What does this character mean?
September 29, 2008 5:03 PM   Subscribe

What does this Japanese character on this Daruma doll mean? At least, I assume it's Japanese...
posted by killerinsideme to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In simplified Chinese, at least, it's the character 寿, meaning longevity. Should be the same or similar in Japanese.
posted by bokane at 5:11 PM on September 29, 2008

It means "longevity; congratulations; ones natural life"
posted by Class Goat at 5:35 PM on September 29, 2008

Lets learn how to look up our own characters!

First lets get a stroke count of the character. Here. I've counted each stroke starting with its beginning. The order might not be right, but that isn't particularly important for looking it up. If you want to be able to write them, however, you should get a kanji dictionary and study the stroke order because then it becomes important.

Next, lets go here and type in that stroke count. If it is only a few strokes expect to get a lot of hits. But we can find it with the keyword "longevity" on that page of 194 or so matches, or if you wanted to be a sport about it you could hunt through those first 100+ by yourself. :)

Lastly, if we are looking up characters all the time we will want to use the Halpern skip indexing method. Or, if you start to recognize some of the radicals (common piece of the character), you can look it up by its radical. An example would be if you found the word 結婚. Maybe you know the word 糸 meaning thread. Put "thread" into the "general english meanings" section of the search, and you'll get two matches back. You'll then see 糸 is radical 120. Then put 120 along with the stroke count of the original character (12), and you get nine matches back, the second of which is our character. You can then go back to the dictionary, and with a little copy-pasting, find the entire compound on 3 of 23 on the list (with search commonly used words checked, of course).

There are of course other ways to look it up. Like you saw with the English meanings, or if you know the pronunciation you can input that as well. Play around with it a bit and soon you will never have to waste an askme on what is the Japanese equivalent of simply looking something up in the dictionary.
posted by GooseOnTheLoose at 5:38 PM on September 29, 2008 [22 favorites]

That was unnecessarily nasty.
posted by Class Goat at 5:46 PM on September 29, 2008 [5 favorites]

Traditional Japanese calligraphy stemmed from hundreds of years of emulation of Chinese forms, and quite a few of the latter are antecedents of today's simplified characters. Thus, a certain number of Japanese and Chinese simpl. charact's are virtually the same. The Goat is right: in Chinese this is "shou," meaning "full term of life," "longevity". Written 壽 in the traditional graph. (I don't know if Chinese comes thru in this post.) A very interesting scholarly website shows ancient variations of charct's. I don't know how to link, so here is the URL showing the page for "shou" :
posted by yazi at 6:00 PM on September 29, 2008

Uh, what's nasty about the very thorough teaching of a useful skill? GooseontheLoose isn't saying that killerinsideme is wasting everyone's time - he's teaching them how to always know how to look up kanji characters so that he doesn't need to use askme questions on them anymore - because ideally, askme questions are for problems that you can't solve yourself. And now, killerinsideme, this is one problem you can. Congratulations. Go thank Gooseontheloose.
posted by bettafish at 6:04 PM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

seconding bettafish; that was a fascinating answer, GooseOnTheLoose.
posted by odinsdream at 7:13 PM on September 29, 2008

I agree. GOTL threw in a few phrases that were easily misinterpreted as nasty, but on balance he gave a killer answer.
posted by intermod at 7:14 PM on September 29, 2008

I disagree; it relies on the poster knowing what "stroke count" means in the first place, which isn't something people who haven't studied Japanese know instinctively, and makes a lot of assumptions based on that. I flagged it because it essentially boils down to "learn Japanese so you don't have to post such stupid AskMe questions."
posted by shirobara at 7:42 PM on September 29, 2008

I have answered this question before.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:45 PM on September 29, 2008

GOTL's answer was interesting, definitely, but phrased in unnecessarily antagonistic terms. ("Waste an askme?" Either unfortunately tone deaf or totally inappropriate.)
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:05 PM on September 29, 2008

Yeah, GOTL's answer was spot on, but about 500 words verbose. Remeber that Japanese takes a good 7-10 years of dedicated study for an English speaker to gain fluency and no one off the street should be expected to know it. And I don't know an adult Japanese who has scored 100% on JLPT level 1. Give killerinsideme a freakin break and answer the question without all the "more educated than thou"-ness. Of course you know more than the person asking the question, that's why they asked!

And this is coming from someone who has gotten in a shouting match about nihonshu vs sake.
posted by Ookseer at 1:58 AM on September 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

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