Blog Archives - Dreams and Dialects
Today I am stuck in bed with the worst cold I've had in years. So naturally I am cheering myself up by reading up on Chinese logogram etymologies. Yep - this is how I spend my sick days. What of it.

It's really interesting how some of these characters came to be. For example, 令, originally meaning an order or command, is made up of the symbol for a mouth (亼) above a kneeling person (卩). Pretty cool, right?

Also, let's look at the character for bird: 鳥. Looks nothing like a bird, right? Check out the development of the character and you'll totally see it.
PictureLeft to right: Bird who dropped his keys; Bird running away from the police; Meth addict bird

So some of these are really quite obvious and make a lot of sense. Those obviously look like birds, right? But then there are some that are just so strange and interesting, and one cannot help but see other pictures in these symbols. So today I present to you the daft imagination that my cold has granted me and I will guide you through the secret hidden etymologies of Chinese characters that nobody ever told you about because they're silly and were made up by me.

WARNING: Silliness imminent.

1. is a cat being tickled

In reality, this is a tripod or a three-legged couldron, also known as a ding. But just take a quick peek at the history of the character and damn well look me in the eye and tell me that's not a cat being tickled.
How many tickled kitties does it take to fill a ding? Can honestly say I never saw myself producing that sentence in my entire life.
That is blatantly a picture of two arms reaching up and tickling a cat whose legs are wriggling around in joy. Don't try to pretend it isn't. Also, I think the cat may be blindfolded. Should we be worried? What kind of cat-tickling practices did the ancient Chinese partake in?

2. ...I'll let it speak for itself

Now I'm not really the type to be immature, bu-- okay yes I'm immature. Just thought I'd get this one out of the way.
Yeah... sorry
Let's move on.

3. is a Wugballoon

If you haven't been anywhere near an Intro to Linguistics lecture then this may take some explaining. The Wug is a fictional creature invented for use in the Wug test. Essentially, the Wug tests how first language English-speaking children understand and pick up inflections, and in the Wug's case in particular, it's testing plurals. Here is an example of the Wug test. Isn't he cute?
This is a Wugballoon. Now there are 99 of them. There are 99 ________________.
Wait a minute. What the hell is a Wug doing in some ancient Chinese scripts? This symbol means moon or month, and it developed from a pictogram of a crescent moon. So how on earth did it even turn into a Wugballoon? Jean Berko Gleason has some explaining to do.

4. is a baby dragon that is totally pleased to see you

Some people would have you believe that this character means leader or chief. Some say it developed as a pictogram of a head with lots of hair. Ya know, like this guy. Yeah? Do you see it? Well you're wrong, and I have too much respect for you to not tell you what it really is. Because It's a happy baby dragon that is totally pleased to see you.
"Hey, buddy! Wanna get some take-out?"
Isn't he just an adorably little happy baby dragon? He's so happy to see you! But he's not happy about the fact that he has been forgotted in the mists of etymology. This guy is the rightful heir to the throne of the 首-symbol and he refuses to be forgotten.

5.  is two cats arguing over a garden fence

Don't see it? Are you sure? This character actually means dance, and is compromised of  + . Historically, the character is made up of a picture of a dancer holding two animal skins. was originally compromised of two feet facing each other, i.e. steps. Look at this Bone Oracle script version, it's so obvious now. It's a person dancing, right? It's a dancer.

Yeah, no it isn't.

Look at other forms of this character and it becomes obvious that the secret hidden etymology of this symbol is that of two cats shrugging at opposite sides of a fence.
"Srsly I has no idea who poopt in ur flowrs"

Yeah, now I'm just going to roll around in a bath full of Vicks Vapour Rub and wait for death. Thanks for reading.