Monday, February 28, 2011

アテジの例 (ateji)。

Just happened to be looking up めでたい on, and here's what came up:
Granted, for each entry it says that the word is usually written with kana alone. But how interesting, that there seem to be no kanji associated with this word beyond sound—all examples seem to be jury-rigged to fit the phonetics. In the first, the kanji have readings of me (moku, an eye), de (deru/dasu, exiting), and tabi (do, a "time"/repetition). Me・de・ta・i. The second uses ai 愛, love, as the "m" component; Saiga turns up only two entries in which 愛 carries readings starting with "m", both cases asterisked:
めでる, mederu, to appreciate (eg, beauty) in a loving way: 花を愛でる
まな mana, beloved, as in 愛娘, beloved daughter
These really seem to be one-offs, 愛 forced into contexts in which it's not comfortable.

The third example in the above list uses 芽, め me, a sprout, for that sound. め・で・た・い.

So presumably when kanji were being fitted onto spoken Japanese, nobody came up with anything good for めでたい, and at some point someone stuck on 芽, 目, 出, 度, etc., because there ought to be something. Or, maybe there was a very good explanation at the time, which now either has been forgotten or is perfectly clear to people who understand Japanese much better than I do. Part of the adventure.

Speaking of: I still don't get the -ou and -i forms: めでたい, おめでとう; はやい, おはよう, etc. Interesting that the form that follows the -ou is not です(である), but just ある—not でございます but just ございます. So, 「おはようーさんです!」, but 「おはよう...ございます」.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

遺憾 / 判子。

「印鑑」という物と「判子」というのはどう違いますかと考えます。Both seem to mean "seal", and both turn up a lot of likely images on Google (inkan, hanko). Wikipedia says, "Inkan is the most comprehensive term; hanko tends to refer to seals used in less important documents." That makes sense given 子 (child) as the second kanji of 判子. All the subclasses of seals for personal use seem to include 印, which (as 判 seems to do) means an actual seal. Wiki also says that there are inexpensive, prefab seals, called 三文判 (sanmonban), available at stationery stores; there's that はん from 判子, so that's more support for hanko as less "weighty" versions of inkan. Wiki says that 三文 derives from the mon, a unit of currency—a three-mon seal, a cheapie. Wonder whether there's any relationship with the family crests, mon, worn on kimono—one, three, or five, with increasing degrees of formality. The "mon" kanji root is the same—in the kimono version, it's mon 文 with ito (thread) in the hen position (紋).

Kinda also makes me wonder whether there's any relationship between 門 "mon", phonetically a circle/circular object (unit of currency, or a crest) but in this kanji gate, and 円 (maru/en), meaning a circle/circular or a unit of currency (yen) but very similar structurally to 門. Neither of them remotely circular in shape. 面白い。

「元気」に比べて「Japanese Demystified」。

Reading through Japanese Demystified and finding a lot to like. A lot of it's material we've covered in Genki. It could use much more vocab but does group vocab meaningfully where present. It doesn't do much with kanji, but unlike some other books, it doesn't shy away from kanji and kana in its examples. Romaji is included throughout, which tends to grab the eye too fast but is great for moving quickly through examples. I definitely prefer the organization; its all-business approach is more structured and thorough and probably is better suited to an adult learner. The largely image-based approach in Genki certainly has value, in that it can create more direct associations in the memory than a strictly verbal approach can; but this book skips the very long dialogues and random vocab sections and offers some pieces of the puzzle that Genki omits.

An example of the thoroughness I like is in ch. 14, the section on auxiliary verbs that show timing or extent—just two four-line explanations, with a generous string of varied examples for each, but at least it discusses hajimeru, dasu, kakeru, owaru, tsuzukeru, yamu, nareru, sugiru, tsukusu, kiru, and makuru—verbs that function in pretty much the same way—all in the same place. I think Genki covers hajimeru, tsuzukeru, and owaru together and sugiru someplace else—at least, as of chapter 20 of 23—but this is much more helpful to me, in that it shows a broader range of expression based on a single structure. (I'd known that nareru was to get used to something, but nowhere had I seen that it could be used as -hajimeru, etc., can be used.) I also really like the breadth of the examples; they're ample but seem well chosen to reflect the syntax variants we're likely to encounter. (AはBより / BよりAは, etc.)

