Chinese Tuesdays: Laoban (老板)


The first time I learnt that the word for boss, 老板 (lǎobǎn), was made up of the characters for "old" (老) and "board" (板), I found it a little confusing. But lately, when studying traditional characters, I noticed that the 板 (bǎn) in 老板 does not mean board or plank, but is actually the simplified version of 闆, a character which can also be pronunced pàn and which means "To catch sight of in a doorway" (as you do with a laoban?).

I'm not sure why they decided to simplify 闆 to 板, but I suspect that as 闆 is an uncommon character that is rather fiddly to write (17 strokes versus 8), the powers that be decided to replace it with a more common one with the same pronunciation. It seems like they could have made a brand new simplified character, changing 門 to 门, and keeping 品 in the middle, or even changing 品 to X as they did in 区 (區) – but maybe they thought the result was too off-putting.

Does anyone know for sure?

Chinese Tuesdays is in partnership with Sam Duncan's blog 汉语小发现