16 Silver Bullet

16 Silver Bullet

Chinese character: 銀Simplified Chinese: 银
Chinese character: 彈Simplified Chinese: 弹


While I was writing about Kim, 金 (jīn), meaning gold, who threw bombs, another bomb came to mind:


銀彈 (yín dàn), literally, silver and bomb or bullet.


銀 (yín) is silver. Remember yesterday we learned that every time you see a character containing 金 (jīn) you know it has to do with metal?


彈 (dàn) is short for 炸彈 (zhà dàn), meaning bomb, or possibly, 子彈 (zǐ dàn), meaning bullet.


Silver was used as money in the past so 銀彈 (yín dàn) represents money power. You see or hear this word used often in politics, particularly about international diplomacy or elections.


So the meaning of 銀彈 (yín dàn), silver bullet, in Chinese is different from silver bullet in American English. In Chinese it means money. In America it means a simple and seemingly magical solution to a complicated problem.


So if silver bomb or silver bullet can be just two characters, 銀彈 (yín dàn), why can’t red bomb, 紅色炸彈 (hóng sè zhà dàn), which we talked about two days ago, simply be 紅彈 (hóng dàn)?


My guess is the reason is that 紅彈 (hóng dàn) sounds exactly the same as an existing word, 紅蛋 (hóng dàn), meaning red egg. Red eggs are hard boiled eggs with shells dyed red, often used to celebrate birthdays. It would be very confusing if the two sound the same: “Wait, did you get a red egg or a wedding invitation?”

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