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Wednesday, November 24, 2004 AD
The Chinese Bagpipe History Connection
According to Quiet Life, the Chinese idiom for "chatting" is literally translated "blowing cow." For those who are unaware of The True History of the Origin of the Bagpipes, I present it here, as recounted by Keith Mathison (and you thought he only wrote ever-longer theological tomes):
I believe the bagpipes originated during the Highland Games of Scotland. We must remeber that the Highland Games gave us such famous sports as pole tossing and the giant boulder toss. It is my guess that during the Highland Games many many years ago someone tried to come up with another feat of strength, so this person invented a game called "Cow squeezing." The original intention of the game was for each man to pick up a cow and squeeze it to see who could shoot milk the furthest. Unfortunately, one of the strongest champions squeezed too hard and blew all of the hooves off his cow. The ghastly sound that came out of the leg holes caused people to cringe. The man and his cow carcass were kicked out of the village for destroying perfectly good livestock. So he carried the cow carcass away -- off to the cliffs. While walking he inadvertently would squeeze the cow causing more of that bizarre sound to come out of the different leg holes. When he got tired of walking and was bored, he would stand and for fun try to see what kind of noises he could produce by sqeezing in different places and holding different leg holes closed. Well, as often happens, one thing led to another, and today you have the Bagpipes. (Source)
Seems it's not just biblical truths that found their way into the Chinese language in times past, but at least one important moment in Scottish history.

But how, one might ask, did "producing ghastly, cringe-inducing sounds" evolve into something as innocuous as "chatting"? Well, my thinking is that the man and his cow carcass eventually wandered clear out of Scotland, across Europe and into Asia. The Chinese, having a much more advanced civilization, dealt swiftly and definitively with the horror that had infiltrated their borders, so that there was soon a Scotsman carcass to go along with the cow carcass. But not before Chinese mothers had started scolding their noisy children by telling them they sounded like they were blowing cow. Over the centuries, the Chinese gradually forgot the unfortunate Scotsman and the phrase that owed it's origin to him. And the meaning of the phrase gradually drifted, as such things do, from "ghastly noise" to just plain "noise" to "chatter."
Posted by Valerie (Kyriosity) at 11/24/2004 01:52:00 PM • Permalink

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