Today’s Monday Mandarin Meanings serves both as the usual source of enlightenment characteristic of the series and as evidence of myrmecological supremacy. This is because today’s word is báiyǐ:
Knowledgeable readers will recognize this second character, yǐ, because this is the second part of the word for, you guessed it, ant! My previous post discussing the character for ant showed the traditional form of the word, so it is possible that even careful followers of FF could have missed this.
bái is the word for “white”. So, is báiyǐ some kind of pale ant? Not at all – it is the Mandarin word for termites, which are in the order Isoptera, an entirely different order than Hymenoptera, the order containing Formicidae. How interesting! Are ants called “dark termites”? Of course not. Are termites given a name that is entirely separate from the word for ant? Evidently not. The Chinese, in recognizing the supremacy of the ants, refer instead to the ant in naming an organism which looks vaguely like that ideal of all insects: see here for a comparison. But really, what else did you expect?