Definite kudos for using the words phonomime, phenomime, and psychomime—a far cry from メアリーのホームステー! (Not to harsh on メアリーさん at all, but her experience and mine are pretty different.)

A few discrepancies have jumped out as I've run through (270 pages this evening!) that I'm wondering about. Eg, Demystified says that we shouldn't use 上手 (jouzu) to refer to our own abilities but should instead use 得意 (tokui). テニスが得意です。 True? I think I remember Genki using just 上手 for all exercises. (What are you good at? テニスと料理が上手です。) I may be wrong about that.

Addendum: Another thing I like about JD is that, because it's meant for self-study, it includes exercises and tests with answer keys. And a nuance to the good point about structure: some of it seems a bit mislabeled, or at least there seems sometime to be a disconnect between the chapter and the lesson. And it introduces the locatory で only 200+ pages in. If I were writing a textbook, I'd cover で very early—first who did what, then when and where, and finally why and how. で would fit into where. りんごを食べました。 [Someone] ate an apple. Where? 家. At [someone's] house. Pretty basic stuff to be introducing so late, after far more complex stuff.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

-みたく / -みたいに。

Was just reading a forum page about -みたい, and whether it's used adverbially as an い adjective or a な adjective would be. Xみたいもの? Xみたいなもの? Xみたく走る? Xみたいに走る? Still trying to find a consensus on the page, but some people say they've heard other usage that's less than strictly correct, like 大丈夫ない (だいじょうばない, a な adjective ending in -ぶ conjugated as if it were a -ぶ verb) and 好きくない (すきくない, a な adjective conjugated as an い adjective). I guess that's the difference between 教育 (training, official speech) and the living language.

Reminds me of an anecdote that my French teacher related back when I was in school, about grammatical errors she'd heard on the train in Paris. It was comforting; as we all can confirm from experience, real people don't always follow grammatical rules. Recently I've been trying to look at N異本後 from a less "academic" viewpoint, to think of it as a tool to actually communicate with people, to get a message across, even if (as will be the case) my speech is full of errors. Errors can be corrected with time and attention; shyness can keep a person from making any progress at all. 恥ずかしすぎればなりませんね。 Litereally—no becoming.

Someone says daijoubanai may have come from a humorous comeback to the question "Daijoubu?" ("Everything OK?") no, no, DAIJOUBANAI! (instead of だいじょうぶじゃない, daijoubu ja nai). 方言ということは面白いですね。


There must be a word for that effect I like so much, when several different kanji can be used to write a single phonetic group (or several similar phonetic groups). Here's another one: あらた (a・rata), meaning "new/anew" or "again". It can be written adjectivally as 新た, as in 新たな物 (arata na mono), in which case it's the same kanji as あたらしい 新しい atara・shii, "new". But then it can also appear as 改める arata・meru, meaning to do something again (anew). So this phonetic grouping of あらた (with, perhaps, あたら) carries several kanji relating to new instances of things. This seems similar to かれる kareru, one I've mentioned before:
枯れる / kareru / to be (as a plant) completely withered or dried out (tree + old)
涸れる / kareru / to dry up (as a pond) (water + hardening, solidifying)
嗄れる / kareru / to dry out or rasp out (as a voice); to become hoarse (mouth + summer)
Of course, it may be just coincidence; that's always a danger. I started thinking of かれる when I encountered 「涙もかれ果てて」 in a Miyuki Nakajima song. 果てる hateru has a similar meaning of reaching an extreme, being exhausted, perishing—when one has reached the point at which tears are dried up, exhausted (枯れ果てる). I suppose that must be 枯, because the others seem NGU (not-general-use), not 常用.

I guess in general many of them have been consolidated into 常用 kanji, the everyday kanji; too bad. Too bad. The older forms have a lot of charm and are suggestive historically. I wonder whether 日本人 still recognize and understand those older forms, and whether those forms still carry any shades of meaning.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Writing in tensho makes me want to try carving something. 習字の先生 carves seals in tensho and made beautiful seals (判子 hanko) for us with our sho name. Of course, I then proceeded to stamp one of my better writings upside-down. Awesomeness. I asked whether that ruined it completely, and she said, "Yes."  (*´ο`*)

I haven't used my 判子 in months, but next time I'll be very careful how I position it.

