Sunday, March 17, 2013

Two forms of the character for "inside"

When I first learned the character for inside, I was taught the form 裏, which I will refer to as the "tall" form. In Taiwan, I eventually discovered it had another form (from TV program subtitles, I think), 裡, which I will refer to as the "wide" form.

Someone taught me that the components of the wide form were equivalent to the components of the tall form. Starting with the tall form:

Take away from its middle the 里 (lǐ) component:

Join the two remaining components (the "lid" and the bottom part), and you get 衣 (yī), the character for clothing:

Thus, the first form has both 衣 and 里.

The wide form:

has, on the left, the radical for 衣 (the way it is written when it is the left component of a multi-component character), and on the right, 里. So the wide form also has both 衣 and 里.

My handwritten wide form tends to look less awkward than my tall form, and I've been using it almost exclusively for many years. That may make my usage a bit safer, because I know of one case where the wide form seems preferred over the tall from (or perhaps only the wide form is correct). The wide form can be used to mean the lining of clothing, and the inner lining would be 內裡 (nèilǐ), wherein 裡 isn't actually used to mean inside.

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