便 - flight vs poop

So I stumble onto the word 便びn (flight), and I wonder to myself - “huh, flying is pretty new, I wonder how come there’s a kanji for that”. So I look it up and… the kanji means poop. And convenience and stuff too, but also poop. For a word, it would have to be 大便だいべん, where just 便びn somehow came to mean flight.

I’m just… huh? How does that even happen?

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My understanding is that one of the core original ideas of that character has to do with moving things along smoothly. So, it can be expanded to many concepts.

Even in English, the word “movement” alone can mean pooping. So, even if that’s not exactly the line of thinking that was at play, it’s not so strange to me.

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Ok, so, here’s my perspective as a Chinese speaker. However, for your information, 便 doesn’t mean ‘a single run of a transportation service’ in Chinese, so I’ll be explaining this via lateral thinking.

便‘s core meaning, in my opinion, is ‘to make convenient’. That’s how it’s used in Classical Chinese, which is what Japanese took kanji from. It has several other meanings, but they’re almost all linked to convenience or ease, including the one which indicates strong agreement or emphasis (e.g. 这便是=‘this thus is’ (word for word)), since it indicates that one’s reasoning directly flows into such an assertion.

How do we get the two meanings you mentioned then? Well, first of all, transportation services facilitate movement. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s an abbreviation for some Japanese phrase designating a particular form of transportation as an ‘express’ or ‘facilitating’ service. Secondly, I believe you might say that using the bathroom ‘eases’ a person, so it’s a euphemism.

ADDITIONAL INFO: 大便(だいべん)= poo; 小便(しょうべん)= pee. See how there are different levels of ‘relief’? Also, 方便 (in Mandarin, not in Japanese) is a euphemism for ‘to use the toilet’, so those two terms might derive from this usage.

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