Thursday, April 10, 2008

面 - Your True FACE, or a MASK?

Readings & Meanings:

おも - face, front

めん - side, phase, mask

おもて - face, outside, front

Common Usage:











I bought the mask at one of the festival vendor's stalls.

I was rejected at the second interview.

For purposes of pressing and urgent medical attention, a No Visitors sign was hung on his hospital room door.

Since she fell in front of everybody, she turned red with embarrassment.


面 is its own radical. Unfortunately, it's a lonely radical. Only one other kanji uses it, the kanji for dimples: 靨

面 combines a form of 首, for neck/head, with a surrounding line, like the shape of the face.

Bonus: 面白い

おもしろい is an excellent word. I'm sure anyone reading this blog knows it, even if they only know it in romaji as "omoshiroi." It means "funny, interesting" and it used in almost every situation. I sometimes feel I overuse it, you know, like people whose reaction to funny things is always "That's so funny."

面白い is the kanji form, and boy, is it ever 面白い. Look at how well we can decipher it now. 面 is face and 白い is white.

How did that become interesting?

Well, I've read two different theories. One has to do with everything looking brighter when you're enjoying yourself. Your face itself looks brighter. Think "delighted" in English; when you're delighted, everything looks light and cheerful, right?

Sounds like a folk etymology to me. Another source I read says that actors used to paint their faces white, and one way or another the saying 面白い started applying to all entertaining things.

Second Bonus: お面

お面 refers to the masks sold at 祭り. Here's a brief shot of one of these vendors in the midst of a nighttime matsuri:

But this was too cute not to share:


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