Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Archival Bullshit

Somewhere along the way I stumbled on this old article at Happy Jihad's House of Pancakes and looked though it.
One thing struck me - Chinese characters prove the Bible. Sure. But, as a former Japan resident, I feel I can comment on this and I will.
To elaborate. Some whack-a-doodle decided that he as a non-Chinese/Japanese speaker could prove that the elements that make up kanji actually encode Bible stories. I, as a Japanese speaker, differ.
Let's check some of the examples that Bing McGhandi cites.
沿 - The whack-a-doodle says this character means 'hand down,' and is made up of water, the number 8 and mouth. In Japanese, it is pronounced so(u) and means 'follow along (side)' or 'abut against.' In Chinese, (checks dictionary) it is pronounced yan and means much the same as it does in Japanese. So no points for meaning.
What about the components, known as - follow the jargon here- radicals? Well, buddy gets half points. This character in Chinese is made of two radicals, not three. The left hand side is the radical for water, called sansui in Japanese. The right hand side (yes, technically you can subdivide it, but we'll get there. Save the 'Dear BBC,' emails) in this character is taken as a unit, and it put in for it's phonetic value. It doesn't really bring in meaning value.
Now about being able to divide the right hand side. The top half is a two stroke radical (don't get bogged down in the technical details) that can carry the meaning of eight, but also divide or separate. The lower right hand bit is a square, that can carry the meaning of mouth, but also of entrance or opening. But to emphasise the point, it doesn't carry meaning in this kanji; it's there for the phonetic value in Chinese.
Score 25% accurate. He got the value of the left hand radical correct. No points for meaning or composition.
婪 - right. Covet. Well, it doesn't mean anything on its own. It carries the semantic value of greed or greediness. Not quite the same as covet however. So no points there. Covet by the way is 貪圖 (tantu). Again it's not woman and trees giving the meaning greed, in some Garden of Eden sort of apple munchies kind of way. Again, the bottom radical is woman, but the top radical (forest) is there for its phonetic value. Does anyone see a pattern?
Score 33% accurate.
刑 - punish. Yeah. That's true. Or it can carry the meaning of law in Chinese. In Japanese it's a dead cert that it'll mean punish. 2 radicals, left and right side. He says: offend doubled plus knife equals punish. I say the left hand side is phonetic but comes from a pictograph of a shield (the Japanese would be more likely to see it as dry) and the right hand side is a variant of the knife radical.
Fail. I can't keep scoring these things.
義 - righteousness. Yes, or justice, morality, honour, loyalty... A bit selective aren't we? Same script. Can't distinguish meaning and phonetic radicals.
Playing fast and loose with the etymology of a language you don't speak is no way to win friends.

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