Unintentionally Poetic Euphemisms

One of my guilty pleasures is reading Wikipedia. It’s a cornucopia of nearly useless and mostly harmless information. I have no clue how I ended up reading the History of Gunpowder page, but I found myself in awe of the euphemistically poetic literal translations from historic Chinese for guns.

Quick! Deploy the poison fog divine smoke eruptor!

Gunpowder was first referred to as “fire medicine,” the name by which it is still known in Chinese, huoyao. It was probably originally discovered serendipitously by alchemists looking for an elixir of immortality:

“Some have heated together sulfur, realgar (arsenic disulphide), and saltpeter with honey; smoke [and flames] result, so that their hands and faces have been burnt, and even the whole house burned down.”

A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but a gun by another name is so much more poetic. Never mind the Model 1911, give me the Flying-Cloud-Thunder-Eruptor. Why settle for a Desert Eagle when you could have a Flying-Incendiary-Club-for-Subjugating-Demons?

The Convocation-of-Eagles-Chasing-Hare-Arrow.

While the world may be dominated today by M-16s and AK-47s, there are still a few poetic gun names to be found. The Colt Peacemaker was such a good name that it was recycled for a nuclear missile. The Taurus Judge, a revolver firing shotgun shells, carries connotations of summary execution. The semi-automatic, rotary-magazine Armsel Striker shotgun was sold in the US first as the Street Sweeper, and then in a smaller caliber version as the Ladies Home Companion.

But the gun that fanboys hold most dearest is the BFG-9000. No, not the Big Friendly Giant, but the “Big, uh, Fraggin’ Gun,” from the Doom series of video games. Which was a really a flying incinerating club for subjugating demons.

A gun, by any other name, is just as deadly.

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