矛盾 etymology

矛盾 may be my favorite word etymology, and I’m disappointed that WaniKani didn’t give that for the memnonic. It’s not that long to tell either.

What is the etymology? Well, there is a famous Chinese story about a man who offered to sell a spear that could pierce any shield and a shield that could never be pierced. A customer then asked “what if they were used on each other?” The customer had found the contradiction.

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Only tangentially related, but I recently played Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and one of the characters mentions that etymology in the first game. I thought it was pretty cool and a great way to remember the word. I won’t see it on WaniKani for awhile since I go through WaniKani pretty slow…but I still think it’s cool!

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This is one of my favorite jukugo. I think I missed it on a review once by typing in “paradox” instead of “contradiction,” however.

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Ooh, really? I thought the contradiction was that a spear/pike/halberd is a 2-handed weapon, so you can only use that or a shield (+something else), but not both at the same time.

No, the contradiction was that one was supposed to stop all weapons and the other was supposed to go through all shields. IIRC, at the end of the story, the king orders them tried on each other, and they both break.

Edit: Looks like the end with both of them breaking isn’t part of the original proverb in 韓非子. It just ends with the customer pointing out the contradiction. The person isn’t a king, just a random customer.

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There is even an wiki page about it

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Yeah, this category of words is called 故事成語. Not all of them are as intuitive or interesting as this though.

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I was going to say exactly this: it’s used as a major theme in Phoenix Wright: Rise from the Ashes.

It made me very happy that we got to learn shield and spear! :grin: (I immediately made my own notes when the kanji got unlocked) - contradiction for the win! ^>^

(as for the original OP question, I guess, retelling the origin story behind *mujun *would break the WK way of teaching us these kanji and vocab - they never make it about the etymology. -_- )

If god can create anything, can she create a stone that is too heavy for herself to lift?

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Which is kind of funny seeing how 矛盾 is systematically written in katakana in Ace Attorney :smile:

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