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When a library’s goal is far more than spreading words of wisdom

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The Japanese word "oyake" translates as "public." But I always felt there was a subtle difference in meaning, even though I could never quite figure out why.

So, I looked up their etymologies, and now I know the reason.

Oyake was originally written with the kanji characters for "big" and "residence." As such, the word implied palatial edifices, and eventually came to denote the imperial court--the seat of power and authority--or the government, if you will.

"Public," on the other hand, derived from the Latin "populus" (people). This fact seems to give "kokyo," a synonym for oyake, a more "lively" nuance--or at least that was how I felt........

© The Asahi Shimbun