Names of radicals that make no sense

Just came across the radical called “duck” in a review, and I flunked, because I had got used to the kanji “family name”.
It makes no sense when you review this radical that this is suddenly “duck”, when later on you learn something that has absolutely nothing to do with ducks, birds or animals.


The idea is that 氏 looks like a duck (with some fantasy).

I read in several places that for kanji mnemonics it is best to assign visual links to concrete objects, in the best case something that can act (like a duck). If you actually see a duck you can get more memorable stories that you can see at a glance 紙 (duck with thread in mouth … paper!) instead of high level concepts (thread/lineage/continuation with a surname … paper!).

If you don’t see a duck it’s obviously a problem, just put a synonym there.


I feel you. Why can’t 里 just be “hometown”? I could make mnemonics with that just as well. Nobody knows why. 仕方がない, just blindly trust the crabigator. :slight_smile:


The “radicals” are just there to help create mnemonics. You can just add your own synonyms in cases like this.


“Ent” always gets me because I’m not an LOTR fan. I wish WaniKani would let us add our own mnemonics that make sense to us, because there’s always a decent number I get wrong just cause I don’t see what the creators apparently are. I usually wind up overriding mistakes made on them because I know them, I just don’t know them how WK knows them.

Having not been interested in LOTR ever, I don’t even know what that is. Ironically, that makes me remember it because it’s so strange. :smile:


There is an argument for doing that for mnemonics purposes. The idea is that it isn’t connected to what it actually means in Japanese but that it helps to recognize the radical by putting a name to it, so when you see it in Kanji it’ll help you break it down into easier to digest pieces. You can say, “oh, it’s duck + bamboo + whatever.” On the other side, as a person who thinks kanji are easier to understand if you know what they mean or used to mean to natives, I think wanikani’s system kind of sucks. They literally just invent radicals out of thin air that have no meaning whatsover and then stick a name on them. Maybe it’s useful to beginners, but there’s no etymological history to them so to me at least they make kanji more confusing rather than less.

I have a mandarin teacher who does this. He’ll explain a new character and say something along the lines of, "in ancient China, they used to… ". It’s also interesting because in characters with multiple characters in them, he’ll point out that one of the left provides the meaning, and the one on the right provides the source is the sound. Much easier than, “if we put the sword in the cow, we can untie the rope!”.

wait, the part to the right is meant to be a cool duck mohawk of a duck breed i’ve never seen before? i always just thought koichi had some weird rubber ducks at his home

(the orange part is meant to be a beak, i’m just really 下手 at drawing)


If you can manage to see a duck you can also see it like this.

Looks more like a rubber eagle than rubber duck, though :upside_down_face:


On second thought, clearly this:


Better now :stuck_out_tongue:


Triceratops? groan I don’t even know how to spell that word! :stuck_out_tongue:

That woman is a drawer? Okaaaaaaaaaayyy…

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You can.


WK is running a contest where if you are the 1,000,000th person to complain about the radicals before the radical overhaul update goes into effect you win 5 lifetime subscriptions (redeemable by winner only)


You’ll probably need 5 lifetime subscriptions before the radical overhaul update is finished, so it’s only fair.


What about people that complain about people that complain about the radicals before the radical overhaul update goes into effect?


The satisfaction is its own reward.


I sort of agree, but for me, it def looks like a duck, plus the family name “Duck” as in Donald Duck, Scrooge McDuck, did help me remember the kanji meaning. Not sure if it was worth it though.

Usually I add the kanji meaning as a synonym for the radical if they differ, because it’s usually just as helpful in forming mnemonics, and I refuse to get something marked wrong if it’s not even a real meaning and it’s not that helpful anyway.

Yeah, it’s maddening. If there is a standalone kanji the radical should just = the kanji.
Especially for those of us who know a bit of kanji coming in, it’s triply frustrating. To know the meaning of a kanji, but fail the radical. Grr…