Does this word look like a brand name? Just look at the shape of it: the mi with the row of vertical lines and arches, and the curve repeated and rotated later on with the un, and in between that z… an escalator, a fancy desk, a sidewalk spinner, a lightning bolt… Even the oral locations of the vowels make a neat triangle: high front, high back (plus rounded lips), lower central. A brand designer’s dream! But you’d be thinking of Mizuno, makers of sports gear (an eponym at that – it’s a family name in Japan). It’s the same mizu, which is written with the character that in Mandarin is said shui (“shwhy”) and means the same thing: water. So this mizuna is water what? Hint: you may have some in your fridge, in a bag of mesclun, nestling to a kindred spirit, watercress. The na, you see, means “greens.” And the z may hint a bit at the shape: jagged leaves, a bit like dandelion greens (the taste is a little jagged too, peppery; it’s a mustard green). That z, since it’s from Japanese, is pronounced like an English z, giving the word a vague echo of mizzen, another word found near water. Since it’s Japanese, the zun is even more likely to remind anglophones of that most horridly overused, misused word, zen (a loan to Japanese from Sanskrit dhyana, meaning “meditation”), so often applied to commercial orgies diametrically opposite in spirit to Zen Buddhism. Is mizuna amenable to zen? Well, it is vegetarian. I’ll leave you to meditate on the remainder…
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