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Thread: Can you decipher the hieroglyph?

  1. #1 Can you decipher the hieroglyph? 
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    Japanese word gaijin, which means a foreigner, consists of two pictograms. The first means an evening and the second means a person. Why does the combination of these pictures denote a foreigner?

    Source: http://reverent.org/puzzle.html

    I am sure that many people here will suggest the same explanation that I have. But is it right, or just sounds reasonable?


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  3. #2  
    Veracity Vigilante inow's Avatar
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    Is that konji or mandarin?

    In mandarin, the second character is ren, which means person, and the first character is wai, which literally means, "foreign" in mandarin... so is directly translated as "foreign person" or "foreigner." Not sure I see the problem here.

    What's your concern, exactly? (also, btw, they're not hieroglyphs... their zi... or "characters")


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  4. #3  
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    the first character is wai, which literally means, "foreign" in mandarin...
    Ok. The pictogram for foreign differes from the pictogram for evening by a single dash.
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    Forum Professor jrmonroe's Avatar
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    Everything makes sense, if we have the right frame of mind.

    In a rudimentary sense, the Chinese/Japanese characters for "foreigner" means "foreseen beyond the evening/obvious person". Not that the evening is obvious, but that the day(light) makes things obvious and the evening ends the day and the knowledge that it provided.

    The Chinese character for foreigner consists of two other characters: a crescent moon on the left that signifies "evening" and, on the right, cracks used in augury that signify "divine" or "foresee". The two characters together basically mean "foreseen beyond the evening/obvious". If you need to divine/foresee what you would encounter tomorrow, then it would not be obvious ... it would be strange/foreign. Perhaps ancient people conducted auguries in the evening, so people would have an assurance of tomorrow and could get a good night's sleep.

    Something or someone strange/foreign often involves traveling. You might encounter a stranger/foreigner in your travels, or a stranger/foreigner might travel and appear unexpectedly on your doorstep. If you think of traveling distances in terms of time, then equating time with distance (ie, "evening" to "foreign") makes sense (of course, within the context of the mode of travel: driving, flying, walking, etc). For example, "I live 45 minutes from Chicago", or "Tian Shan is a two-week journey from here".
    Grief is the price we pay for love. (CM Parkes) Our postillion has been struck by lightning. (Unknown) War is always the choice of the chosen who will not have to fight. (Bono) The years tell much what the days never knew. (RW Emerson) Reality is not always probable, or likely. (JL Borges)
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  6. #5  
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrmonroe
    Everything makes sense, if we have the right frame of mind.
    The solution I had in mind is neat and makes perfect sense. Many people independently come to this solution.

    Albeit if this pictogram is indeed not Japaneese, but Chinese that solution probably is wrong.
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  7. #6  
    Forum Professor jrmonroe's Avatar
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    Okay, so I went and translated "evening" into Japanese, but it doesn't back up reverent.org's claim.
    Grief is the price we pay for love. (CM Parkes) Our postillion has been struck by lightning. (Unknown) War is always the choice of the chosen who will not have to fight. (Bono) The years tell much what the days never knew. (RW Emerson) Reality is not always probable, or likely. (JL Borges)
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrmonroe
    Okay, so I went and translated "evening" into Japanese, but it doesn't back up reverent.org's claim.
    Of course, the claim is correct. Take a pair of languages you know and try to use machine translation to see what you get. The question is whether the obvious solution of the puzzle is also the correct one.

    P.S.
    As we started to talk about machine translation, this may be of some interest: Machine translation or Faulkner?
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by simus
    Quote Originally Posted by jrmonroe
    Okay, so I went and translated "evening" into Japanese, but it doesn't back up reverent.org's claim.
    Of course, the claim is correct. Take a pair of languages you know and try to use machine translation to see what you get. The question is whether the obvious solution of the puzzle is also the correct one.
    Computer translation and computer dictionary are two different things, dictionaries should be reliable. Even though you may not get the exact meaning without additional description, you should find most possible translations of the word.
    Other dictionaries confirm he is wrong:
    http://www.mandarintools.com/cgi-bin...ad&where=start
    http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E5%A4%96
    http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E5%A4%96%E4%BA%BA
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    But I know that he is wrong. The translation of the pictogram is certainly correct. I was wandering about the obvious interpretation.
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    Quote Originally Posted by simus
    But I know that he is wrong. The translation of the pictogram is certainly correct. I was wandering about the obvious interpretation.
    Who is wrong?
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    Strange that so far nobody posted my solution. Let me put it this way for the experts. You know that my solution is wrong. But what obvious interpretation a person who knows only general things about Japan could give to the pictogram?
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    The two picts are like people walking, the left one having a traveling backpack, being the foreigner, the right one being a regular native. In meaning (and by pict, too), though, the foreigner is a stranger in the night, appearing from the darkness.
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  14. #13  
    Forum Masters Degree Twit of wit's Avatar
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    Jesus Christ the aswer is that the question is wrong, it does not mean evening. How many proofs do you need to accept that?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Twit of wit
    Jesus Christ the aswer is that the question is wrong, it does not mean evening. How many proofs do you need to accept that?
    You think that your twittering deserve the dignified name of a proof?