Monday, February 7, 2011


A thing I don't love about Genki is how it treats vocabulary—it tends to base its word list for each lesson on its dialogue and examples. That's great as far as it goes, but it results in what seems to me a very uneven treatment; there are some complex words (and kanji) that appear early in the series and some very basic words (like "tree" and "wind") that appear almost at the end, and at no point are the words grouped by theme for easier memorization and retention.

But—hopefully, problem solved! I've bought a book that groups vocab by theme—business, weather, math, art, religion, the home, food, geography, など—and, unlike a vocab book I've had a while but don't use at all because it's all in ローマ字, Western type, and I have no idea what the kanji are—it includes kana, kanji, and roumaji. 凄い.

ところで、my new favorite kanji is 輿 (かご、こし). It means a litter or a palanquin. I enjoy its symmetry.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


習字の先生 also taught me a new word—that is, she used it to describe one of my strokes in tensho and, when I asked what it meant, suggested I ask 日本語の先生 about it. The word was さりげなく, which seems to mean that I wasn't paying enough attention to the ending of my stroke. That sounds like me; I tend to keep thinking about the next stroke, rather than "being in the moment" with the stroke I'm actually doing. (One of the many reasons why studying shuuji is good for me.)

さりげ contains two kanji, first 然る and then 気. 然り気ない、然り気無い、然り気無く。 The dictionaries translate it as "nonchalant(ly)". Unconcerned; in a casual manner. I admit I sometimes become impatient when kanji have many strokes. Kaisho is like that; sometimes I dread even starting a page of characters, because it'll be dozens of strokes before I've finished, each presenting a fresh opportunity for total failure. In most examples of 鳥 in tensho there are multiple "feathers" that descend from the right side in parallel—nowhere near as dynamic as sousho or even kaisho! But not being 然り気無い is something I need to work on, like not rushing my strokes.

(I wondered where I'd seen 然. Probably in 全然! Zen-zen is like "not at all", the first kanji being "everything" and the second, さる, being something like "-like".)

今日の習字: 連綿体、変体仮名、篆書。 (Calligraphy!)

Today's shuuji (習字) lesson was 連綿体 (renmentai, connected kana) ふる、さと、はな、ひと. ひと took me the longest, especially the line from the pickup after ひ to the cross in と. Then 変体仮名 (hentaigana), several forms of わ, one of which is actually based on 王, which apparently is something like わん in Chinese. My favorite was a form based on 倭; I feel extra lucky because we got to do 麦 mugi twice, once as 偏 (in 和) and once in the upper part of 旁 (in 倭). それから篆書, seal script, our first attempts. We "interviewed" several forms of 寒 and 鳥, and then I gave it a shot—very different from kaisho and gyousho, in that sometimes the best we can do is try to reproduce examples from the old masters, without necessarily knowing the stroke order or even, sometimes, the stroke count. The good side of that is that there's some freedom in it.

My 小筆 kofude was good to me today and gave me pretty clean lines in hentaigana, as long as I kept the ink thick. It responded well to renmen, too, though because the bristles aren't starched it can be difficult to maneuver. I used a larger sheep-bristle fude for tensho and had trouble sometimes achieving the stroke entrances and symmetry I wanted.

Whenever we're looking for examples of things, 先生 brings out amazing books, full of calligraphy by ancient and modern masters. Today it recalled a discussion I'd had with 日本語の先生 about honorifics with nouns—when is the teacher's book ご本 vs just plain old 本? If sensei actually wrote the book, it may be go-hon; if it's just a book that sensei happens to have, then maybe just hon. But everything is situational, and sensei's books today definitely felt like ご本, full of examples of skill that should be respected, especially since 先生の自分の先生 was in them.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

リルプリ、「アイドルール」。 !!!

