Wordcatcher Tales: Irimoya, Shikorobuki

Since February this year, I’ve been doing a lot more Wikiputtering and Flickring than blogging, thanks to a few stimuli (about which more later) that led me to volunteer to add photos to Wikimedia Commons in order to illustrate as many of the landmarks as I can in Wikipedia’s National Register of Historic Places listings in Oahu. Well, one thing led to another, and now I’m editing or creating Wikipedia entries for some of those properties and for some of the architects who designed them.

Front view, Makiki Christian Church

Makiki Christian Church, Honolulu

In the process, I’ve learned a lot more about how WikiProject teams work, and a hell of a lot more about the local history and architecture of Oahu. While I don’t believe that people can’t see what they can’t name (an extreme version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis), I readily agree that linguistic categories help assign social significance to our perceptions. In fact, that’s what my little Wordcatcher Tales are all about. So here goes another.

By way of introduction, I have to confess that I have known the Japanese word yane ‘roof’ from when I was a child, but that it somehow never occurred to me—growing up subliterate in one of my childhood languages—to wonder about its etymology: 屋根 ‘house-root’, a roof over one’s head being the most basic of housing requirements. A more comprehensive list of glosses for 屋 ya would include ‘roof, house, shop, dealer’.  One of my favorite examples of the last gloss in the list is 何でも屋 nandemoya ‘(whateverer, dealer in whatever =) jack of all trades’.

Side view, Hawaii Shingon Mission, Honolulu

Hawaii Shingon Mission, Honolulu

入母屋 irimoya ‘entrance-mother-roof’ – It was photographing and then creating a separate Wikipedia entry for Hawaii Shingon Mission that sucked me into a miniresearch project on Japanese roof styles, especially the 入母屋 irimoya style, which seemed at first exotic but turns out to be pan-Buddhist, according to Japanese Wikipedia, which includes images from China, India, Korea, and Laos, and also mentions Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The irimoya is a hip roof (sloping down on all four sides) integrated with a gable roof over the central portion. So it can be glossed as a hip-and-gable, gablet, or (more ambiguously) Dutch gable roof. According to JAANUS, the gabled part covers the central 母屋 moya ‘mother-hall’, while the hipped part covers the eaves (廂 hisashi) that shelter the corridor that often surrounds one of more sides of the main hall. So perhaps the 入 iri ‘enter’ refers to the portion of the roof that extends over the potential entrance ways.

錣葺 shikorobuki ‘neckguard-thatch’ (also 錣屋根 shikoroyane ‘neckguard-roof’) – A related hip-and-gable roof style consists of a central gabled roof surrounded by a separate protective hip roof. On samurai helmets, the shikoro is the extension that protects the nape of the neck (which I’ve also seen translated as havelock). One can see how the shikorobuki style might be easier to build than the irimoya style when working with thatch, but 葺 fuki no longer means just ‘thatch’. Now it applies to any roofing material, so that 葺き替える fuki-kaeru (‘roofing-change’) is much more likely these days to mean ‘retile’ or ‘reshingle’ than ‘rethatch’.

Corner view, Koganji Tendai Buddhist Temple, Honolulu

Koganji Tendai Buddhist Temple, Honolulu

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Filed under Hawai'i, Japan, language, religion

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