July 14, 2016

ཤོག་བུའི་ངེས་ཚིག །

Has anyone ever thought of the etymology of the Tibetan word for paper? I have a suspicion, no one and never before. But recently, like a bolt from the blue, I think I had a flash of insight! No, I do not claim to be a “treasure revealer” (gter bton/ston). The Tibetan word for paper is shog bu or shog gu, and of course, one can come across numerous disyllabic words with shog either as the first syllable (e.g. shog ser) or shog as the second syllable (e.g. bod shog). But what could be the etymology of shog bu or shog gu? First, let us put aside bu and gu, which are certainly diminutive particles. But what about shog? I think shog expresses the “rustling sound” made by the movement of dry paper. This would sound particularly sound if we consider the older Tibetan word for paper, namely, shog shog. That shog shog is an old word for shog bu has been made clear, for example, by rGyal-mo-’brug-pa in his Shog bzo’i lag len (163.7–8).


  1. Dear D,
    Hmm. I always had the crazy idea that it had something to do with the word for 'wing', gshog. I admit it, it was a crazy idea, but somehow not only leaves but also wings could be linked to paper pages, which do have a tendency to flap and even fly away in the wind. Rustling wings? Okay, I'll go take my vitamins and stay quiet awhile. Much cheer! -D.

  2. Dear D, your initial idea is also very interesting but even gshog (as you yourself suggest) may have something to do with shog shog (“rustling,” “flapping,” and “flying”). Let us continue to reflect. Warmest, Dorji

  3. Dear Dorji, sir, If you will, take out this Nigerian spammer masquerading as a Singaporean. You will do the whole world a favor. Some very gullible people do get taken in by these scam-spams. Happy New Year! Yours, D.