うわぁ。 Just for kicks I went to YouTube and searched ビデオ (video) to see what would come up and be fun. This happened:

I have no idea what LilPri is supposed to be, but apparently it's from a "magical girl" anime based on something called a "card arcade game". Here's a blurb from Wikipedia:
The Fairytale World is in trouble. Its princesses and their respective worlds are disappearing, causing a ripple effect in the human world where their stories are popular. In order to save theFairytale World, the Queen sends three magic animals, Sei, Dai, and Ryoku, to the human world with magic gems to find three girls who can become the "Super Miracle Idols," the princesses Snow White, Cinderella, and Kaguya-hime. Those "princesses" end up being three little girls: Yukimori Ringo, Takashiro Layla, and Sasahara Natsuki. But the gems transform them into older singing superstars, and after their accidental debut at the singer Wish's concert, they become known as "Little Princesses," or "LilPri." Now they must collect Happiness Tones from humans in order to restore the Fairytale World.
Dealing with lyrics like these is tough for me because they so often seem fragmented, are hard to hear, and are pronounced (syllabicated) in unnatural ways, but here's a shot:

歌詞 kashi lyrics

アイドルールはキビしいルール アイドルールはキビしいルール
アイドルールはキビしいルール…アイドルール ルルル
AIDORU-RU ha KIBIshii RU-RU (2x)
idol rules are STRICT rules

AIDORU to shite ikiru kara ni ha
sore ha KIBISHII RU-RU ga aru no
if you want to live as an idol,
there are STRICT rules [you have to follow]
["kara ni" is new for me]

mukashi mukashi aru tokoro ni ita
HIROIN mitaku "gomen asobase"
long ago, [someone?] went to [was on a stage in] in a certain place
[and said,] like a heroine, "Pardon me"
or: like a heroine from a faraway land, long ago, say "Gomen asobase"
[can't tell whether that's あるところにいた, which could be "being in a certain place" or even "a (theatrical) stage in a certain place", or あるところに行った, "went to a certain place". the song does mention stages later, but it uses ステージ, SUTE-JI. "Gomen asobase" is something like "pardon me", a command form; I think somewhere in the video someone sorta curtseys to it, so it may suggest polite behavior, though I don't see how that's heroic. Maybe it makes more sense to run the lines together and think of it as いる..あるところにいたヘロインみたい. But I don't like that, because it seems like it would be いていた or 住んでいた。]

aruku sugata ha seiso ni walking
hanasu aite nya tenshi no smiling
when you're walking, walk brightly/cleanly
when you're speaking, smile like an angel
[清楚の楚 must be ateji, because it means a switch (as in a branch)...unless such things were used for cleaning. i don't know what to do with にゃ.]

PASUTERU iro no DORESU matottara
IME-JI changing "gomen asobase"
when you put on a dress in pastel colors,
and change your image, say, "Gomen asobase"
[i'm still going with the "here are the rules" structure throughout, though i'm not confident in it.]

nani o tabete mo BARA no iki o haki
neiki ha ii kedo, IBIKI ha DAME yo
even when eating something, [your] breath [must be] like a rose
breathing as one asleep (?) is great, but no snoring!
[that's pretty clearly 寝息, 寝る (to sleep) and 息 (breath)]

きっと今のは天使のフルート aiaiaiai
ONARA da nante tonde mo nai desu
kitto ima no ha tenshi no FURU-TO
flatulence is no good (unheard of!)
certainly, the current ... angels' flute
[今 の what? is this a comparison between flatulence and an angel's flute?!]

ai ai

大理石のステージの上 アイドルール
アールデコのイメージの中 アイドルール
dairiseki no SUTE-JI no ue, AIDORU-RU
on the marble stage, IDOL
among Art Deco images, IDOL

毎度キビシイルールも ルルル
ボーンボーン 12時の鐘が鳴り終わるまで つづけルール
アイドルール アイドルール アイドルール ルルルル
BO-N BO-N 12ji no kane ga nariowaru made tsudzukeRU-RU
every time, strict rules
BONG, BONG—they continue until the last stroke of the 12:00 bell


AIDORU to shite ikiru (W)ATASHI ha
kiyoku tadashii RU-RU ga aru no
i live as an IDOL
there are clear and correct rules [about it]

むかしむかしの 童話のように
mukashi mukashi no douwa no you ni
katari tsugarete "gomen asobase"
as in a fairy tale from long ago
that's passed down, "Gomen asobase!"

ai shi ai sare cute na seishin
hajiraimasu wa ATAMA de junshin
loving and being loved, a CUTE spirit
i'm/we're shy and pure/sincere

iro toridori no meiku hodokoshi
IME-JI changing "gomen asobase"
applying multicolored makeup,
appearance always changing, "Gomen asobase!"

