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Origin of the pronunciation
There are a few theories for the pronunciation of the word カラス.
It is thought it was a corruption of "black" (くろ) plus "す/し" (a common suffix for birds like ウグイス (Japanese nightingale) or ホトトギス (lesser cuckoo).
「カラス」 also could have come from the crow's cawing. "KaRa!"
It's interesting that in several other languages "crow" also has a hard "k" and "r" sound:
- crow (English)
- corbeau (French)
- krähe (German)
- κουρούνα kourouna (Greek)
- カラス karasu (Japanese)
Origin of the Kanji
烏 crowという漢字 kanji of (crow) [という(と quotation marker + いう to say) is often used when explaining or describing a new word or concept; or it is used as a connector between a modifying word and the word that is modified]一本線 one line [一 (one); 本 (piece; counter for something long and slim); 線 (line)]ありません doesn’t exist; there is not [polite and negative of ある]体が黒く body is black and… [体 (body); 黒く(black and…; ku-form conjunction of i-adjective; 黒くて(te-form conjunction) would work. ku-form conjunction sounds more concise and formal than te-form conjunction)]目が見えにくい it is hard to see their eyes [見えにくい (hard to see; hard to be seen); 見え from 見える (can see; potential of 見る (to see)); にくい (difficult to ~; “masu-stem + にくい”is “hard/ difficult to ~”); this sentence is implying that crows look as if they don’t have a good eyes to see]ので because目 eye表す represents (eyes) [表す (to represent; to stand for; to reveal; to show)]一本線 one line [一本 (one piece); 線 (line)]描きません (a line) isn’t drawn [literally, “doesn’t draw (a line); negative of 描く(to draw); the topic of this sentence is 烏という漢字, but that is not the subject for this verb—it is hidden. The subject is “people” in a general sense. 描きません is used to mean “(a line) isn’t there”. 一本線は描かれません (isn’t drawn), or simply 一本線はありません (one line is not there / missing) would work also.]実際の actual (crow) [実際 (actuality; reality)]視力 eyesight [視 (to view; to regard; to inspect) + 力 (power; strength)](視力)がよく has a good eyesight; can see well [from ~がいい (has a good ~); ku-form conjunction. がよくて (te-form conjunction) would work but might sound a little too casual in this somewhat formal narration]紫外線 ultraviolet ray; UV light [紫 (violet; purple); 外 (outside; exterior); 線 (ray; line)]まで even; to the extent見える can see [potential of 見る]そうです they say that ~; it is said that ~; I hear that ~; supposedly that ~
The kanji 烏 for crow, has a missing line. Since the crow’s body is black and it’s hard to see its eyes, a single line from the “eye” in the kanji 鳥 (bird) is not drawn. It is said that the actual crows have good eyesight and can see even ultraviolet rays.
If you know the kanji for bird, just remember a crow is a bird with one less line.
Thank you very much, Yumi and Clay. I study Ninjutsu, and our school’s crest is a Karasu Tengu. I will share this lesson with my Sensei. Thank you again for all you share with us!!!
Thanks! That makes sense since Tengu has bird-like characters (as well as human) and his tora-no-maki was said to have the secrets of ninjutsu.
Good timing. Our new singalong set list for next week includes 七つの子 and 夕焼け小焼け. The former, of course, is all about crows (烏なぜ啼くの、烏は山に)! The latter mentions crows as part of a sunset experience (烏と一緒に 帰りましょう).
I will forward this email to all our singers. Not all of them speak Japanese. No problem. Clay and Yumi can teach them!
If any lurkers here would like copies of these kanji/kana/romaji lead sheets, pester Clay and Yumi for them. I’ll send it to them; they can send it to you.
The theme of next week’s set list is about things that fly. 大きな古時計 (Time flies, right?!), ３６５日の紙飛行機, 夕焼小焼, 虫の声, 七つの子, 翼をください, The Cuckoo (because it flies AND warbles on the Fourth of July!). PLUS other songs unrelated to flying that prepare us for O-Bon, Hiroshima/Nagasaki memorial. . .
All, hang in there! – JC –
I thought I had replied to say thank you and for people to contact me if they wanted the lyrics. I guess I didn’t press send last week!