon as I saw this character, I thought it was a really neat combination of parts, and I also that it looked really pretty (even though it can be a pain in the ass to write by hand). The meaning listed in the dictionary was clever. There's a word for 'clever' in Japanese that's usually written as 利口 rikou, but is sometimes seen as 悧巧.
One of the other things that I love to do is create names. I'm a writer, and coming up with names is always difficult, but I love the challenge. When I saw this 'ri' character, I knew that I had to somehow form a name from it. I decided that it should be a Japanese male name, one that was invented but that still sounded 'real.' For those of you who don't know, a great many Japanese male names are three syllables long and end in '-shi' (Hiroshi, Takeshi, Satoshi, Kiyoshi, Takashi, Tsuyoshi, Yasushi, and so on). So, this left with with a 'Ri' and a 'shi' for two of the three syllables. A name ending in '-rishi' doesn't sound very natural in Japanese (and 利子 rishi is the Japanese word for 'interest,' again). Therefore, I was looking at 'Ri__shi' for a name. 'Ko' sounded like a good syllable to fill the gap... but what character would be good to use?
In the end, the answer struck me as being so painfully obvious that I was surprised I hadn't thought of it sooner: 悧狐志.
Broken down, this comes out to:
RI: 悧 - clever, crafty
KO: 狐 - fox
SHI: 志 - will, ambition
Going by a sort of classical-type reading of this name as if it were a phrase, you get something like 「悧い狐の志」 kozatoi kitsune no kokorozashi, which I like to translate as "the ambition of the sly fox."
This kanji isn't in common use, and as far as I can tell, it's not used a whole lot in Chinese, either. In fact, a lot of people I showed it to initially thought I was trying to write 痢 ri, which means 'diarrhea.' I did, however, come across some learned folk who were also fond of kanji and hanzi, and they assured me that it did exist and that it did mean 'clever,' as I thought.
Interestingly, people also noted that while it does mean 'clever,' it also has a sort of 'negative' connotation to it, in some regards. That's where I tend to use words like 'sly' or 'crafty' or 'cunning,' which are are still positive attributes that nevertheless make people think twice, sometimes.
The こざと.い kozato(i) reading of this kanji is evidently very old and rare, to the point where most dictionaries don't even have it listed as a reading (the word itself has dropped out of modern Japanese use, so you probably don't ever have to worry about knowing it). Still, I think it has a nice ring to it, and it's reminiscent (and probably etymologically related) with words like 目敏い mezatoi, 'sharp-sighted'; 耳ざとい mimizatoi, 'keen-eared'; あざとい azatoi, 'clever, sly'.