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I'm talking about the from 曰【いわ】く, not the common 日【ひ】 we all know and love.

  1. Why would they "make" two characters that look (for all intents and purposes) exactly the same?
  2. How do you really differentiate them except by context? just looks like a ずんぐりした . Presumably the stroke order is the same? Because I haven't been able to find it anywhere. What would you have to do when actually writing it to make sure it's not mistakable? It looks like the middle line of intentionally doesn't go all the way across.

I simultaneously love and hate this character. Any insight into its mysterious existence is appreciated.

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5  
They do not look exactly the same (as you know). –  Tsuyoshi Ito Nov 3 '11 at 16:52
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Yeah, the middle stroke there actually doesn't go all the way across. Fortunately you will probably never have to differentiate them except by (extremely obvious) context. –  Andrew Prowse Nov 3 '11 at 19:20
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Wikitionary has the etymologies (in pictures) and stroke orders. –  Louis Nov 3 '11 at 19:23
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It's so unlikely you read "日く" that the ambiguity should be the last of your concerns. –  Axioplase Nov 4 '11 at 4:24
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1 Answer

up vote 8 down vote accepted

In your question, you seem to already be aware of what differentiates 曰{いわ}く from 日{ひ}, which is that the middle stroke does not go all the way across, so that it does not touch the vertical stroke on the right side.

So I think the issue your having is the same as one that I remember having a long time ago when first learning kanji, which was an underappreciation of how exacting the Japanese language is about how kanji are written. For me, it was the difference between and that first confused and then educated me about how what I thought were subtle differences were actually big differences. In English, we can be a lot more flexible about how to write a character without losing the understanding of which character it is. Probably because with so many fewer characters, the risk of ambiguity is less, though that's just a pet hypothesis of mine.

In any case, for the most part, in Japanese small differences like that which differentiates 日{ひ} and 曰{いわ}く really do matter, and signify entirely different characters. (Which negates the need to answer your other question about how it is the same character is used for such different things, since they are not, in fact, the same character).

Take a look at this page, or this page, each of which provudes lists of kanji characters that look very similar. Note, for example, the subtle differences between 己{おのれ}, 已{のみ}, and 巳{み}.

On my computer, the difference between 日{ひ} and 曰{いわ}く is not clear because of the font I'm using. If that's the case with you, look at this page which shows a clear graphic of how to draw 曰{いわ}く, so you can see very clearly that the middle stroke is intentionally not touching the right side.

Having said all that, you should also be aware that sometimes there are small differences in the conventions of how kanji are drawn, so that there are cases where the same kanji can be drawn differently, depending on the font or the person writing it. Take a look at this question especially, and also maybe this question to explore those issues.

Hope that helps.

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The similar-kanji-list link no longer works (it states that it is forbidden). This page or this one are perhaps good alternatives. –  Eric Feb 7 at 18:32
    
@Eric, thanks for alerting me to that. I've swapped out the dead URL for the ones you suggest. –  Dave M G Feb 8 at 2:27
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