Found Characters — take 2
When I was about to hit Post on the first “found characters” piece the other day, I could still hear that nagging voice: “Dude, you never write things clearly the first time. Just wait. Post it tomorrow.”
From the email, it appears I shoulda listened. I got some interesting photos, but only one example of what I had in mind. So now, belatedly, here’s my attempt at a definition:
Found Character: Something that can be recognized as a Chinese character but is accidentally such. That is, it is either made by nature or made by a person who had no intent of communicating with hanzi.
Anyway, thanks, Karan, for the following Found Character candidate sent in from San Francisco, where he says he found it “not near Chinatown”.
Now before you protest: I know, it looks so much like 囧 (jiǒng) that it might be hard, if you’re well-versed in hanzi, to believe that it qualifies as Found. Isn’t it more likely just graffiti from a fenqing transplant? I’m going to side with Karan and agree that this is probably accidental, mostly given the place that he found it, but also because it’s hard for me to imagine the outside 口 getting drawn like this one is.
Cool, and good fun. So again, send in your found characters (syz 《at》 sinoglot 《dot》 com) and i’ll attach them to this post so you can enjoy the eternal limelight.
In closing, though, how about one more twist? What if Mao and his revolutionaries had taken up the banner of Pinyin back in the 50s. Could we then also have “Found Pinyin”?
I promise I’m not making up this story… Many years ago, a Chinese fellow I worked with in beautiful Monrovia, California told me what he’d thought a few months earlier when he’d first arrived in the States and saw this sign:
“Wow, how considerate that they’ve put the Chinese under the sign for foreigners like me!” [xíng = 行 = “walk” or, maybe, short for “pedestrian” 行人]