Monday, September 26, 2005

肛(항)? Where is the hole in "asshole"?

肛(항) is the Chinese character for "anus," as in 肛門(항문). The character is composed of 月(육), which means "meat," and 工(공), which means "artisan" or "craftsman." This combination struck me as strange, so I decided to do a little research.

I knew that 月(육) is often used in characters that refer to parts of the body, but I could not see the relationship between a "craftsman" and an "anus." Yes, I once knew a carpenter who was an "asshole," but I do not think the Chinese would generalize like that.

The Chinese character 孔(공) means "hole," so why was it not used instead of 工(공)? I felt that even 空(공), which means "empty," would have been more appropriate since one of its other meanings is also "hole." Anyway, I looked up the character 工(공) and was surprised to learn that it used to refer to a tool that bore "holes" in stoneware. Moreover, the explanation I read said that since 工(공) sounds the same as 孔(공) and 空(공), it came to also mean "hole." Well, that explains it.

This character will be easy for me to remember because all I have to do is associate it with that carpenter I used to know.

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