Thursday, February 22

When the Master sighed

Another entry from Kôko nichiroku:


The Laoxuean biji says, “When the people of Shu saw someone admirable, they would say ‘wuhu’ (J. oko). At something base they would say ‘yixi’ (J. iki).” I have been seeing this phrase “oko” all over the place in contemporary writing for a while now. The colloquialism “ikisugimono” is perhaps derived from “too yixi” (ikisugi).
I too have seen wuhu/oko all over the place in contemporary Japanese writing. It’s usually glossed as “aa”, and according to the standard Sino-Japanese dictionaries I’ve checked, the second compound should be vocalized the same way.
    Morohashi’s Dai Kan-Wa jiten defines “wuhu” as “the sound of a sigh,” and gives several early citations from it, including one from the Analects: 「子曰,嗚呼,曾謂泰山不如林放乎」(“The Master said, ‘Alas! Who would have thought that Mount T’ai would suffer in comparison with Lin Fang.’” Lau trans.). “Yixi” is defined as a sound of admiration, of frustration, or of disdain, but the only example given for the latter is the same source that Teikan cites, Lu You’s (1125–1210) Laoxuean biji, which seems a little suspicious. Both Ciyuan and the Wang Li gu Hanyu zidian take the safer route of simply defining it as a “exclamation/interjection” (歎詞).
    Edwin Pulleyblank gives the Early Middle Chinese (ca. 5th-6th centuries C.E.) reconstructed pronunciation of “wuhu” as “?ɔxɔ”, where ɔ represents a “lower mid back rounded vowel”, so we get something like “ah-ha” but with a glottal stop at the beginning. “Yixi” is similarly “?ɨxɨ”, so the same opening consonants but with a close central unrounded vowel instead (ehe?). Of course, Early Middle Chinese is still centuries after the earliest recorded uses of these words, so we can only turn to Karlgren for a reconstruction of the Zhou-era pronunciation. He gives “˙o χo” (which is pretty much the same as Pulleyblank’s corresponding EMC version) and “˙ḭəg ngḭəg” (which is very different). I’m a little wary of the latter just because its hard to imagine a sigh ending with a guttural consonant, but maybe it’s something like “argh!”
    As for Teikan’s theory about “ikisugimono”, which according to the Kinsei kamigatago jiten means someone forward, arrogant, or impudent, I guess it seems unlikely.


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