Sunday, July 05, 2009

Japanese Lesson

I ran across this comment recently, regarding mokume-gane.
Mokume-gane should be spelled moku-megane. Moku-megane comes from 2 Japanese words, moku meaning wood, lumber, timber etc. and megane meaning eyeglasses. The literal translation would be "wood eyeglasses", however the most popular translation is "wood eye".
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. ^_^

Mokumegane is three Japanese kanji, 木目金. The commenter recognized two Japanese words there, 'moku'=wood and 'megane'=eyeglasses, but that isn't the meaning here. 'Megane' (eyeglasses) is two kanji, 眼鏡, literally "eyeball mirror". These are DIFFERENT from the kanji used in mokume-gane where 'me'=目 (eye), 'gane'=金 (metal), even IF the two kanji were part of the same word, which they aren't.

'Me' is part of mokume, literally, wood-eye. BUT, it does not mean an eye made of wood, it refers to (for example) the way a knot in a plank of wood resembles an eye. A better translation would be wood-grain.

Mokume-gane, wood-grain in metal.

Here's a picture of a mokume-gane ring. See how it resembles wood-grain?


Amusingly (to me), I did a google search for the term mokume-gane, and the vast majority of non-Japanese sites incorrectly broke the term down by kanji. Wood-eye-metal. Yeah, that's the same meaning as metal wood-grain. Way to go, western world.

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