ウフフはいいけど ガハハはダメよ
nani o mite(i)temo me no naka ni ha hoshi
UFUFU ha ii kedo GAHAHA ha dame yo
even when looking at something, stars in (our/my) eyes
chuckling/giggling is fine, but not laughing!

隣の人?は…赤の他人よ aiaiaiai
KARESHI da nante tondemo nai desu!
tonari no hito ha aka no tanin yo
no boyfriend(s)—no way!
neighbors are complete strangers
[why should you have to shun your neighbors to be an idol?]

シャンデリアの輝きを持って アイドルール
ロココ調のココロでさあ アイドルール
SHANDERIA no kagayaki o motte AIDORU-RU
with the glitter of a chandelier, idol(s)
heart(s) in the key of rococo, idol(s)
[source says that this 調 can be anything from tone/key/pitch to time/tempo to mood.]

きょうもキビシイルールで ルルル
ボーンボーン 12時の鐘が鳴りやまないから つづけルール
アイドルール アイドルール アイドルール ルルルル
BO-N BO-N 12ji no kane ga nariyamanai kara tsudzukeRURURU
even today, STRICT rules
DONG! DONG! the 12 o'clock bell hasn't stopped ringing, so they go on


aiai aiai

大理石のステージの上 アイドルール
アールデコのイメージの中 アイドルール
dairiseki no SUTE-JI no ue AIDORU-RU
on the marble stage, idol(s)
among Art Deco images, idol(s)

毎度キビシイルールも ルルル
ボーンボーン 12時の鐘が鳴り終わるまで つづけルール
アイドルール アイドルール アイドルール ルルルル
BON BON 12ji no kane ga nariowaru made tsudzukeRURURU
every time, STRICT rules
DONG! DONG! continuing until the last stroke of the 12 o'clock bell

信じられないですよ。 I guess Art Deco has changed a bit since my day. I think I'd be afraid to be around these idols when that 12 o'clock bell stops ringing. But maybe it'll help if I watch some of the episodes, which I can do here.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

之繞 (shin-nyou)。

I find the kanji radical shin-nyou, which appears in 70+ kanji and generally means movement or progression, really interesting. "Nyou" is just the type of radical, an "enclosure" radical that usually spans the left side and the bottom of the kanji. (Cf. hen, ashi, tsukuri, kamae, etc.) "Shin" is the really interesting part, because the originating kanji, 之, seems not to carry a pronunciation of "shin" or have anything to do with movement. In fact, it's one of those super kanji that stand in for particles or basic words, in this case の (possessive) and これ (this) (although in fact hiragana の derives from a totally different kanji, 乃). I suspect, but will have to verify later, that it's also the parent kanji of hiragana え. 面白いなぁ。

Addendum: I've checked, and the parent of え is not 之, but 衣 (ころも/イ koromo/I), meaning, weirdly enough, either robes/clothing or some kind of bread-crumby batter coating. A Google image search for 衣 turned up an image of something that might be batter-coated...and about a million images of lingerie. (I don't think I've ever image-searched anything in Japanese and not gotten a slew of provocative images, but these seem actually to be related to ころも.) Funnily enough, a hiragana chart I checked shows an intermediate form between 衣 and え that looks a lot like 示すへん shimesu・hen, the "altar" radical that appears in a ton of interesting kanji that are generally about religion, fortune, etc.


