Saturday, January 31, 2009
Ji - A Tale of Two Chickens
Just as there are two symbols for bird, there are two for chicken 鷄 and 雞, and they both stand for the same word: ji. The difference doesn't hold much meaning -- it's just which radical they happen to use at a particular restaurant. You'll notice that the radical in this case is on the right.
The part on the left is the part that indicates it's a chicken and not some other bird. It's made up of three stacked characters. Claw 爪, thread 幺 and big 大. I'm thinking it means "big scratcher bird." But that doesn't make it so easy to recognize.
A friend thought the second version looks like chickens scratching around outside a hen house. And that, I think, is the best way to remember it. It's common enough that you can just make a point of identifying it on any menu, and you'll learn it. (Assignment: find a takeout menu with Chinese on it. Which version does that restaurant use?)
The Pinyin spelling is jī, ji1 (first tone).