Tuesday, July 26, 2016

What does 靑天白日滿地紅旗 mean?

靑天 (청천) means "blue (靑) sky (天)
白日 (백일) means "white (白) sun (日)"
滿地 (만지) means "the whole (滿) ground (地)
紅旗 (홍기) means "red (紅) flag (旗)
If we start with "flag" (旗) as the head noun of a Chinese-style relative clause, 靑天白日滿地紅旗 translates as follows:
"a flag (旗) [with] a blue (靑) sky (天) [and] a white (白) sun (日) [on] a background (滿地) that is red (紅)."
So, 靑天白日滿地紅旗 is the descriptive name for the flag of the Republic of China:

Monday, July 25, 2016

What does the "엿-" mean in 엿듣다 and 엿보다?

Today I came across the Chinese character 窺 (규), which means "to peer at," "to peep," or  "to look at secretly." The Korean meaning is 엿보다, 훔쳐보다, or 살펴보다. It can also mean 꾀하다, which means "to plot," "to plan," or "to scheme." Upon seeing 엿보다, which means to "look at furtively or secretly," I suddenly became curious to know the original meaning of the prefix "엿-." A Korean dictionary defines "엿-" as 몰래, meaning "secretly," but that was something I already knew. 엿듣다, for example, means "to secretly listen to." Also, the supposedly vulgar expression 엿 먹이다 is defined as 슬쩍 걸려주거나 속이다, which means "to secretly harm or trick [someone]" No, what I wanted to know was how 엿- came to mean "secretly."

If you look up 엿 in a dictionary, the first definition to pop up is "a glutinous rice jelly taffy," which seems to have no correlation with the meaning "secretly." As a prefix, "엿-" can also mean "six," as in 엿새, "six days," which, again, seems to have no correlation with the meaning "secretly." However, I also found that 엿 was an old word for 여우 (fox), which is known to be "cunning" or "crafty," and that implies secrecy or furtiveness. Therefore, I am simply wondering if 엿보다 originally meant "to watch like a fox," and if 엿듣다 meant "to listen like a fox"? Again, I do not know; I am just wondering.

UPDATE: Wow! I guess I was right. Immediately after posting the above, I decided to do a Google search of "엿보다." (Yes, I often do things backwards.) Anyway, I found that in a book entitled "우리말 뉘앙스 사전," by 박영수, the 엿 in 엿보다 means "여시," which was an old name for 여우 (fox). It also says that the word 여시 is still used in some areas of Korea. Here is how the book described 엿보다:
'엿보다'는 상대방이 눈치 채지 못하게 몰래 숨어서 가만히 보는 행위를 뜻하는 말이다. '엿보다'의 '엿'은 '여시'를 의미하며 '여시'는 '여우'를 뜻하는 옛말이다. 지금도 일부 지방에서는 여우를 '여시'라고 말한다.
If anyone is interested, and I am a little interested, you can buy the ebook version of "우리말 뉘앙스 사전" for $7.39 at THIS LINK. Believe me! I did not post this to try to sell this book. I just feel I need to supply a link since I quoted from the book.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

What does 好事者 (호사자) mean?

好 (호) can mean either "good" or "to like," and 事 (사) can mean "thing," "matter," "affair" or "to serve" or "to work." When 好 is used as an adjective, 好事 means "good (好) thing (事)" or "good action," which translates into Korean as "좋은 (好) 일 (事) ." When 好 is used as a verb, 好事 (호사) literally means "to like (好) [others'] affairs (事)," which translates into English as "to be meddlesome." Therefore, 好事者 (호사자) literally means "one who likes [others's] affairs," which translates into English as "a busybody" or "a meddling or prying person." The 者 translates as "one who."

Today, I saw 好事者 (호사자) translated as "an onlooker."

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Have you ever seen a "mouse's daughter-in-law"?

One of my problems is that I am easily distracted.

I am out on my patio reading about quantifiers and determiners when I see a roly-poly crawling toward me. Then suddenly I want to learn about roly-polies, which are also called "pill millipedes" or "pill bugs." I assume they are called "pill bugs" because, when one is disturbed, it rolls up into a little ball that looks like a pill. By the way, do not eat a pill bug, because, according to Wikipedia, they exude a noxious liquid that can be both caustic and toxic. In other words, they do not taste good.

Anyway, there are only two orders of roly-poly still living, Glomeris marginata and Armadillidium vugare, but, believe it or not, all together there are about 550 species: about 450 of the order Glomeris marginata and about 100 of the order of Armadillidium vugare. I am pretty sure the roly-poly I saw was of the order Glomeris marginata, but I was unable to determine the species, or sex. By the way, Wikipedia does not explain how they reproduce.

Roly-polies are "detrivorous," which means they eat decomposing plant matter, so unless you are saving your decomposing plant matter, I see no reason to consider them as pests. So, let's just live and let live.

By the way, I came out onto the patio to try to figure out a better way to explain the combination 之於 (지어) to learners of Classical Chinese. I was hoping to explain it in terms of the Korean language, but, unfortunately, I got distracted by the adverb 盡 (진) in one of the example sentences, which made me think of the difference between 모두 and 모든.

