10

Shrimp (えび) is written several different ways in Japanese. For example, there are the words commonly used in Chinese: 蝦 and 鰕. There is also a compound specific to Japan, 海老, and a kokuji, 蛯. Both of the latter contain the character for old age, 老. Is there some reason why the Japanese associate shrimp with old age?

12

The Japanese Wikipedia page for エビ says the following:

漢字表記の「海老」や「蛯」の字は曲がった腰を老人に見立てたものである。

Apparently the use of 老 comes from the way shrimp bend forward, like an old person bending forward at the waist.

  • Ah, I was just typing the same answer. +1 (The part before that about the relation to grapes is also interesting). – Jesse Good Mar 18 '13 at 22:08
  • Hmm, you both beat me to it. – istrasci Mar 18 '13 at 22:13
  • I heard it was because of their whiskers, that supposedly resemble old men's moustaches. Either way, it comes down to a likeness in appearance. – Stijn Frishert Mar 20 '13 at 9:17

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