Is there another meaning than mushroom to the Japanese "-take"?
June 9, 2021 10:26 AM   Subscribe

I believe I read somewhere that, similar to common usage in Chile of the Quechua word "k'allampa" both for mushrooms and for "dick" (or Uyghur "يەر مەدىكى / yer mediki", meaning "earth dick") the Japanese -take that many mushroom names are composed with, taken by itself can be a slang word for penis, or was an arcaic or dialect word for it.

I believe I read this in conjunction with the specific fetish that exists for matsutake, which are most prized when their caps are still closed, so the association kind of suggests itself. But I haven't since been able to find any corroboration, nor where I originally came across it. Is this bunk, or is there something to it?
posted by progosk to Writing & Language (10 answers total)
Well, per Urban Dictionary . . .

Another source here, and a more reputable one here, which mentions that matsutake is a commonly used word for the male organ as one little tidbit among several pages detailing Japanese slang related to the genitalia.
posted by flug at 1:38 PM on June 9

Best answer: According to the Koseisha Dictionary of Slang, the word matsutake does have that usage, but I don't see any evidence that it's associated with take by itself.

It's probably worth noting that in modern Japanese, the word take means "bamboo". It's derived from a root meaning "tall", referring to the plant's fast rate of growth. Apparently, it was also used to refer to mushrooms during the Heian period, so the fact that -take appears in the names of many mushrooms is itself an archaism. The modern word for mushrooms in general is kinoko.
posted by teraflop at 1:43 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Yes I'd seen those mentions of reverse usage of "matsutake" for the slang, but was looking to clarify if there's a older root meaning of just "take" beyond that. Thanks, teraflop, for that additional source/info.
posted by progosk at 1:57 PM on June 9

Best answer: “take” is a pronunciation of 茸 (or the older (I think?) 蕈), which means “mushroom.” 竹 can also be pronounced “take” and means “bamboo,” but it is a different character entirely.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:40 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh, GenjiandProust… so that etymological hypothesis about the shared fast-growingness of 竹 (bamboo) and 茸 (mushroom) is invalid, then?
posted by progosk at 9:36 AM on June 10

I’m not any kind of expert in Japanese etymology (or Japanese; I can just about read a YA novel), but the kanji carry the meaning more than the sounds, for what it’s worth. Now, kanji have two kinds of pronunciation (often with multiple pronunciations within each kind) — onyomi based on Chinese pronunciation and kunyomi based on native Japanese pronunciation. Both “take (bamboo)” and “take (mushroom)” are kunyomi, so I suppose there’s an ur-word in early Japanese that connects them, but I would bet not. They are just homophones.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:25 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: onyomi based on Chinese pronunciation and kunyomi based on native Japanese pronunciation

It's quite a maze to navigate... at I see four Japanese readings for the kanji 茸: one onyomi じょう (jō), and three kunyomi, as しげる (shigeru), たけ (take), きのこ (kinoko) - I guess according to the circumstance of use/context?
posted by progosk at 1:16 AM on June 11

onyomi come from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word attached to a character 山, the character for mountain, is “shan,” in Japanese this became “san.” Naturally, the Japanese had a word for mountain, “yama,” the kunyomi for that character. There’s also a less-used onyomi “sen,” which may be fin a different dialect or maybe just a different path of adoption. I’ve only seen it used in one word, but, then, I’m no expert.

Onyomi tend to be used in kanji compounds so 火山 kazan fire+mountain volcano is pronounced with onyomi while 山 by itself uses the kunyomi yama. Naturally, there are a lot of exceptions. When the writing system was simplified, sometimes homophones and words with similar meanings were pushed together to reduce the the number and complexity of kanji, which I expect increased the number of pronunciations. There’s also cases where characters had specific meanings and pronunciations in, say, Chinese Buddhism, and those got rolled in as well.

Obviously, this is all very simplified and incomplete.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:44 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I've just also found etymologygeek, which for 茸 gives some nice detail of the components it traces the 'kinoko' reading back to: 茸 = 子 + の + 木
posted by progosk at 3:48 AM on June 12

Written horizontally, it would be 木の子. I can’t dispute the etymology; I’m no kind of authority. One of my dictionaries includes a katakana spelling キノコ, which is sometimes an indication of a “foreign” word but they also get used for words where the kanji aren’t used much but the hiragana is confusing, so I dunno.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:08 AM on June 12

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