Thursday, December 10, 2020


An internet meme yesterday mentioned the word 鬱 ("depression").

Naturally, as a neurotic man with a linguistic bent, I had to leave a comment underneath.

鬱 Luxuriant; moody, melancholy. Top part: a tree (木 ) on either side of a ceramic item (缶). Then an enclosure or lid (冖), underneath which are a vat of brewing alcohol and a ladle (鬯 meaning by itself: liquor used ritually), next to three tiger stripes indicating 'variegated'. A total of twenty nine strokes. Most Chinese characters will fall between eight and twenty strokes, more or less, and are far less likely to yield an unintelligible ink blob when brush-written. Except for many characters used to represent Cantonese terms.....
The Cantonese take perverse pride in confounding clumsy Northerners.

The vast majority of characters will be under twenty strokes. There are rather few that are over thirty. If one recognizes the parts of characters one can often figure out why they mean what they mean, and many component clusters function as phonetic elements, giving strong clues to the sound.

There are 214 basic building blocks. There are around four or five hundred common phonetic elements. And there are compound words consisting of two or more characters, slightly more in Mandarin than in Cantonese. Some characters, like the one shown above, do double or triple duty, giving meanings that are different and must be read contextually.

A deciduous tree might describe itself as 'luxuriant' in foliage, whereas a human being might be moody and angst-ridden (多愁善感 'dou sau sin gam') or 鬱鬱寡歡 ('wat wat gwaa fun').

抑鬱症 ('yik wat jing') clinical depression.
憂鬱啲 ('yau wat di'): peevish, sullen.
鬱金香 ('wat kam heung'): tulip.

灪 ('wat'): impressive of appearance, majestic; high, steep; vast; an immense ocean wave.

I am rarely depressed. Being Dutch, I am more like a tulip. Much more.
Luxuriously gilded fragrance.


NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.

No comments:

Search This Blog


It seemed an echo of a Shanghainese place on Parkes Street in Jordan. Which is in Hong Kong. The combination of snow vegetable and pork shre...