I knew that the communists simplified the Chinese characters, but this is ridiculous

screenshot of chineseetymology.org page for 誌, showing the simplification as a graphic icon for 'pencil'

Context: A little glitch in the chineseetymology.org page for the character 誌 is currently making it return an invalid Unicode character, U+E207, in the “Simplified” field. U+E207 is a “private use” character; it’s reserved for internal use by organizations, and has no set meaning in public webpages. In my particular system, this character ends up hitting the OpenSymbol Regular font, in which it’s mapped to a funny pencil icon. (If you want to see what it looks like in your system, here it goes:  ).

This is an example of mojibake: random, garbled display caused by errors in text encoding. But it’s an amusingly appropriate piece of mojibake, because 誌 denotes the Chinese word zhì “to write down”! (In Japanese it’s usually seen in words related to “magazines”, pronounced shi).

The actual Chinese simplification would be U+5FD7, 志 – the phonetic component to the right of 誌, and yes, this is the same as the standalone character meaning “intention”. In modern Chinese writing 志 gets overloaded with the meanings of 誌, so that 志 zhì is now “intention” as well as “to record”.

The blaming of “communists” in the title is a nod to my Taiwanese calligraphy teacher, who always called Chinese simplified characters “communist characters”.

Unrelated trivia: 志 has a Japanese reading with the record number of syllables (moræ) for common-use characters, 5: kokorozashi. In the original Chinese use, characters almost always represent one syllable, which is typically one morpheme; in this case zhì “intention”. This was equated to the Japanese composite word kokoro-zashi “pointing-of-heart” ≅ “intention”, and because the word is considered to be an uninflected noun, all the syllables (and three morphemes) get packed inside the single character. There are larger readings in non-common-use characters, and Kanjidic has some oddities which include entire phrases, like kotobagauruwasii “words are lovely” as a reading for 誗; but these are strange extremes (I wonder where did they even came from), whereas kokorozashi is an everyday word widely written with the single 志.

5 thoughts on “I knew that the communists simplified the Chinese characters, but this is ridiculous

  1. I got 誗 from Kanjidic, which is a data file for kanji dictionaries managed by Jim Breen; I believe weblio draws from it too. It has a bunch of very unusual large readings for rare kanji, which I’ve never seen used anywhere else. Here’s the top 10:

    妮 はした.め やわらかくまつは.る
    弙 ゆみをはってねら.う も.つ
    寏 ぐるりとめぐらしたかき
    娍 すらりとしてみめよ.い
    朎 つきのうつくしいひかり
    榺 はたけのいしをかつ.ぐ
    訵 ひそかにうかがい.しる ひそかに.しる
    呴 いきをかけてあたた.める
    鞼 たづな つよ.い くじく くじける ぬいとりをしたなめしがわ
    褠 ひとえ ひとえのつつそでうでぬき あわせ

    The champion is 褠’s hitoenotsutsusodeudenuki, perhaps something like “arm part of tight sleeve of an unlined kimono”?

    A very cursory glance on the net found little use beyond dictionary mentions. I wonder what’s the source of those weird large readings… Some of them seem to be not “readings” but descriptions of the characters (ひだりのうでがない for 孒), while others are strangely literary (“the beautiful light of the moon”?)

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