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先 looks like a teacher holding a pen, and 生 looks like a person sitting cross-legged with a pen, learning. maybe the symbols together mean someone who instructs someone else. Was this originally a Pictogram? just thought that was cool...

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Note that 先生 does not strictly mean "teacher". 先生 is used as a title toward many types of superiours/leaders with some kind of expertise: teachers, doctors, lawyers, politicians, even the pastor at my Christian church. See this link for more information about applicability.

先 - Means "previous" or "before"
生 - Means "live" or "born"

It basically means someone who has lived through a certain skill/experience more than you.

So no, as @sbkgs4686 linked in their comment, the etymology of the characters has nothing to do with pens, and only that of 先 is even related to a person.

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  • ooooh! that is so cool dude! It's like this: 先 - Means "previous" or "before" 生 - Means "live" or "born". So it means like "The one who comes before the one that is more recently born"? right? wow. I saw the "pens" and thought of school, y'know. this is cool. And I know I just said what you just said, but this is so awesome!!! If you can't tell, I'm irrationally excited about this. lol Sep 10 '20 at 16:02
  • @ItsukiOokami: "So it means like "The one who comes before the one that is more recently born"?" -- No, not quite; I think maybe you got confused. It's literally "before, earlier, ahead of time + born", as in "someone who was born before you were" == "someone older than you" == "an elder". Oct 22 '20 at 18:38

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