corvi (corivax) wrote,

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Kanji 101: Sho

I have a scanner in the undergraduate library, and some Swedish fish candy! Life is good. Today's kanji theme: convoluted etymologies. And characters named 'sho', actually. Too bad there isn't a kanji for 'swedish fish'. I should invent one, with two of those stick figure jesus fish and the square Ku mouth-shape that shows up in the kanji for mouth and eat and command and othersuch.

The piece on top is a drawing of a spiky bamboo plant. The piece on the bottom is a human stick-figure with bowed head. This is literally 'plant with bowed head' and originally referred to a certain type of thistle with thin stems and heavy flowers. From there, the meaning evolved to 'thin stem'/'thin line' and came to mean creases around the mouth, ie, laugh lines. The modern meaning of this character is actually laugh/smile.

I love the poetic imagary behind this character. The associate of thistle - a spiny, unpleasant plant that bears vivid and surprising flowers, a weed of sudden beauty and changability - with the concept of laughter. Laughing at oneself, laughing at those times when life is such that your only real choices are laugh or cry.

There's also an element of survival-by-laughter to this kanji, I think. The wind uproots the oak tree, but glides over the bowed heads of the thistles. From personal experience, I can assure you laughter is one of the best ways of dealing with stress.

(This kanji is dedicated to lumiere, who requested one for laughter. Thanks, I really like this one.)

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