My Favorite Chinese Character

Over the course of my first semester Chinese learnings, I encountered many characters, but none cracked me up more than this: 喝.

Here let me blow that up for you.

This character means ‘to drink’. It consists of two sub characters: 口, which means mouth, and 曷, which means ‘why; how; when; what; where’. 曷 isn’t actually used in conversation - just like how ‘est’ makes ‘largest’ mean ‘most large’, but nobody says ‘est’ on it’s own. In this case it actually provides the sound of the character (hueh) while 口 (which means mouth) provides the meaning.

The reason why this character is so funny to me is that 曷 consists of two sub characters, (f.y.i. they are 曰 which means to speak, and 匃 which means beggar), but when I first learned this character I thought the top was 日, which means sun, and the bottom bit looked to me like 人, which means man, inside a lake. So the story I invented for myself, in order to remember the character, was that a man got so thirsty after standing under the sun, that the dumbass threw himself into the lake in order to get a drink of water.

I’m sure my classmates thought I was a little crazy - every time I came across this character on a test I would start giggling just a little.

Written on March 22, 2017

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