The only way this could be better is if cyborgs were involved

Comprehensive online archive of 30s Shanghai women's magazine Ling Long. (Almost any one of the words in that sentence would be enough to pique my interest all on its own -- imagine my excitement when they're all together like this.) Via one of the Frogs in the Well, which after a slow start have all cranked up to a decent frequency now and are well worth your time if you're interested in East Asia and/or its history.

Since I don't know jack about history, though, I'm just going to mention the name of the magazine, which is 玲瓏, glossed by Columbia as meaning "elegant and fine" with "an etymology that reaches back to a collection of onomatopoetic words from the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) signifying the sounds of pieces of jade clinking together." (There was a whole collection of words signifying the sound of clinking jade?! ... Actually, given the nature of classical Chinese poetry, I wouldn't bet my life that there wasn't.) I'm sure I've seen a few 玲瓏たるs in my time, but damned if I can remember where...

Popularity factor: 4


Wow, this is great! I have always liked Chinese ads for cigarettes and stuf from that era, it's a similar aesthetic.

According to the Guoyu Cidian 國語辭典 the word ling2long2 means several things, and goes back much further than the Ming dynasty. The onomatopoetic meaning (the clanking of jade) is cited as used in the Wen Xuan 文選, which dates from the sixth century CE. The second meaning listed is "bright," with a citation from Tang poet Li Bai. Third is the meaning "fine," with a citation from Tang poet Bai Juyi. Fourth is the meaning "smart" or "clever."


Yeah, I'm with you on the aesthetic...

So, as far as we can tell, the onomatopoeic meaning was the original one, and the others (all positive, I note) come from that? That's interesting...


In Japan I used to go to the temple flea markets to buy weird stuff, and I was pretty happy to see the Japanese equivalent of those posters--geishas selling Asahi and stuff.

It does look like those definitions were in chronological order, and it would make sense. It's dangerous to do so, but we can look at the jade radical and assume that literal connotation came first, then the others were associations with the jade.

(Someone once said something to the effect of "In Chinese characters, as in politics, radicals are meaningless.")


If you observe the entry in the 大林, all of the examples (while in 古典文法) are from the early novelists. While this doesn't prove it's a late borrowing, I'd say that it's indicative.

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