Why we're 👉 pushed to learn so many おさ- verbs! 🤯

Just finally figured this out! And don’t have time to wrap this all up in a neat package, so I’ll just spill it all out and hope it’s readable and interesting enough to hear what you guys all think. :sweat_smile:


What do all these verbs have in common?

  • To Fit Inside, To Settle Down, To Be Finished
  • To Store, To Achieve, To Score, To Finish
  • To Hold Something Down, To Grasp Something
  • To Supply, To Deliver, To Pay
  • To Be Satisfied, To Be Settled, To Be Paid, To Be Supplied, To Be Delivered

They all start with おさ, that’s what! Some of them are おさまる (intransitive), some are おさめる (transitive), and some are おさえる (also transitive, but a little different…).

But why do these verbs – especially おさめる and おさまる – have so many seemingly very different meanings?!?

Also, on WaniKani, they are mostly associated with the kanjis 収 (Obtain), and 納 (Supply). The list above comes from these vocabs: 収まる (23), 収める (25), 押さえる (30), 納める (33), 納まる (35).

But when you venture outside of WK, you’ll find that there are also おさまる and おさめる verbs that use 治 (for ‘to die down’ and ‘to rule’), 修 (for ‘to reform’ and ‘to master’), and also a version of おさえる using 抑 (for ‘to suppress’).

Even though WK does include these kanji – 治 (Cure, 16), 修 (Discipline, 28), 抑 (Suppress, 38) – it doesn’t bother to include these other vocabs, even though they are not particularly rare or anything. I’m not advocating that these other vocabs for these 3 kanji should be added (maybe they aren’t needed); I’m just pointing out that it’s curious that there are even more common kanji that are also used in common vocab that also happen to be verbs that begin with おさ. But they all mean different things!

And there’s one other minor quibble I have, which is that one of the more memorable mnemonics for these vocabs/kanji tends to use Osama bin Laden. Sure, it’s memorable and it works. I just don’t like depending on such a nefarious figure in my mnemonics, as it requires bringing that name (and associated person, events, etc.) to mind more often than I’d like.

If only there were some other connection between all of these words that I could use to help with the mnemonics… :thinking: :thought_balloon:

Hey, wait a minute! There’s one kanji that is used, which I neglected to highlight in my rant, namely 押, which corresponds to the first mention of おさえる (To Hold Something Down, To Grasp Something). Hmmm…

That kanji is 押 (Push, 30). But 押’s main reading is not おさ, it’s just お. Hence why the vocab is 押さえる, rather than 押える (although technically this is considered a possible alternative by Jisho/JMdict). Well, that makes sense, since the more-typical vocab associated with 押 is actually 押す (おす, To Push, 30), and 押さえる is just a ‘conjugation’ from おす to おさえる and … OHHHH MY GOURD! :astonished:

Just as おさえる is derived from おす, so are おさまる and おさめる!!! That’s it!

And… HOLY CANNOLI! ‘Push’ (used both literally and metaphorically or figuratively) actually makes sense of pretty much all of the different meanings, all at once!

  • To (Push) Inside, To (Push) Down, To Be (Pushed to the) Finish
  • To (Push into) Store, To (Push to) Achieve, To (Push the) Score, To (Push to the) Finish
  • To (Push) Something Down, To (Push one’s fingers to) Grasp Something
  • To (Push some) Supply, To (Push a) Delivery, To (Push some cash to) Pay
  • To Be (‘Pushed’ full and) Satisfied, To Be (‘Pushed’ to be) Settled, To Be (‘Pushed’ with money and) Paid

And likewise with those additional vocabs found outside of WK!

So, to come up with a reading mnemonic for おさ, it’s enough to just think of it as a variation on おす! And on top of that, it also helps with the meaning mnemonics of all of those vocabs, all having some relation to ‘push’, whether by ‘pushing’ (transitives) or by ‘being pushed’ (intransitives).

Personally, I think this is a big enough bundle-of-meaning that WK should seriously consider re-working all of these vocabs’ mnemonics to unify them all under the concept of ‘push’ and the reading of おす, with its very-common variation as おさ. But importantly, emphasizing that the true ‘root’ reading comes from おす.

For instance, I don’t think it would be enough to rely upon the reading mnemonic for the kanji 押 currently being related to “your new obi (お)”. That’s just a mnemonic for お, not for おす nor おさ.

