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卖 means to sell. But in the above five phrases, it is very difficult to get the point. If 国 can be sold to some extent,as a piece of land are illegally sold by the authorities to foreigners for personal gains, the other fours look ridiculous, as nobody would sell his or others' stupidity or foolishness?

  • 卖 can also means show, use, present, that is why there are 卖力, 卖萌. and 卖国 most of times does not mean sell land, if you want to sell it, who would like to buy it? It can simply apply to Apple, they made iphones in foreign countries, so they are 卖美国. or Julian Paul Assange, 大卖国贼. – Jacob Oct 21 '17 at 17:20
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「貝」(shell) in ancient China was used as a currency. The original meaning of 「買」was 'take money to the market to trade for goods (to buy)' The top part of 「買」was originally representing 'goods displayed in the market' ; the character 「賣」 added a hand behind the goods to represent 'handing out goods at the market to trade for money (to sell)'

「買賣」means 'to trade' (include the buyer and seller).

The character 「賣」was originated in an 'market activity' namely 'to display and sell' therefore, it can be used as a verb for 'to display; to show; to promote'

  • 「賣力」 means 'show off one's hard labor to impress' = 'work very hard (to impress)'

  • 「賣萌」means 'show off one's cuteness'

  • 「賣傻」 (display dumbness) means 'play dumb'

  • 「賣」in 「賣國」short for 「出賣」which means "to betray" (to betray someone like you are selling him like goods)

  • 「弄」in 「賣弄」means 'to handle', 「賣弄」(display and handle) means 'to show something off'

  • You may want to recheck your sources on 買 and 賣. 裘錫圭 《文字學概要 》 says that the top part of 買 was originally 网 (a net), and 買 had the meaning "to trade", not specifically "to buy". 何琳儀《戰國古文字典:戰國文字聲系》 says the top part of 賣 was originally 出, indicating an outward flow of goods -> to sell. This can be confirmed with xiaoxue.iis.sinica.edu.tw/yanbian?kaiOrder=2845 and xiaoxue.iis.sinica.edu.tw/yanbian?kaiOrder=4058. – droooze Nov 21 '17 at 10:10
  • I got the information from a Hong Kong T.V.B program '字裡尋根'. The host was a professor. I just repeated what he said on the program. 'goods displayed in the market' might be contained in a 'net' that's why the 网 part was used. -- It was not 'money for a net ' but 'money for the goods that's in the net. – Tang Ho Nov 21 '17 at 12:21
  • According to quotes from 孟子 ("登壟斷而网市利") and 商承祚 ("買,象以网取貝之形"), the use of 网 is a semantic extension involving the establishment of a monopoly and controlling the entire market. 网 seems to be used as a symbol, to capture all of the currency 貝, rather have anything to do with the goods themselves. But yes, the actual meaning of 网 warrants further investigation - I'm not entirely convinced by the quotes from 孟子 and 商承祚. – droooze Nov 21 '17 at 12:33
  • I agree 買 originally meant 'trade' but it evolved along with 賣, the two words became 'buy' and 'sell' respectively when language became more and more specific. In more ancient time, opposite meanings sometimes are contained in a single character. Net and money could represent 'earn' too. – Tang Ho Nov 21 '17 at 12:34
  • Since the modern 賣 contains meaning of 'show; display' I think 字裡尋根's argument of ' money for displayed goods' is stronger than 登壟斷而网市利 one. – Tang Ho Nov 21 '17 at 12:46

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