Tuesday, March 29, 2005


The other day I posted this, and today I finally got a superlative reply to my (apparently) rather esoteric question.
Dear Robert,

I found your notice on your blog the other day! I thought it was quite appealing partly because I never would have thought about which ‘Yoji-jukugo’ contains the highest stroke count, and partly because your writing in Japanese is so natural that no one would be aware of the fact that it was written by a non-native Japanese speaker...except for your odd question itself!

Anyway, I checked some dictionaries and websites to find more complex ‘Yoji-Jukugo’ than ‘魑魅魍魎’.
First, I checked the stroke count of each Kanji individually.

魑魅魍魎 ちみもうりょう (21+15+18+18=72)

‘魑魅’ means monsters living in the mountains. ‘魍魎’ means monsters living in the rivers. So ‘魑魅魍魎’ means a horde of Monsters. Yes, this set of Chinese characters has a very high stroke count, but I was lucky enough to find an even higher one.

糶糴斂散 ちょうてきれんさん (25+22+17+12=76)

‘糶’and ‘糶’ are very similar to each other. Of course ‘出’ is output ‘入’ is input and ‘米’ is rice. So ‘糶糴’means to buy and sell rice. According to my dictionary, ‘斂’is collect(gather), and ‘散’ is to scatter, throwing something to spread it all over an area. ‘糶糴斂散’ means that the Government buys rice in a good harvest, and sells it cheap in a bad harvest to help the citizens.

Lo and behold, I fond an even higher four character compound!

蓴羹鱸膾 じゅんこうろかい (14+19+27+17=77)

‘蓴’ is an egg bonnet (an edible plant) and ‘羹’ is ‘Atsumono’, a kind of thin soup so ‘蓴羹’ is a vegetable soup. ‘鱸’is a sea bass, ‘膾’ is a dish made from chopped fish with vinegar. Basically, ‘蓴羹鱸膾’ means delicious foods, a kind of local specialty. It is a historical fact that some public servants arrived in their new post far from their hometowns. They were impatient to eat their hometown dishes, and finally they returned home without permission. This is ’蓴羹鱸膾’.

By the way, although ‘蓴羹鱸膾’ is too difficult for native Japanese speakers, most Japanese people know the following proverb. 「羹にこりて膾を吹く」

This means that people who get their tongue scalded by hot soup(羹) try to blow even on cold dishes(膾) to cool them down. I found this in my Japanese-English dictionary and it says: ‘Once bitten, twice shy.’ or ‘A burnt child dreads the fire.’

I hope you enjoy this information. Happy hunting!

H. Nagayama

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