In March, while preparing my taxes, I purchased a box of paper clips with the brand name "Tetonbo." Tetonbo, or, more familiarly, 竹とんぼ (taketonbo, a "bamboo-copter" or "bamboo dragonfly"), is a gadget made to fly by spinning the shaft rapidly between the palms of your hands and quickly releasing it. Believed to have originated in China around 400 B.C., it may very well be the world's oldest type of flying toy.

This got me to thinking about another childhood favorite with bamboo in the name, the 竹馬 (takeuma, a "bamboo horse," meaning "stilts").

A fast-growing plant believed native to East Asia, bamboo (derived from the Malay bambu), is written 竹, which can be read take (kun-yomi) or chiku (on-yomi). Related terms are indicated by the six-stroke classifier 竹冠 (take kanmuri), which is always positioned at the top of a character and looks like this: ⺮