Even alone in my apartment, saying ござる (gozaru, ございます) makes me want to bow.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


午後に「みんなの日本語」という教科書を買いに行きました。本屋で「明らめた日本語」(「Japanese Demystified」)の本を見て、それも買いました。今晩、日本語のレッスンの後で勉強し始めようと思っています。「元気」の教科書は、三つの課(?)しか残らないので、一緒に何を勉強しますかな。


Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Another confluence of kanji: the se that means "the back" in "se ga takai/hikui" (back is high/tall/short, meaning a person is tall/short) is not the same se that's in the vertebrae. 背 (se/sei) vs 脊 (se/sei), same meaning. Is there a difference in the kanji usage? Per Jisho they're both among the common-use kanji taught in schools and both carry meanings of height/stature, but 背 seems to have a broader range of meanings, including defying/disobeying/rebelling and back/behind. 背 seems pretty straightforward in structure: 月 for flesh, and above it 北 kita north, which is two people sitting back to back. So, the back of the body, and people turning their back on each other. Henshall doesn't seem to have an entry for 脊, and I'm not sure what the upper part of it is. Jisho says, not quite convincingly, that it's the mysterious "dotted tent radical" that we see in 発 hatsu (to discharge) and 登 noboru (to climb). Henshall says that radical is obscure but used to be written as two feet. So, I guess somehow flesh and two feet make height/stature. OK by me.

I'm not so sure, though, that the upper radical in 脊 is 癶. I guess maybe, but they're written very differently; 癶 is hooked left flow, dot, then swipe, right flow, dot; 脊 is written as standard hitoyane (person-roof)—left flow, right flow—and then two dots on the left and two on the right.

See 脊 on Jisho
See 癶 on Jisho

If it is 癶, why is it written so differently in this case? Do any other kanji share this format?

Saiga-jp turns up seven kanji in all with the radical 癶:

登 noboru, to climb (obscure, originally written as a pair of feet, a food vessel, and a pair of hands)

発 discharge, emit, radiate (which in its earlier forms was about standing firm and shooting an arrow)

廃 discard, scrap, become obsolete (hatsu, leaving, in a building) (another phonetic confluence: 廃る sutaru/sutaeru, 捨てる suteru, both to abandon)

澄 clear, limpid, lucid (noboru with water)

葵 a hollyhock (あおい) (hatsu under grass)

橙 a bitter orange (橙色) (noboru with tree radical)

燈 a light (灯) (noboru with fire)
So, everything with that radical, at least from the dictionary's POV, derives from either hatsu or noboru. 脊 is not among these, and in none of them is 癶 written as it is in 脊.

Mysteriouser and mysteriouser.

Then again, maybe it's really just 个 (counter) with 二 (two, parallel lines) stacked on each side, to suggest a very tall stack of vertebrae. I'm fine with that, but it ain't no 癶.

面白いつくりの部首: 可 (か)。

I was just looking up the derivation of 過 (su.giru, KA) in ヘンシャー先生の書いた漢字についての本, and I noticed a string of kanji with the tsukuri radical 可 that share the reading カ.... Henshall says 可 is a twisted reed coiling to the surface of water, plus a mouth, and then in general it means a long time before speaking, with associated meanings of approval (grudging approval, permission, etc.)....

珂 with 玉 gyoku as hen radical, it's a jewel

河 with さんすい, three water drops, it's かわ kawa, a river or stream (same reading as 川; how does the meaning differ with different kanji? a less wide stream? a particularly winding stream, as opposed to a straight-flowing river? just for fun, I Google image-searched each of the kanji; that didn't get me anywhere, but I did find this photo of a crab wearing three watches. time well spent!)

歌 Stacked with ketsu, a gaping mouth/yawn/lack, it becomes うた uta, singing/song. Henshall says the stacked カ may also derive from かか "ka ka", a Chinese version of "tra la la"—so, a gaping mouth going "tra la la". (笑)

何 With ninben, a person, it's なに nani, what, or a counter. Henshall says this used to be about bearing a load, maybe but now is purely phonetic in Japanese usage.

苛 Under grass crown (草冠), it's teasing, tormenting, persecuting, scolding (いじ・める、さいな・む、いらだ・つ、から・い、つまか・い); Henshall seems not to have an entry for it, though it's 常用 jouyou, among the daily-use kanji taught in schools. (Interesting: Jisho says that one of the parts of this kanji is 艾, Japanese mugwort. 何?! I image-searched 艾 and found this weird drawing of someone burning someone's arm with some kind of cigar.)

