kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
[personal profile] kake

According to my vocab lists, 茄 (qié) was one of the very earliest Chinese characters I ever learned; this doesn't really surprise me, since it's the character for my favourite vegetable — the aubergine, or eggplant.

There are a few other characters that 茄 often appears on menus in company with: 子 (zǐ), 條 (tiáo), and 蕃/番 (fān). I wondered if perhaps 茄子 was an emphasis of the egg-like nature of the aubergine, since one of the meanings of 子 is "seed" or "egg", but [personal profile] pne has commented with a more informed view — he says the 子 is probably being used as a mostly-meaningless suffix to disambiguate it from similarly-pronounced characters and/or to make the one character into a proper "word" (which often have two characters). 茄條 usually means that the aubergines are cut into strips — 條 refers to a long, narrow piece of something.

番茄/蕃茄, on the other hand, doesn't mean "aubergine", but "tomato". I don't know the etymology of this, but [personal profile] pne proposes in the same comment that it might be "barbarian's eggplant", since one of the older meanings of 番 is "barbarian", i.e. someone not Chinese (perhaps a politer translation might be "foreigner's eggplant"). Note that 蕃 is just 番 with a grass radical (艹) on top — I've seen both spellings in roughly equal proportions.

Here are some dishes with 茄 in the name:

魚香茄子yú xiāng qié zifish-fragrant aubergine
紅燒茄子hóng shāo qié zired-cooked aubergine
雙椒茄子shuāng jiāo qié ziaubergine with green and red chillies (雙椒 is literally "double peppers")
老干媽茄子Lǎo Gān Mā qié ziaubergine with Lao Gan Ma chilli sauce
家常茄子jiā cháng qié zi"home-style" aubergine
蕃茄炒蛋fān qié chǎo dànstirfried egg with tomato

Another term for aubergine is 矮瓜 (ǎi guā), which literally translates as "short gourd". As mentioned in the comments on that post, though, I've only ever seen 矮瓜 on one menu — 茄子 is much more common.

[identity profile] sung also points out in comments that the northern Chinese term for tomato is 西紅柿 (xī hóng shì), which translates literally as "western red persimmon". 蕃茄/番茄 is a more southern term.

茄: qié radical 140 (艸/艹) Cantodict MandarinTools YellowBridge Zhongwen

If you have any questions or corrections, please leave a comment (here's how) and let me know (or email me at kake@earth.li). See my introductory post to the Chinese menu project for what these posts are all about.

Date: 2010-09-30 08:29 am (UTC)
pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)
From: [personal profile] pne
There are a few other characters that 茄 often appears on menus in company with: 子 (zǐ), 條 (tiáo), and 蕃/番 (fān). 茄子 seems to simply be an emphasis of the egg-like nature of the aubergine, since one of the meanings of 子 is "seed" or "egg"

Hm, I wouldn't say so - I think the 子 is here just being used as a mostly-meaningless suffix to disambiguate it from similarly-pronounced characters and/or to make the one character into a proper "word" (which often have two characters).

You'll note that it's "qiézi" (with neutral tone on the second syllable, as you wrote it) and not "qiézǐ" (with full tone) - another sign (to me) that it's a "light" morpheme (nearly empty semantically) rather than a meaningful second component.

Other such morphemes include 頭 as in 石頭 "stone" and (especially in Peking) 兒.

I think that the use of 子 in compounds is more common in Mandarin, since it has merged more pronunciations than, say, Cantonese (fewer tones, loss of syllable-final stops, no distinction between final -m and -n, etc.), so there are more homophones.

Also, while I can kind of see "seed, egg" in 鼻子 "nose", there's nothing particularly egg-like (or even child-like) about 獅子 "lions" or 椅子 "chairs" (for example).

番茄/蕃茄, on the other hand, doesn't mean "aubergine", but "tomato". I don't know the etymology of this.

zhongwen.com says that 番 used to mean "barbarian", so I suppose the etymology might be "barbarians' eggplant" - similar to the use of 洋 for "European/Western X" as in 洋琴 "ocean qin" for "guitar". It also has 番薯 ("barbarians' potato"?) for "sweet potato, yam".

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