March 11, 2012

ཕྱེ་མ་ལེབ།

phye ma leb:

I wonder if anyone has ever reflected on the possible etymology of phye ma leb “butterfly.” When I started thinking about it, I had no clue whatsoever. But now I believe to have finally discovered it. Most probably, phye means “flour” and leb, which normally means “flat” (as in leb leb), should be understood here to be “bread” (bag leb). Thus a “butterfly” is an insect “that is neither flour nor bread but somehow that looks like possessing qualities of both,” that is, it feels fine, soft, and powdery like flour but looks flat like a loaf of Tibetan bread.


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