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Alex Fink wrote:

> I should qualify this and say that there is at least one case where
> arbitrary change of pronunciation does seem to be a common
> resolution: that is where a word becomes homophonous with a taboo
> word.  Thus for instance English _shut_ and _shuttle_ would have
> regularly come out with the KIT vowel; and Mandarin 卑 'humble,
> ignoble, etc.' is _bei1_ rather than the regularly expected _bi1_
> which would match 屄 the crude word for 'vagina'.
> 
> The same phenomenon can cleave a single etymon in two: to take a
> Mandarin example again, 'bird' historically had a /t/ initial, but
> came to be used for 'penis', and as this gained prominence the
> initial was irregularly altered to /n/ when 'bird' was still
> literally meant.  The two are now spelled differently, 鳥 vs. 屌.

Hmm. Is the phrase "the birds and the bees" purely coincidental, or 
might it in some way be related to the Chinese words 屌 and 屄? (Perhaps 
in an alternate history.)

But it's interesting to think of the shape of Chinese characters as a 
kind of "spelling". I guess the idea behind the Cangjie input method is 
much like a "spelling" of Chinese characters. Or you could go further 
and think of strokes as the basic letters of Chinese spelling.