Don’t have a straightforward mnemonic off the top of my head right now (and I’m going to wrap this up for now).

Maybe there could be some recurring character for おさ, maybe with a name involving ‘osa’ (random example off the top of my head is Mariosa), kind of like the recurring characters of Mrs. Chou, and Ken the Samurai. Would like it if this ‘osa’ character/mnemonic also has some obvious connection to the concept of ‘push’, and the root reading of ‘osu’.

Any thoughts, comments, suggestions, etc. would be very welcome.


P.S.: If there’s some particular thread where these kinds of revelations are usually posted, let me know.

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Hmmm, here’s one idea I just came up with that may have some potential.

So, there’s Ol’ Sam, the neighbourhood pusher. He’s always hanging out on the streets, looking to push his wares on anyone who passes by.

Most of the vocabs will use Ol’ Sam for the mnemonic (おさ), but each time he’s mentioned, we’re reminded that Ol’ Sam is really just an underling of his wife/girlfriend/whatever, Ol’ Sue! She’s really the one behind the operations. She’s the real ‘pusher’. Ol’ Sam is the guy on the streets, but Ol’ Sue is the one with all the connections and the business sense. Whenever you see Ol’ Sam (おさ), you know that in reality, Ol’ Sue (おす) is somewhere in the background, pushing the real buttons behind the scenes.

Maybe she even gets Ol’ Sam to do her dirty work by metaphorically ‘pushing his buttons’, like:

“Hey Ol’ Sam, what are ya doin’ lyin’ around?! Didn’t your ma teach ya not to be a lazy bum? Poor lady, rest in peace. She’d be spinnin’ in her grave if she saw you now!”

And Ol’ Sam says, “Alright already! Stop pushin’ my buttons!”

And Ol’ Sue goes, "I’ll stop pushin’ your buttons when you get out there and push some of this ‘supply’ to our ‘customers’ on the street.

So, Ol’ Sam (おさ) goes out to push the ‘supply’ (納める, おさめる, to supply). But really it’s because he’s just following Ol’ Sue’s (おす) orders. She’s the real Pusher in town.

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Regardless of etymology or whether thinking about this sound overlap is useful for remembering them, I think it’s important to note that おす and おさえる are different verbs, and one is not a conjugation of the other. (I don’t know if they are related historically – it’s possible, but also Japanese doesn’t have that many syllables and sometimes you just get coincidences of sound. Unfortunately there’s no good etymology resources online that I know of.)

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All of the おさめる / おさまる entries are basically related to each other, fundamentally stemming from the idea of “an unsettled thing becomes settled,” but there are many nuanced ways to express that concept, and the kanji help distinguish them.

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Okay, that’s a good point which I guess I jumped the gun on. I was (in the moment) thinking that it was something like the ‘passive’ (自動詞) ‘conjugation’, but if that was the case it would have been おす to おされる, not おさえる. Likewise, for causative (使役動詞) it would have been おさせる, and for potential (可能動詞) it would have been おせる. (Assuming I got those ‘conjugations’ right.)

BTW, I use ‘conjugation’ in ‘scare quotes’ because I realize that the transformations are quite different than how conjugation works in, say, many European languages. But that’s still the common parlance, AFAICS.

So, yeah, you’re right. They are different verbs, and not ‘conjugations’ in the usual sense (whether European-style nor Japanese-style).

However, I remain fairly convinced that the words are almost certainly related, espcially since they both have adopted the same kanji (押す, 押さえる) and have closely related meanings (to push, to hold (down, etc.))

On the other hand, there are actually quite a few other kanji that are also associated with the reading おす, and while many seem related to ‘push’ as a concept, there is also ‘male’ (雄 for example) and perhaps others. It may be the case that the central concept is not ‘push’ per se, but something else, perhaps a little more abstract (or just obscured by language evolution). Though, I could certainly also see a connection between ‘male’ and ‘push’, for instance.

But, lacking actual etymological research to support my conjecture, I won’t press the issue.

I guess I can still stick to it purely as a mnemonic device, though. So that’s fine. :sweat_smile:

Cool. Thanks for the insight. I will try to keep my eyes/mind open to interpreting things in that light.

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I love this! I love learning to remember words based on their actual etymology!
This makes me excited to reach these words on WK some day :sweat_smile:
Also, you’ve just blown my mind with the transitive/intransitive pairs, I haven’t learned this yet. Now I see that I already know one pair: 止まる・止める🤯

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