I took advantage of a question I was asked this week on the expression 月光族 to go back to 光 seen last month.
月, yuè, month, Moon and 族, zú, clan, family do not pose any difficulties.
月光, Moon Shine
As for 光 guāng, it has multiple meanings of light, brightness, and ray (of light). Moreover, 月光 has the meaning of brilliance or moonbeam, which remained in the Chinese imagination with Li Bai’s poem, Quite Night Thoughts. The first line: 床前明月光, chuāng qián ming yuè guāng, The front of the bed is illuminated by the brightness of the night (translation Javary).
光, consume to the end
In 月光族, 月光 cannot be translated by the brightness of the moon. Indeed, 月 has the meaning of month, and 光 has a relationship with two other of its functions. As an adjective 光 is the equivalent of nude, it is found in 光头 bald head and 光脚 barefoot. 光 may also be a result compound, it indicates the result of an action, which marks something that is completely consumed. 他吃光 了, he ate it all up ，他花光了, he spent it all.
月光, the salary (the month) is used up or month-naked.
Let’s go back to our expression, which refers to people who have spent all their salary and have nothing left at the end of the month or who spend more than they earn. We can explain the construction 月光 in two ways: The salary (the month) is exhausted or month-nude.
We find the Chinese language’s flexibility with characters that fill a lot of boxes in the categories of grammar, noun, light, adjective, brilliant, resultant complement, used up.
The phenomenon of 月光族 is quite recently with the arrival of the consumer society. Parents, who have experienced more sober times, sum up the group motto “We spend as much as we earn, eat everything, and use everything and we are healthy! 挣多少用多少，吃光用光，身体健康, zhēng duōshǎo yòng duōshǎo, chī guāng yòng guāng, shēntǐ jiànkāng!
22 september 2020