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捷 jié and 翜 shà

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17. 捷: I was surprised to see that this means "victory", I only knew this character in the sense of "swift, quick". Do you think there's a semantic relation somewhere, or it's just the rebus principle at work?

It was new to me too. In fact, I almost missed this! As far as I can ascertain right now, 捷 in the sense of 'victory' was used predominantly in the Shijing and the Zuozhuan. From Xunzi it seems to take on (almost exclusively) the sense of 'swift, quick' instead. This meaning does not occur often in earlier texts, although there is 夏,四月,己丑,鄭伯捷卒 (Zuozhuan). Interestingly, there is the following, from Zuozhuan, 成公五年:


which is annotated in my 三民 edition as 捷: 走捷徑, 動詞, a meaning not given in my dictionaries. From 襄公十八年 we can also see 捷 in action in a guideline on behaviour:


and here both interpretations seem possible. Perhaps 捷 conveys a sense of rapid victory?

Edited by chrix
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17. 捷:

Looked it up in the Shuowen jiezi, and it seems to mean "hunt and catch". So accordingly it would mean for an army to attain victory.

捷 is also mentioned as definition for 翜 (shà). From the MOE dictionary:


So basically this character is used in two quite different meanings in Shuowen Jiezi, and Xu Shen doesn't make this explicit unfortunately.

Edited by chrix
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Went to the library today and checked the entry for 捷 in the 中正形音義大字典. That dictionary indicates it originally meant "to hunt, to conquer", with reference to the Shuowen Jiezi. It also notes the later meaning of "rapid" was likely an extension of another meaning of this character, "shortcut".

翜 was not in the dictionary, so I was unable to check how, if at all, those characters relate to each other. But given that sha4 and jie2 were most likely similar in form in Old Chinese, which we can tell by the 讀音 retained through the ages and recorded in my 古代漢語詞典, I suspect the difference may initially only have been in its derivational affixes. Of course, I don't have a reconstructed lexicon at hand, so this is mere guesswork.

By the way, 翜 seems to be attested to only in the 詩經 and 爾雅, though, so where this character came from is a bit of a mystery to me. I'm relying on the CTP here. Anyone have CHANT access, by any chance? Would be interesting to know if they had more.

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辭海 also just cites the Shuowen: 羽部: 翜:捷也。飛之疾也。从羽夾聲。讀若瀒。一曰俠也。, and the Qing era annotations by 段玉裁: "按翜, 捷, 皆謂敏疾.... 故下云"飛之疾也". 以釋從羽. 今俗語霎時者當作比. "霎" is read shà as well. According to Duan, that's more contemporary....

(According to the online version in Shuowen, 霎 is read differently: 雨部: 霎:小雨也。从雨妾聲. This character is not in my version!)

Also, there are some other characters read shà in the Shuowen as well: 箑,萐,翣 so there's some phonopheric connection...

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