    http://www.saiga-jp.com/cgi-bin/dic....=&g=&e=evening
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  16. #15  
    Forum Masters Degree Twit of wit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by simus
    Quote Originally Posted by Twit of wit
    Jesus Christ the aswer is that the question is wrong, it does not mean evening. How many proofs do you need to accept that?
    You think that your twittering deserve the dignified name of a proof?

    http://www.saiga-jp.com/cgi-bin/dic....=&g=&e=evening
    This clearly disproves your claim as neither character is there. And I gave you three other links that prove you are wrong. So, I'm asking you again, how many proofs do you need?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Twit of wit
    Quote Originally Posted by simus
    Quote Originally Posted by Twit of wit
    Jesus Christ the aswer is that the question is wrong, it does not mean evening. How many proofs do you need to accept that?
    You think that your twittering deserve the dignified name of a proof?

    http://www.saiga-jp.com/cgi-bin/dic....=&g=&e=evening
    This clearly disproves your claim as neither character is there. And I gave you three other links that prove you are wrong. So, I'm asking you again, how many proofs do you need?
    Are you a blind twit?

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    This doesn't look the same to me either... the vertical shape seems to be missing. I don't know anything about these characters though.
    Also, the translation for the word "outside" seems more resemblant :
    http://translate.google.com/?hl=&ie=...#en|ja|outside
    Outside Person = Foreigner, that makes sense to me.

    But disregarding all that, could the answer be "astronomy" related? I mean, we do say Japan is the "Land of the Rising Sun".
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  19. #18  
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    Quote Originally Posted by paul8878 View Post
    I mean, we do say Japan is the "Land of the Rising Sun".
    That's the answer I had in mind.
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  20. #19  
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    The word gaijin is an abbreviation of gaikokujin. The first character is gai, "outside", short for gaikoku, literally "outside country" or "foreign country". The second character is jin, man or person. Therefore foreigner.

    There is a resemblance between the character for gai and the character for evening but there is no semantic relationship.

    Most characters have a semantic and a phonetic component. In this case the "evening" part on the left is phonetic (or was, originally, in Chinese - there is no phonetic similarity in modern Japanese gai versus yuu). The part on the right is a character meaning divination, originally by making marks on the outside of a turtle and so provides the semantic element.

    So nothing at all to do with the rising sun.
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  21. #20  
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    And its still bunk to be honest.
    If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. -Thorin Oakenshield

    The needs of the many outweigh the need of the few - Spock of Vulcan & Sentinel Prime of Cybertron ---proof that "the needs" are in the eye of the beholder.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paleoichneum View Post
    And its still bunk to be honest.
    But you could write "this is what you had in mind ..., but though it may appear reasonable, it is incorrect." You didn't. So if you are honest you should admit that you are not very intelligent.
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  23. #22  
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    Quote Originally Posted by simus View Post
    Ok. The pictogram for foreign differes from the pictogram for evening by a single dash.
    Actually, by two strokes: the vertical one and one at an angle down and to the right.

    Not being picky, just educational. Honest.
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  24. #23  
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    Quote Originally Posted by simus View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Paleoichneum View Post
    And its still bunk to be honest.
    But you could write "this is what you had in mind ..., but though it may appear reasonable, it is incorrect." You didn't. So if you are honest you should admit that you are not very intelligent.
    Why should I? Its bunk and my intelligence level is not something you have any knowledge of so is not relevant to the commentary. Leave the personal attack out of the forum.
    If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. -Thorin Oakenshield

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    Forum Professor jrmonroe's Avatar
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    We are the only two people here who seem to agree independently, so it would be prudent to consider our replies.

    Quote Originally Posted by jrmonroe View Post
    Everything makes sense, if we have the right frame of mind.

    In a rudimentary sense, the Chinese/Japanese characters for "foreigner" means "foreseen beyond the evening/obvious person". Not that the evening is obvious, but that the day(light) makes things obvious and the evening ends the day and the knowledge that it provided.

    The Chinese character for foreigner consists of two other characters: a crescent moon on the left that signifies "evening" and, on the right, cracks used in augury that signify "divine" or "foresee". The two characters together basically mean "foreseen beyond the evening/obvious". If you need to divine/foresee what you would encounter tomorrow, then it would not be obvious ... it would be strange/foreign. Perhaps ancient people conducted auguries in the evening, so people would have an assurance of tomorrow and could get a good night's sleep.

