Sweet words ease the pain

Finally getting around to Shitteru you de shiranai mono no yobikata (『知ってるようで知らないものの呼びかた』, "Ways of referring to things that you'd think you'd know, but don't") by the entertainingly named Word/Language Detective Group (ことば探偵団, Kotoba tanteidan) .

Like their last book, Ways of numbering things that you'd etc. (『知ってるようで知らないものの数えかた』), which I also enjoyed, it's not so much a reference work as a coffee table book, with breezy design and plenty of soothing drawings.

That needle on the cover is one of the entries in the book. Turns out that in Japanese, the eye (me, 目) of the needle is the pointy end. The hole end is the ear (mimi, 耳). Mimi can refer to a lot of other things in different contexts, including the crusts on a slice of bread and a very certain part of a hardcover book's binding. You can see in this diagram (from here) that 耳 points to the slightly bulging parts at the sides of the spine (se, "back"), which are joined to the covers (hira, "broad, flat [things]") by the mizo (one meaning of which is "gutter" -- and the part of a book referred to as a "gutter" in English is called the "throat" (nodo)).

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