Quick Kanji 1 – 猫, 鴉, 蚊 & 鳩

1 Mar

Welcome to our very first Quick Kanji post. We’ve designed these entries to give you some quick, quirky facts about kanji that we think you might find interesting.

Have a look at the following animal-related. Do you know what they have in common?

猫 (ねこ) cat

鴉 (からす) crow

蚊 (か) mosquito

鳩 (はと) pidgeon

Upon first glance there aren’t really any great similarities. In fact the only visual similarity is the 鳥 (ねこ- bird) radical in 鴉 and 鳩, which for those of you who know your kanji is somewhat unsurprising given both represent a type of bird. However the similarity does in fact have something to do with a radical used in each of the kanji.

One of the radicals actually represents the sound that that animal is said to make in Japanese – essentially it represents the animal’s voice. Let’s have a look in more detail.

鳩 (pidgeon) contains the radical 九 (ku). Pidgeons are said to make a kuu-kuu sound in Japan.

鴉 (crow) includes the radical 牙 (ga). Japanese crows don’t craw, they gaaa instead.

蚊 (mosquito) is made up of 文 (bun) and 虫 (mushi). Mosquitos in Japan go bun-bun not buzz.

猫 (cat) is a little different. 苗 (nae) doesn’t refer to the Japanese sound but rather the original Chinese sound myou.

And there you have it! Who would’ve thought that kanji would contain something as specific as the sound of an animal?

Gaaaaaaa!

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