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There was a discussion about different "talk" words in chinese. Here is the link: Roots of the difference between 谈,论,说,讲,议, 叙,言,报,告,述

And there was an explanation of 告.

告 (gao4) consists of the parts 牛 (niu2) "cow" and 口 (kou3) "mouth". 說文解字 is a bit confused about this, but it appears to mean the sound a cow makes. It originally meant "to report something to a superior". Nowadays it means "to tell somebody about something".

Now I wonder does 告 still posess some of it's connotations from its glyph origin?

Does 告(to tell) sound vulgar to native speaker?

Are there words to insult someone using "Cow talking" analogy?

Does it have the connotation of "to fink" (to be an informator)?

Or maybe it has something to do with LOUD talking just like cows always moo'ing loud?

  • 告某人某事 may be thought of as the short form of 告诉某人某事,TV watching would suggest nothing vulgar about 告诉,告; 告 functions as component of many verbs and related nouns involving communication see e.g. 小马词典:报告、宣告、广告、控告,。。。,inform on s.o. (fink?) can be 告发 (see any dictionary) – user6065 Mar 7 '16 at 10:42
  • re "informator"or "informer":告密者 (iciba has colloquialisms/俗话:snitch songbird talebearer tattletale weasel) also see 电视剧 by the same name, tv.sohu.com/20110531/n308933045.shtml – user6065 Mar 7 '16 at 14:21
  • In general, the negative or positive meaning of words in modern Chinese is not based on their ancient etymology. And cows are not considered a bad animal in ancient China. – KWeiss Mar 7 '16 at 20:47
  • I've seen 告 used to mean "sue" (when used in isolation) in Cantonese, but I doubt it's inherently negative when it forms part of a "word". (I also have a feeling this usage is relatively informal and restricted to Cantonese, but I could be wrong.) – user5714 Mar 7 '16 at 22:34
  • common in mandarin, cf. iciba(普通话):告: inform; tell; accuse; sue,examples:如果你不付给我钱, 我就告你。谁都知道他被诬告了。 – user6065 Mar 7 '16 at 23:02
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but it appears to mean the sound a cow makes.

It seems wrong. See here:

牛觸人,角箸橫木,所以告人也。
如許說則告卽楅衡也。

[ The cow butts people, with ledger on the cow horn, so means 告人 (report to people).
As said it is 楅衡 (the ledger tied on the cow horn to avoid the cow butting people. ]

Anyway, it seems to have nothing to do with "the sound a cow makes". So (also based on the sense of a native Chinese)

Now I wonder does 告 still posess some of it's etymologycal connotation?

If you mean "the sound a cow makes", no.

Does 告(to tell) sound vulgar to native speaker?

No, basically it's neutral.

Are there words to insult someone using "Cow talking" analogy?

No.

Does it have the connotation of "to fink" (to be an informator)?

Yes. Such as 告发, 密告, 告状.

Or maybe it has something to do with LOUD talking just like cows always moo'ing loud?

No.

  • what about 警告 and 报告? That "gao" in them, has it something to do with being loud? I mean to WARN and to REPORT... they should be loud so everybody could hear :) Thanks for the answer anyway! – coobit Mar 7 '16 at 10:48
  • @coobit. No. They're just normal warning and reporting, unless you add something like 大声报告. – songyuanyao Mar 7 '16 at 10:54

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