    Something or someone strange/foreign often involves traveling. You might encounter a stranger/foreigner in your travels, or a stranger/foreigner might travel and appear unexpectedly on your doorstep. If you think of traveling distances in terms of time, then equating time with distance (ie, "evening" to "foreign") makes sense (of course, within the context of the mode of travel: driving, flying, walking, etc). For example, "I live 45 minutes from Chicago", or "Tian Shan is a two-week journey from here".
    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    The word gaijin is an abbreviation of gaikokujin. The first character is gai, "outside", short for gaikoku, literally "outside country" or "foreign country". The second character is jin, man or person. Therefore foreigner.

    There is a resemblance between the character for gai and the character for evening but there is no semantic relationship.

    Most characters have a semantic and a phonetic component. In this case the "evening" part on the left is phonetic (or was, originally, in Chinese - there is no phonetic similarity in modern Japanese gai versus yuu). The part on the right is a character meaning divination, originally by making marks on the outside of a turtle and so provides the semantic element.

    So nothing at all to do with the rising sun.
    Maybe if you checked this link, it would finally make sense to you.
    Grief is the price we pay for love. (CM Parkes) Our postillion has been struck by lightning. (Unknown) War is always the choice of the chosen who will not have to fight. (Bono) The years tell much what the days never knew. (RW Emerson) Reality is not always probable, or likely. (JL Borges)
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  26. #25  
    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrmonroe View Post
    Maybe if you checked this link, it would finally make sense to you.
    My knowledge of Chinese is limited but that is a very neat site.
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    Forum Professor jrmonroe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by jrmonroe View Post
    Maybe if you checked this link, it would finally make sense to you.
    My knowledge of Chinese is limited but that is a very neat site.
    Yes, and so is mine, and at one point, I knew almost 900 characters, far short of the 3,000 characters typically needed to read a newspaper. And yes, zhongwen.com is very cool (and very extensive and us), and I've used it now for several years.

    I was about to tell you that this two-part character for foreigner could have, as you say, semantic and phonetic components, and/or one of them could be what we call the "radical" (meaning root) but what the Chinese call the "head", even though they both mean the same thing in describing a certain part of characters. So, I looked up both as radicals in zhongwen.com, and Chinese does use both as radicals divination as a two-stroke radical, and evening as a three-stroke radical (the horizontal stroke combines with the large downward diagonal stroke, making the character three strokes). The foreign character lists under the evening radical. So, does evening indicate the basic meaning of the character foreign (ie, its root), or was it randomly chosen, or was it chosen for being the left-hand part of the character? I don't know.
    Grief is the price we pay for love. (CM Parkes) Our postillion has been struck by lightning. (Unknown) War is always the choice of the chosen who will not have to fight. (Bono) The years tell much what the days never knew. (RW Emerson) Reality is not always probable, or likely. (JL Borges)
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  28. #27  
    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    I got my info from Henshall's A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters. I think his derivations/histories are usually accurate (unlike some books which just "make up" stories to help learning) but I wouldn't take it as gospel without checking other sources.
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  29. #28  
    Forum Professor jrmonroe's Avatar
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    As a little kid, I learned the characters for the numbers 1 through 9 from an encyclopedia, but I suppose my first book on Chinese etymology was The Chinese Word for Horse by John Lewis, which is pretty cool for kids (and even adults).
    Grief is the price we pay for love. (CM Parkes) Our postillion has been struck by lightning. (Unknown) War is always the choice of the chosen who will not have to fight. (Bono) The years tell much what the days never knew. (RW Emerson) Reality is not always probable, or likely. (JL Borges)
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  30. #29  
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrmonroe View Post
    Maybe if you checked this link, it would finally make sense to you.
    It does make some sense but the reasoning is muddled. In reality they just plain memorize the pictograms without forming vague connections mentioned in the article.

    As I mentioned before, if the pictogram is borrowed by the Japanese from the Chinese the explanation I had in mind is wrong. Albeit it is logical and if it was right could be used learn the pictograms logically.
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  31. #30  
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    Quote Originally Posted by simus View Post

    Japanese word gaijin, which means a foreigner, consists of two pictograms. The first means an evening and the second means a person. Why does the combination of these pictures denote a foreigner?
    Your source is in error. The first is the kanji for soto : outside. The second is a person. Gaijin means 'outside person' i.e. foreigner.
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  32. #31  
    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by simus View Post
    As I mentioned before, if the pictogram is borrowed by the Japanese from the Chinese
    It is.

    the explanation I had in mind is wrong.
    It is. But not because the character is borrowed from Chinese but because it doesn't mean evening.

    Albeit it is logical
    No it isn't. It is just wrong.

    and if it was right could be used learn the pictograms logically.
    The correct meanings of the characters can be used to learn them.

    And they are not "pictograms".
    ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat
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