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What's the difference between どんぐりの実 and どんぐり? I read a passage where they said どんぐりの実 in reference to just an acorn (I thought), in which case I don't know why they wouldn't use just どんぐり. The passage was: 形声。白は、どんぐりの実を描いた象形文字で、どんぐりの実の中みのあわく白い色を示す。泊は「水+音符白」で、白の原義とは関係がない。水が浅くて舟底が水底にせまってとまること。また、水かさの少ない浅瀬のこと。 【泌】  会意兼形声。必は、棒を両側からしめつけるさまを描いた象形文字。泌は「水+音符必」で、両側から締めつけて液体をいびり出すこと。

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Yes, I think we should say どんぐり not どんぐりの実, but some people call it どんぐりの実... まぁ、分かるからいいのかな・・・ –  Choko Jun 19 '13 at 20:19

2 Answers 2

We native Japanese speakers sometimes say どんぐりの実 to mean どんぐり/acorn, probably carelessly and incorrectly, especially in an informal context.

(Maybe because we use the broad term どんぐりの木 for ブナ(beech?), ナラ(Japanese oak?), [樫]{かし}(evergreen oak?), クヌギ(sawtooth oak?), etc., and think mistakenly that there should be どんぐりの実 vs どんぐりの木, just like there're ブナの木 vs ブナの実, 松の実 vs 松の木, or 梅の実 vs 梅の木, etc...? or is it just me?)

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(Actually I always thought there was a kind of tree "どんぐりの木") –  Choko May 13 '14 at 15:21
Oops, we (Eiríkr Útlendi and me) have just been downvoted almost at the same time! –  Choko May 13 '14 at 17:49

The 実 here emphasizes that the writer isn't just talking about acorns, but more specifically about the meat inside the acorn. If you think about it more, it makes more sense -- the text is describing the origins of the character 白 as a symbolic rendering of the meat of the acorn nut, in reference to the off-white color. The text here can't be talking about the outside of the acorn, since that's not white -- it's either green or brown, sometimes even light tan, but certainly not off-white.

Looking up 実 (mi) in both Shogakukan Kokugo Dai Jiten and Daijirin (scroll down for the み reading), the first and second senses describe a plant's fruit or nut / seed, but the fourth sense also notes:

  • 中身。内容。→み(身)

Since a どんぐり is already a nut, it doesn't make sense to parse どんぐりの実 as "acorn's nut" -- what this phrase means instead is "acorn's content → the inside or meat of an acorn".

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