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Dragons Abound!

As 2012 has brought us the Year of the Dragon, and as I've just posted essay 1899 on 竜 (dragon), it seems fitting to present you with this quick quiz about dragons! What do you think this could mean:

竜涎香 (りゅうぜんこう)    dragon + slobber + smell

The middle kanji is non-Joyo.

I'll block the answer with a lovely New Year's image supplied by Kevin Hamilton. it cleverly shows a dragon and the old dragon kanji, 龍. 

Okay, give up? The word 竜涎香 means "ambergris"! That is, it represents the material found in the intestines of sperm whales! Strangely, I remember learning in childhood that ambergris smells horrible, but the dictionary says that because of its pleasant odor, people add ambergris to perfumes.

I'll buy that. But where does dragon slobber come into the picture?! And now that you've heard this, does the white New Year's greeting in the image seem to be formed from a string of dragon drool? (Sorry—kind of gross!)

 

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