The Korean word 모두 is an adverb meaning "in all cases," but many Koreans misuse it as a noun. 모든, on the other hand, means "all" and is listed as a 관사, which generally translates as "an article." But I had known "all" to be a "quantifier," so I looked it up to discover it is listed as a "determiner." I was reading about the difference between a quantifier and a determiner when I saw the roly-poly.

The Korean word for pill bug is 쥐며느리, which literally translates as "mouse's (쥐) daughter-in-law (며느리)." It is also called 공벌레, which means "ball (공) bug (벌레)."


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Do you believe in flying dragons?

The following is my translation of a 1906 entry from the Korean text Maecheon Yarok (梅泉野錄 - 매천야록), which was written by poet, scholar, and activist Hwang Hyeon (黃玹 - 황현), whose pen name was Maecheon (梅泉 - 매천). Maecheon Yarok seems to have been the private "field (野) journal (錄)" of Mr. Hwang, who used it to record news, events, and opinion from about 1864 until 1910. Actually, 野錄 seems to be an abbreviation of 野史記錄, which means "Record of Unofficial History."  野史 (야사) means "unofficial history," and 記錄 (기록) means "a record." The opposite of  野史 (야사)  would be 正史 (정사), which means "official history" or "authentic history." There are many, many interesting stories in his journals, but this is one I found particularly interesting:
[In] Hamheung-bu (咸興府), there is () Gugak (九閣), the place where the Highest Emperor Taejo shot arrows while riding a horse (太祖高皇帝騎射之地也). At the relay station () a Japanese () said () up above the castle (閣上) there is () a precious () gas (). [If you] dig () into the ground () twenty or so feet (數丈), there is () a boulder (磐石). [When] the rock () was broken (), a giant () snake () flew out (飛出). [It] was forty to fifty feet long (長四五丈) [with a girth] four or five times bigger than that of a house’s crossbeam (大如屋梁四五倍). One Japanese (一倭) shot () [at] it (), [but] missed (不中). Six Japanese (六倭), simultaneiously () shot () and killed () it (). 

[When] it was burned (
) outside the east gate (于東門外), the stench () was so () terrible () a green () gas () covered () the whole () fortress (). [During] the night () seven () Japanese () vomited () blood () and died (). The next day (明日) another (又一) snake () came out through the crack in the rock (從石隙中出). [It] was as big as (大如) [the one] from the day before (). [They] shot () at it (), [but] missed (不中). It flew around the fortress (繞城而飛) sadly () crying () throughout the night (達夜).

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Saturday, July 09, 2016

What looks and sounds like a "cuckoo"?

The answer: an azalea

The pure Korean word for "azalea" is 진달래, and the pure Korean word for "cuckoo" is 소쩍새, but, interestingly, at least to me, the Sino-Korean word for both "azalea" and "cuckoo" is 杜鵑 (두견). Except for context, the only way to distinguish the meanings of the two would be to add the Chinese characters for "flower" and "bird" to the end of the word, such as  (두견화)  for "azalea" and  杜鵑鳥 (두견조) for "cuckoo," though Koreans would say 두견새 instead of 두견조, using the pure Korean word for bird (새) instead of the Sino-Korean (鳥 - 조). Anyway,  I wonder how the same two Chinese characters came to be used for both a flower and a bird.

Individually, 杜 (두) is a kind of "pear tree" and 鵑 (견) a kind of "cuckoo," which would suggest to me that when Koreans hear the word 두견, the bird comes to mind before the flower. And that may suggest that Koreans may think of the  (두견화) as the "cuckoo flower," maybe without even realizing it refers to an azalea.

Monday, July 04, 2016

What is the Korean word for "rumor"?

The Korean word for "rumor" is 소문 (所聞), which is actually a relative clause meaning "that which (所) is heard (聞)" or "what is heard." Therefore, 所 can mean "place," but it can also mean "that which", which signals the start of a Chinese object noun or pronoun relative clause. Consider the following sentence:
The boy (兒) immediately (即) returned (歸), taking (以) what [he] had heard (所聞) to tell (告) his (其) mother (母).
In the above sentence, 以 means "to take" and is part of an expression meaning "to take something and then do something with it." In Korean, the 以 translates as 가지다, so in Korean the sentence would translate as follows: 아이가 (兒) 즉시 (即) 돌아가서 (歸) 들린 것을 가지고 (以所聞) 그의 어머니에게 말했다 (告其母).

 Here is another example of 所 being used to signal an object clause:
What you answered (子所答) is not (非) what I asked (我所問也).
子 can mean "son" or "child," but it can also be used to mean "you." 所答 translates as "that which (所) was answered (答)"  or "what was answered," but since it was preceded here by the subject pronoun 子, the clause 子所答 translates as "what you answered." 我 means "I," and 所問 means "what was asked," but since 所問 was preceded by the subject pronoun 我, the clause 我所問 translates as "what I asked."

In English, the above sentence essentially means, "You did not reply to my question." In Korean, the above sentence translates as "당신이 (子) 대답한 것은 (所答) 내가 묻은 것은 아니다 (非我所聞也). The "非...也" combination translates into Korean as "아니다." A shortened expression is 答非所問 (답비소문), which literally means "the answer (答) is not (非) what (所) was asked (問)," but can be translated as "an irrelevant answer."

Notice that 소문 (所聞) and 소문 (所問) are both pronounced the same in Korean, but mean two completely different things, which is why it is important to be able to recognize the Chinese characters.