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According to jisho, one of the kun'yomi readings for the character 孒 is 「ひだりのうでがない」. This feels like it is not an official reading, but is that reading ever used in conjunction with this kanji? It feels like a humorous descriptive for the shape of the kanji, but is there any basis for it?

  • Compare U+5B51 which apparently has the meaning 右の腕がない. – snailboat Jun 1 '17 at 4:46
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    「ひだりのうでがない」 just seems to express the meaning of 孒. I couldn't find the same reading in other dictionaries. – tyam Jun 1 '17 at 5:17
  • Your theme reminded me of the word for table tennis which is written like 乒 乓 球 dictionary.hantrainerpro.com/chinese-english/… – mackygoo Jun 1 '17 at 5:54
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Some people believe many kanji have this type of lengthy and descriptive kun-readings. See: 長訓読み and 訓読みが長い漢字. There's also a song by Hatsune Miku.

Many webpages say these weird readings are basically based on the 字訓索引 ("kun-reading Index") of 大漢和辞典, probably the largest kanji dictionary ever published in Japan. The longest "kun-reading" in the kun index of this dictionary is ほねとかわとがはなれるおと for 砉. I don't own this dictionary and cannot check if ひだりのうでがない exists for 孒, but if it does, it might be called "official" and "authoritative".

In reality, these strange "kun-readings" were listed in the index of course only for convenience sake. See the discussion here. I believe no one have read this kanji as such seriously.

  • I think these readings that describe the shape of the character spread through the Internet because they're on Kanjidic. It would be cool to confirm if they are from Morohashi; if so it's probably the source for Kanjidic data. – melissa_boiko Jun 1 '17 at 6:27
  • @leoboiko I noticed this reading was included in version 3 of the Unihan db back in 1999 as well. That was the only other source I could find online, and I'm not sure which is earlier since I don't have a revision history for KANJIDIC, but since the Unihan db was compiled with reference to Morohashi as well that might be the common source. In any case, if you would like to confirm if the reading in KANJIDIC is from Morohashi, the best way might be to contact Jim Breen via email, since as you probably know he has a copy. – snailboat Jun 1 '17 at 6:41
  • I think it's a good question for the edict mailing list. Some very long readings appear to be a sentence describing the referent, not the kanji itself. The longest, 褠, is listed as ひとえのつつそでうでぬき "unlined tubular sleevelet". Others are about the character, like 尢 だいのまげあし . Other fun ones include 噡 listed as (うるさくしゃべ)る, and 朎 つきのうつくしいひかり. – melissa_boiko Jun 1 '17 at 6:42
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Kun'yomi are, historically speaking, Japanese translations of the Chinese definitions of kanji. Whether or not something is an official reading of a kanji is dependent on what sources are considered authoritative.

For kanji which aren't in a common character list like Jōyō, you would inevitably find that the authoritative source has a high chance of ultimately getting its translation-reading from some ancient Chinese dictionary, if the kanji is not really used in Japanese (as a single character). The length of the kun'yomi in this case is then, unsurprisingly, correlated to the length of the Chinese definition. Examples, some taken from the other responses:

「暤」:Shuowen: 晧旰也 (bright, clear). Kun'yomi: あきらか

「孒」:Shuowen: 無左臂也. Kun'yomi: [ひだり]{左}|の|[うで]{腕}|が|[な]{無}い (Note: Chinese「臂」means arm)

「砉」:Guangyun: 皮骨相離聲. Kun'yomi: [ほね]{骨}|と|[かわ]{皮}|とが|[はな]{離}れる|[ おと]{音} (Note: Chinese「聲」means sound)

「閄」:字彙補:隱身忽出驚人之聲也. Kun’yomi: [物陰]{隱身}|から|[急に飛び出して]{忽出}|[人を驚かせる]{驚人}|時に発する|[声]{聲}

The kun'yomi above are actually all equally obscure; the only difference is that あきらか is a one-word translation, matching the single-word adjective in Chinese 晧旰, while the others are translated with entire sentences, matching the whole Chinese sentence.

If Japanese does not have a de-facto tradition of using a single kanji to represent entire sentences, then such readings wouldn't be used in conjunction with the kanji.

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As respondents have suggested, these are often elaborately jokey, in the manner of the convoluted English puns loved by the Victorians. But they can be useful mnemonics. For example, I can always remember (not that I often need to) the old form of 寿(ことぶき) , which is 壽, by a mnemonic composed of the individual elements in the kanji, reading from top down: さむらい(士)のフエ[は]いち(一)インチ(吋) , "The samurai's flute is one inch long". Similarly, the old form of 桜 (さくら) , which is 櫻 , can be deconstructed as にかいのおんなにきをつけて (二貝の女に木をつけて - "add ki to two kai and onna"), which can also be interpreted as 二階の女に気をつけて, "Beware of the woman on the second floor". There are lots more.

  • The question, though, is whether these are actually readings; that is, whether you'd ever use 孒 to represent the words hidari no ude ga nai in a text. Despite the widespread presence of these descriptors in lists of "kun readings", it appears that they aren't actually readings, but just ways of describing and locating the characters themselves. – melissa_boiko Jun 1 '17 at 10:08
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A mosquito larva is written as [孑孒]【boh-fura】(ぼうふら) in kanjis. It swims in the water by wiggling the body to right and left.

Here is a tweeted message relating to the theme you posted as:

Though I knew a mosquito larva is written as [孑孒]【boh-fura】 in kanjis, after having known that the kanji means a child without the right arm and the other kanji means a child without the left arm I would sympathize with larvae lacking in the arms and the legs a little, and I feel even a certain deep impression when I see them flying in the sky freely with obtaining even wings as well as the arms and legs after maturing into mosquitoes by killing them by crushing at the same time.

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