荷 With ninben under grass crown, it becomes a burden (に ni, the ni in nimotsu, baggage, 荷物 = burden-thing—though motsu with a different kanji is also "to hold". ateji? 荷を持つ。荷物を持つ。荷物を持つのを待つ。) Henshall says its origins are obscure but, since there's still a minor association in China with the lotus, it may have had something to do with the large head of the lotus. I'm going to say it's a person walking by the river with a huge bundle of grass/hay (or mugwort) on his head. Or maybe it's back to that idea of permission/ability for 可; maybe the person is able to carry a bunch of grass on his head.

And there are some more sugiru-like kanji that also carry the reading of カ, though in this case the radical seems to be more about vertebrae:

過 With "movement/road" in the hen position, it's passing, surpassing, exceeding, perhaps as in an error (すぎる). Henshall says the tsukuri involves vertebrae and ease of movement and carried a meaning of "substantial".

渦 With three drops of water (三水), it's uzu, a swirl, whirlpool, eddy. Henshall says this actually used to contain 之繞, the same "advancing" radical as in 過, and that the kanji once suggested water that moved flexibly, like a spine.

禍 With an altar/holiness, it's a calamity or disaster. Henshall says the "backbone" tsukuri part here expressed rebuke, though that's a bit confusing if 可 had a meaning of approval/possibility. So, a disaster as a rebuke from the gods. Excellent reading of わざわい wazawai. It shares the reading and the meaning with the very awesome kanji 災, combining flood and fire.

For fun, I looked up vertebra/backbone to see what kanji is actually used. Jisho says 脊椎骨 / seki/tsui/kotsu, with se as height or the (anatomical) back and KOTSU as hone, a bone (with our friend the vertebral radical plus tsuki 月, which is the moon but also flesh. TSUI, weirdly enough, is a beech tree. Would make more sense, maybe, if it were a birch tree.

Fun find on Google Books.

SHIRANE Haruo. Classical Japanese: a Grammar. vol 1. Very exciting. I probably shouldn't read it because it'll only confuse my Japanese, but even a glance through has helped me to understand a few things. Interesting that 男 otoko and 女 onna used to begin with "w" sounds and actually were spelled with を wo rather than お o—をとこ, をんな. 参る まいる mairu used to be mawiru. ふ is sometimes "u" rather than "fu/hu". (Presumably, け is きょ or something similar; in shuuji the other day we wrote けふ, ke-fu, which 先生 said is spoken as 今日, きょう kyo-u.)

Anyway, the book looks like a lot of fun, with plenty of historical notes. Looks like there are some other tasty treats on offer, too:

Vovin, A Reference Grammar of Classical Japanese Prose (here) (with exercises)

Bentley, A Descriptive Grammar of Early Old Japanese Prose (here)

Dickins, The Makura-Kotoba of Primitive Japanese Verse (here)

など。 There are quite a few books on 文語 and modern Japanese, language and literature. Many are expurgated or snippetized, but even they can be useful, and some of the older books are available in full view (and probably are generally better sources for 文語, anyway).
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"Makura-kotoba" (枕詞): pillow-word, pillow-book. 面白い。

Definitely most excited about the Shirane book. For now I should focus on 元気。 あしたレッスンがあるので、今晩沢山予習しなくちゃいけない。 Three chapters left!


Was just singing "愛燦燦" in my head and thought I'd had an epiphany—that the か ka in か弱い kayowai, very weak, might be the same か as in 過去たち kakotachi, (things of) the past—both meaning "passing/surpassing(ly)", as in 過ぎる sugiru, to be too much / excessively (something). As in this poem that I have up at work (in calligraphy):
時過ぎて (toki sugite / time passes)
いつものように (itsumo no you ni / as always)
櫻さく (sakura saku / the sakura bloom)
So is it the same か? The Windows IME I type with, which takes input in kana and guesses at the kanji you mean, didn't replace that か with 過. Of course, it could be just a question of usage, like 時 vs とき; also possible that a connection was there at some point but is lost now.


Addendum: Per Kotoba, sugiru and that ka are indeed the same.