The character that beat the shit out of me
Consider the use of profanity quotative here. To take it directly from the definition in the ABC Dictionary:
cèi v. <coll.> (1) smash to pieces (2) attack; beat the shit out of
Emphasis mine. Maybe it’s only fair that the ABC doesn’t mince words — the description seems rather appropriate for this morning’s character venture.
All I wanted to do was to write the everyday word cèi, meaning to smash/shatter. The process of finding the appropriate hanzi is usually simple enough:
- Look up the pinyin in the open-sourcish CE Dict (which, while not always reliable, has lots of stuff and is conveniently available through MDBG‘s interface)
- If that fails, get up and find cell phone and type it into the incomparable Pleco, where I’ve got at least four dictionaries at my disposal.
- I almost never have to consider a step 3 at this stage in my hanzi (il)literacy, since I find almost everything I want. But see below for details.
Not today. Step 1 gave me this:
Neither daunting nor even surprising. The CE Dict often fails to find words you’d think it would have. So on to step 2, where at first everything appeared to follow protocol. As you can see in the cèi definition at the top, ABC did indeed provide a character for the right definition of cèi. Great, home free. The final step is just to type it into my computer, as I’d originally intended, and be off with it.
But hang on, not so fast — consider snafu 1: no such character under “cei” in Google’s IME…
In fact, you can see that it doesn’t even like the Pinyin initial+final combination of “c” + “ei”. It’s trying to split off “ce”, even though there’s no legal Pinyin that starts with the following “i”. To pile insult on, even my beloved Pinyin ime (that is, the IME I use for writing Pīnyīn with tone marks), Pinyinput, does not allow “cei”; instead it forces you to write cè and add “i” on the end after you’ve finalized the input.
But no worries. There’s always the ungainly-and-slow-with-a-mouse but effective character-drawing input system at NCIKU, right? It’s the secret step 3 in the sequence above — the last-resort way to get a mystery character onto the computer.
Et tu, NCIKU?
You can see on the left the character that ABC had rendered for cèi. But it’s not in NCIKU that I can find, not even on screen two or three. Feel free to argue (not really much of an argument, actually) that the penmanship / mousemanship is lacking, but I tried it twice, to no avail. Maybe there’s a fántǐzì (繁体字 = traditional character) twist on this?
My last-last resort was to try copying the character out of the ABC on my cell phone, pasting it into Windows Mobile’s absurdly bad email client and emailing it to myself. I thought it sounded smart, but it’s apparently beyond my technology/unicode knowledge. I end up with