Friday, January 30, 2009

Niao and Zhui - Two Birds in the Bush

There are two characters for "bird". Both are radicals for Chicken and various other poultry, so it's good to be able to recognize them. Just to confuse you, these radicals generally appear on the right rather than the left, as you will see in the next post about chicken.

Niao 鳥 just means "bird" and it is the most often used. It looks a little like fish 魚, which I'll get to later. It doesn't really look much like a bird to me, unless I see the top as a bird's head, and the bottom as a spread-out wing. (And that helps you separate it from fish, because the four dots underneath are enclosed by the wingtip.)

Zhui 隹, according to most dictionaries, means "short tailed bird" which is odd, because (for food birds at least) it only seems to be used for chicken -- and roosters have long tails. Whereas ducks, which never seem to use zhui, always have short tails. The best way to remember it is that it looks like a hen house.

The Pinyin spelling is niǎo, or niao3 (third tone), and zhuī, or zhui1 (first tone).

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